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PUBLISHED: Oct 25, 2015 10:30pm

Johor Orang Asli community lauds initiative to look into hostel woes

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BEN TAN By:
Ben Tan

The Orang Laut Seletar settlement in Kampung Sungai Temon, which is 25km from Johor Baru city centre. — TRP pic by Ben Tan

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JOHOR BARU, Oct 25, 2015:

The Orang Asli community in Johor’s coastal areas has welcome the recent announcement by the government on a special committee to look into issues involving their children who live in school hostels.

However, they urged the Education Ministry to also look at Orang Asli children who go to normal day schools in semi-urban areas of the country.

“As Orang Asli people, especially the children, we are sensitive when it comes to mixing with mainstream society.

“The teachers need to understand our ways when teaching Orang Asli children, especially in normal schools,” said Orang Asli settlement headman Salim Palon when met by The Rakyat Post at the Orang Seletar settlement in Kampung Sungai Temon near here recently.

Johor’s Orang Laut Seletar are one of the 18 gazetted ethnic Orang Asli people in peninsular Malaysia.

The community, mainly fishermen and small-time seafood traders, have its own unique adat (traditions) and culture that the public does not know about.

Most Orang Seletar live in Johor’s coastal areas and come into close contact with the public. They are said to be closely linked to the Johor royal palace in the past.

Salim, who is the Tok Batin of his 400-odd community, said Orang Asli children have always had a hard time in schools, and what more in hostels.

He said this was due to the Orang Asli children being different from the rest and also being young they do not mix much with outsiders.

“Of course, over the years this has changed, but it is still a concern for most of the Orang Asli parents,” said the 56-year-old settlement elder, who welcomed the Education Ministry’s move.

Orang Laut Seletar mothers with their children during an afternoon get-together at their settlement in Kampung Sungai Temon. — TRP pic by Ben Tan
Orang Laut Seletar Kampung Sungai Temon Tok Batin or settlement headman Salim Palon (left) and his wife Letei Akon. — TRP pic by Ben Tan

 

On Oct 11, it was reported that Education director-general Khair Mohamad Yusof said a committee would look into development, safety, welfare and health issues related to Orang Asli school children.

He said the committee would have three months to prepare and submit recommendations for improvements.

This came to light after seven pupils of SK Tohoi boarding school in Gua Musang, Kelantan, were reported missing from their school hostel.

The seven, comprising six girls and a boy aged between seven and 11, were reported missing on Aug 23.

They were believed to have run away from the hostel for fear of disciplinary action by their teacher for bathing in a river.

Early this month, two of them, Miksudiar Alui, 11, and Norieen Yaakob, 10, were found alive, after 46 days in the jungle.

The search and rescue team also found two bodies and two skeletal remains of children, believed belonging to the missing Orang Asli children.

 Orang Laut Seletar mothers with their children during an afternoon get-together at their settlement in Kampung Sungai Temon. — TRP pic by Ben Tan
Orang Laut Seletar mothers with their children during an afternoon get-together at their settlement in Kampung Sungai Temon. — TRP pic by Ben Tan

Salim’s wife, Letei Akon, 55, said as a mother and fellow Orang Asli, she felt sad for what had happened recently in Gua Musang.

“Let’s not talk about Orang Asli parents. I think any parent for that matter will be saddened by the events that led to the incident.

“They were only children and no amount of compensation can bring them back.”

Letei said understanding Orang Asli children was an important aspect for the community.

“For that matter, teachers need to play a more pro-active role on our culture and way of life.

“I can say that the Orang Seletar children, like most Orang Asli children, tend to be different. So there must be proper engagement methods for them to understand better,” she said, welcoming the government’s move.

Letei gave an example of an Orang Seletar student in school, who will most probably walk out of school if he or she is reprimanded harshly by his or her teacher without reason.

“At the same time, the other Orang Seletar children will join in and walk out,” she said, adding that they don’t want to find trouble and would rather walk out than face punishment or discipline that they felt they didn’t deserve.

On the current situation, Salim said he still got news of the settlement’s children being bullied and ridiculed by their school mates in school.

He said now it was easier as he would just meet with the school’s principal to look into the matter.

However, Salim said that as children such taunting was bound to happen and the teachers were the ones that need to be understanding enough to tackle the situation.

“The teachers need to be committed in tackling this and, at the same time, encourage the children to mix around and understand diversity,” he said, hoping that the recent tragic incident in Gua Musang would serve as a lesson to all.

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