School failed to look after our children, say grief-stricken orang asli

School failed to look after our children, say grief-stricken orang asli
7 orang asli children aged between seven and 11 went missing for 46 days in hilly terrain described as unforgiving by adult hikers, but miraculously, two have survived.
PHOTO: The Star

GUA MUSANG: The grief-stricken orang asli community who lost five children after they ran away from SK Tohoi have vowed not to send their young ones to government boarding schools.

Instead, villagers at Kampung Penad want a school nearer their homes.

The children, Haikal Yaakob, eight, Juvina David, seven, Linda Rosli, eight, and Ika Ayel, nine, died after going missing for more than 40 days over a month ago. Sasa Sobrie, seven, remains missing.

Haikal's mother Midah Angah said villagers had agreed to boycott the boarding school where their children went, which is a day's walk through rough terrain from the village.

"We asked for a school to be built nearer the village, but the authorities claimed they don't have the money," said the 38-year-old housewife.

Midah's daughter Norieen Yaakob was among two of the seven children who ran away from the school, but survived the ordeal.

Ika's father Ayel Ajed, 47, who is still traumatised over his daughter's death, said they would not send their other children to the school.

Ayel said the orang asli were timid and dare not voice their concerns about the school.

The villagers also claimed that it failed to look after their children properly.

Ayel claimed that the teachers at the school usually left early on Thursdays and came back late on Sundays. Only wardens are left to look after the children.

"We are staying very far, we don't know what is happening at the school," he added.

Ayel also claimed that there had been deaths and a drowning case at the school.

He also said children were served bad food and sometimes it was not enough.

Linda's father Rosli Alik, 30, said there was no proper security at the school.

"The school's fence was repaired only after the incident," he said.

Juvina's father David Kuasan said many orang asli still couldn't read despite going to school.

"We were only told that our children were ill when we happened to pass by the area on some days," he said.

Former SK Tohoi student and UiTM undergraduate Herry Boy Angah, 20, remembered the wardens were never around.

"We could easily go in and out of the school," he added.

Herry wants the Government to train more orang asli teachers to cater to the community.

"Only an orang asli can understand orang asli children," he added.

Herry's sister Juhi, 21, remembers being very unhappy at the school. She ran away five or six times with other pupils while at the boarding school.

"I was only eight when I ran away the first time as I missed my parents," she said.

She claimed that the school authorities did not look for her.

Orang asli pupil finally discharged from hospital

KOTA BARU: After 39 days in Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital here, Miksudiar Aluj, one of the two orang asli pupils who survived 46 days in the forest, has finally been discharged.

The 11-year-old was all smiles as she walked out of the hospital, accompanied by her sister Rina, 22, to a waiting Orang Asli Development Department four-wheel drive yesterday.

However, her immediate destination is not her village at Kampung Gawin in the interior of Gua Musang, but to the Gua Musang hospital where she will undergo another battery of tests before being allowed home.

The SK Tohoi pupil said she was eager to go home as she missed her parents and was looking forward to seeing her other siblings.

Despite her happiness at the prospect of being reunited with her family, her ordeal of being lost in the forest after running away from school to evade disciplinary action for swimming in a river next to the school is still fresh in her mind.

"I will never swim in the river again," she swore.

Miksudiar said she did not want a repeat of the experience after running away from school on Aug 23.

She said she was happy in the hospital as the nurses were very caring, particularly on days when her 15-year-old sister Nurin came for a visit as they would draw pictures using crayons donated by people.

"I love drawing. Maybe I will be an artist when I grow up," she said.

Rina said her sister had gained some weight and looked healthy.

"I am happy that she is in good health. She is also very energetic and her appetite has improved. But she is still wary of strangers," she said.

One of the nurses who attended to Miksudiar, Nurul Wani Mohd Hassan, said the pupil gained 8kg since being admitted after she was rescued from the Balah forest reserve.

"But she still needs to come back here next month to see the paediatrician. She still needs some monitoring to ensure that her health returns to normal," she said.

On Oct 1, Miksudiar and 10-year-old Norieen Yaakob were found weak and starving after spending 46 days in the forest reserve with five others.

Four died and another is still missing.

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