Putrajaya must ensure the rights of Orang Asli children are protected, including that of education, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said.
It also expressed disappointment that Putrajaya had not looked into or acted on any of its recommendations pertaining to the Orang Asli, adding that as such, the community has continued to face “immense challenges”.
“Orang Asli children in Malaysia continue to be deprived of access to quality education that is relevant and responsive to their specific cultural context and needs,” said Suhakam acting chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee in a statement.
“Suhakam is of the view that the social and economic marginalisation of the Orang Asli is caused by the violation of their human rights. Suhakam regrets that its many recommendations have not been acted upon and as a result, the community continue to face immense challenges, including marginalisation.”
Her statement follows reports of meagre conditions in Orang Asli schools in the interior villages as well as allegations that students were being abused by teachers following the recent disappearance of seven children in Pos Tohoi, Gua Musang.
Five of the seven children are believed to have died while two were found safe along the banks of Sungai Perias, near the school where they were last seen.
The seven children, aged between seven and 11 years old, are believed to have run away from the school hostel for fear of disciplinary action by their teachers for bathing in a river.
The children come from interior villages which have no schools, which had forced their parents to send them to the nearest residential schools despite their young age.
Suhakam said it had found that many Orang Asli children have no opportunity to attend primary school because there are no such amenities in the deep interiors where they live, resulting in their illiteracy.
“In most villages, the nearest functioning school is several hours away. In this regard, Suhakam regrets the decision of the Education Ministry to close a number of primary schools in a few Orang Asli villages, seemingly because they were not economically feasible.
“Those schools were built within a close range of several nearby villages so as to ensure that the young children would not have to be physically removed from their families and their communities and placed in residential schools,” Khaw said.
The commission urged Putrajaya to immediately allocate resources to ensure that Orang Asli children had equal access to education, including the setting up nearby schools and assignment of additional teachers who were able to appreciate and understand their beliefs and culture.
“Suhakam also recommends that the government ensure that all schools are funded on a non-discriminatory basis,” Khaw said.
“Suhakam also continues to receive complaints of abuse by teachers and is appalled by the actions of teachers who abuse, bully and/or mistreat Orang Asli children in their care. We call on the School Inspectorate and Quality Assurance Division of the Education Ministry that monitors the implementation of curriculum and ensures quality of teaching and learning to explain their findings.” – October 15, 2015.
Link to Article in Bahasa Malaysia