Photo for illustration purposes only
By HAJAR HALIL
Many Malaysian university students in a foreign country where they are the minority probably have experienced that level of fear studying in that host country. Imagine the first time you’re having a tutorial discussion, and everyone shares what they have learnt in lecture without worrying if their answers are right or wrong. In order to blend in with the local students, you have no choice but to push yourself to speak up in class, be confident, and express your thoughts.
The fear of belonging in minority groups can be a reality to the Orang Asli children and youths in Malaysia. Feeling inferior to their friends from other ethnic groups, there is a pre-conceived mindset to their worldview of life, culture and language. They may feel subordinate to belong to a lesser group in school.
This feeling of inferiority in school has probably impacted the Orang Asli kids to lack an interest in schooling. In fact, the Department of Orang Asli Development or JAKOA (Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli) recorded that from 2005–2010, the number of dropout cases in secondary schools tripled compared to the actual enrolment in primary schools.
Although this data was taken years ago, to some extent it manifests that the Government’s initiative to integrate the standard of education into the Indigenous community has become a huge challenge in recent years.
Due to this challenge, six passionate young students from Sunway University have executed a commendable effort to organise an education awareness project in Kampung Ganggai, Slim River, Perak.
In collaboration with EPIC Homes, a social enterprise that aims to build more houses for Orang Asli families, the team managed to gather some data for the number of Orang Asli children who drop out from primary and secondary school via the Kampung Ganggai Village Expedition Weekend (ViEW) programme.
To attain the goal of Leaderonomics Training Programme which requires trainees to plan a social community project, the team decided to bring 33 Indigenous kids from Kampung Ganggai to Kidzania, Kuala Lumpur on Oct 31, 2015.
The main objective of the trip is to re-fuel the desire to attend school among these children by letting them experience the hands-on educational activities of role-playing a career of choice, where they get to earn and spend ‘money’. Through this event, the team managed to drive home the message that education is a vital key toward a better life and future.
A big thanks to Uzma Group Sdn Bhd for sponsoring almost 70% of the cost for this awareness project.
At the initial stage, the children were afraid to try out role-playing at each station. After the ice has been broken, it was so fulfilling to see the girls going to the arts, craft and make-up artist station while a few boys joined the aviation crew and IT team that day. This could indicate that the Orang Asli children are actually interested to be professionals in the future.
Redefine the meaning of education
Unfortunately, their dreams won’t be realised with the lack of knowledge of how education significantly impacts one’s future.
In fact, the team did a series of interview with one the teachers in the primary school where the children go to. Puan Sham Suhaila binti Mohd Salleh stated that there is a high number of absenteeism and low academic performance mainly in science, Maths and English among the Indigenous students at school. It also takes a long time for the Orang Asli children to learn how to read.
From the visit to Kampung Ganggai, the team found that most of the children generally drop out from school at the age of 11 or 12. Additionally, there are less than 10 children who are currently attending secondary school.
Also, most of the Orang Asli cannot grasp the importance of education that enable them to provide better life for themselves in the future. With this, their constant apathy in schooling has hindered these children from realising the benefits of formal education.
From this education awareness project, the team hopes to educate the public that these children have the opportunity to gain access to school but they need the drive to learn.
Enhance their confidence to mix around with other students and experience formal education in the classroom. Create a second chance for those who dropped out from school, and provide the opportunity for them to continue where they left.
One word that could describe the experience of this project is ‘inspirational’, as quoted by Nadia Amanina Rezlan, the project director.
She said: “We hope this programme helps to inspire the kids, the parents, the village community and even myself about the necessity of education for these young children.”
The project is proven to be fruitful. A week after the trip, the kids who are currently in school were very passionate to continue in school. On the other hand, the kids who dropped out were really excited to go back to school and start a new chapter of their lives.
Although they are small minority groups in Malaysia, the fact remains that they are the original people of this land. Therefore, they deserved the right for every educational opportunity as they are our future generation too.