KUALA LUMPUR: A group of orang asli from Kelantan has appealed to the Government to build schools near their villages following the traumatic experience of losing five children who left their school hostel and went missing in the jungle of Pos Tohoi last year.
“We know that education is important but after the incident, parents are left in a dilemma (of whether to send their children to school) as they are still traumatised and scared,” said the Network of Kelantan Orang Asli Villages deputy chairman Nasir Dollah.
He said building schools near their settlements would eliminate the need for orang asli children to live in hostels.
“These children are still young, between seven and 13 years old.
“So it’s hard for the parents and children to live apart from each other for long periods,” he said, adding that for now, most of the children could only return home three or four times a year.
Nasir was speaking at a press conference after a group of 17 orang asli from Gua Musang handed over a memorandum here to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) yesterday to ask for a safer and better space for their children to study.
“We are asking for the Government to build schools nearer to our kampung,” said Nasir.
He said after the incident where seven orang asli children went missing from SK Tohoi’s hostel last Aug 23, many parents became reluctant to send their children there.
Two of the children, Norieen Yaakob, 11, and Miksudiar Aluj, 12, were found alive in Sungai Perias, Gua Musang, on Oct 9 but four others died. The seventh child, Sasa Sobrie, eight, remains missing.
“We ask for our children to be educated in a safe environment,” Nasir pleaded, adding that the memorandum was endorsed by the orang asli community in Kelantan.
He said the memorandum also asked for more culturally sensitive teachers to be sent to the schools.
“We want teachers who understand our ways and culture and are dedicated to teaching orang asli children,” he added.
Also present at yesterday’s event were the parents of the seven children.
Ayel Ajeb, 49, the father of Ika, one of the children who died, said he still could not bring himself to send his other children to school.
“I’m still traumatised ... the children are still traumatised.
“I can’t bring myself to send my young children away (to the hostel). I worry about a repeat of the incident,” said Ayel, whose view was shared by the other parents.
Suhakam commissioner Prof Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Ab Majid said he would study the memorandum to further understand the orang asli’s plight.
“We will contact the Department of Orang Asli Development and the Education Ministry. Hopefully, they will do something about this,” he said.
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