Ed­u­ca­tion and abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren

The Borneo Post - - HOME - By Christo­pher Lau

NOT long ago, a friend of mine was shar­ing her so­cial work ex­pe­ri­ence and one of her sto­ries touched me deeply.

She spent a lot of time as a vol­un­teer, teach­ing chil­dren in Bukit Lan­jan, Se­lan­gor.

My im­pres­sion has al­ways been that only abo­rig­i­nals liv­ing in­land need help. Never would I have ex­pected an abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity in a bustling me­trop­o­lis to be strug­gling to keep up.

Ac­cord­ing to my friend, the lit­er­acy gap be­tween the abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren in Bukit Lan­jan and their other ur­ban coun­ter­parts is still sig­nif­i­cant.

This made me won­der how se­ri­ous are the prob­lems faced by those abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren liv­ing in­land when even those liv­ing in metropoli­tan ar­eas are fac­ing school­ing prob­lems?

Putting aside ge­o­graph­i­cal con­cerns, how are they do­ing in terms of at­ten­dance, class­room equip­ment, teach­ing qual­ity and the like?

Con­vers­ing with my friend re­minded me of the case in which seven abo­rig­i­nal pri­mary stu­dents from a board­ing school in Ke­lan­tan went miss­ing two years ago.

The in­ci­dent had the pub­lic ques­tion­ing and guess­ing the stu­dents’ where­abouts and it also at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the out­side world.

Look­ing at this in­ci­dent, cou­pled with what my friend has de­scribed, I must ask the ques­tion – does it reflect the lack of per­ti­nent ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies in our coun­try or is it just be­cause the ex­ist­ing poli­cies are out of sync with the dif­fi­cul­ties en­coun­tered by abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents?

Ac­cord­ing to the 2010-11 Re­port of the Malaysian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (MHRC) on the rights of abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren, the main rea­sons for their low en­rol­ment and high dropout rates are firstly, the schools are too far away, se­condly, the lack of com­mutes, thirdly, poverty and lastly, the lack of nec­es­sary doc­u­ments.

Poli­cies were im­ple­mented un­der the 2013-2025 Malaysian Ed­u­ca­tion De­vel­op­ment Blue­print” to tackle the prob­lems of re­mote school lo­ca­tions and trans­porta­tion. The gov­ern­ment launched a board­ing school pro­gramme aimed at boost­ing the en­rol­ment rates of abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren.

To en­hance the lit­er­acy rate of es­pe­cially abo­rig­i­nal adults, the MHRC Re­port pro­posed the launch­ing of an Abo­rig­i­nal Adult Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme (Pro­gram Ke­las De­wasa Asli Peribumi). Chil­dren from poor fam­i­lies will also re­ceive grants to re­duce their par­ents’ bur­den.

To en­sure their qual­i­fi­ca­tions do not stag­nate at pri­mary school lev­els, the gov­ern­ment opened seven board­ing schools with syl­labi from kinder­garten to Form 3 (Spe­cial Model School K9).

At first glance, the goals and so­lu­tions spelt out by the Ed­u­ca­tional Blue­print ap­peared to be strate­gi­cally ap­pro­pri­ate but then, why are prob­lems such as low lit­er­acy rates, tru­ancy, and high dropouts still present?

Was it due to poor con­sid­er­a­tions or poor im­ple­men­ta­tion?

As re­gards the dis­ap­pear­ance of the seven abo­rig­i­nal pri­mary school chil­dren, their par­ents said they bathed in the river even though they were not al­lowed to do so, and out of the fear of pun­ish­ment, they went into hid­ing and were later found dead.

The in­ci­dent opened the Pan­dora box. Stu­dents from the same school started to re­port all kinds of is­sues such as ma­li­cious pun­ish­ments, teach­ers not do­ing their duty prop­erly and the lack of les­son time, among oth­ers.

What en­raged the pub­lic was that rel­e­vant author­i­ties just left the sit­u­a­tion as it was.

Although the de­ci­sion to build the board­ing schools was com­mend­able, proper im­ple­men­ta­tion to en­sure the set goals were achieved was just as im­por­tant. Our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as­signs abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren grades based on their age, start­ing from seven years old.

How­ever, my friend said based on her ex­pe­ri­ence, th­ese abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren are as­signed grades not suit­able to their level of lit­er­acy, re­sult­ing in slow learn­ing or dif­fi­cul­ties in keep­ing up with the teach­ers.

For ex­am­ple, an 11-year-old abo­rig­i­nal child with a lit­er­acy level of Pri­mary Two was still placed in a Pri­mary Five Class.

The 2016 Ed­u­ca­tion Blue­print Re­port showed the low lit­er­acy and poor math­e­mat­i­cal skills among abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren have not only low­ered their schools’ per­for­mance but also in­creased the dropout rate.

Ap­pro­pri­ate ad­just­ments for grade-as­sign­ing based on rel­e­vant lit­er­acy lev­els must be in­cor­po­rated into the ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy for abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren.

At the re­cent Free­dom Film Fes­ti­val 2017, abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren fea­tured in the doc­u­men­taries re­vealed the ob­sta­cles they en­coun­tered in school.

One of the most se­ri­ous prob­lems was bul­ly­ing and ex­clu­sion. An abo­rig­i­nal stu­dent said if so­ci­ety could put aside the ex­ist­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and en­cour­age the other stu­dents to help – not ex­clude – their abo­rig­i­nal class­mates, it would be the best help so­ci­ety can give the abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity.

In ad­di­tion, so­ci­ety should also stop dis­crim­i­nat­ing against abo­rig­ines who do not have high aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions but in­stead help them find jobs with a “hire lo­cals” pol­icy.

Un­de­ni­ably, low house­hold in­come of indige­nous peo­ple is one of the rea­sons why abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren drop out of school. Their par­ents just can­not af­ford their school fees.

An­other prob­lem is that the re­mote schools for abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren are fac­ing a short­age of teach­ers. Due to the lack of equip­ment, cou­pled with bad roads and in­ad­e­quate trans­port, many teach­ers choose not to teach in th­ese schools.

Need­less to say, ded­i­cated teach­ers are key to lift­ing the ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards of abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren. They can also en­cour­age abo­rig­i­nal par­ents to par­tic­i­pate in the chil­dren’s learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

The pro­vi­sion of trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties should be con­sid­ered and in­cluded in school build­ing plans.

In ad­di­tion, the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry should also in­cor­po­rate abo­rig­i­nal skills into abo­rig­i­nal school cur­ric­ula to not only pre­vent the loss of th­ese skills but also fos­ter the chil­dren’s in­ter­ests in learn­ing.

Be­fore draw­ing up an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme for the abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity, the rel­e­vant au­thor­ity should take into ac­count their views and con­cerns to achieve the best re­sults.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials should also visit abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties to get feed­back on their re­quire­ments vis-à-vis the teach­ing meth­ods, board­ing schools and equip­ment.

Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple lack ed­u­ca­tion al­lo­ca­tions and as such, their chil­dren are de­prived of a con­ducive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment to up­grade their aca­demic stan­dards.

The con­struc­tion of board­ing schools is also aimed at re­solv­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal is­sues. At the age of seven, when a child still needs fam­ily care, abo­rig­i­nal chil­dren are forced to leave home to at­tend board­ing school. This poses a chal­lenge any young pri­mary school pupil will find near im­pos­si­ble to han­dle.

Our ed­u­ca­tion goal is to achieve 100 per cent pri­mary and se­condary school en­rol­ment rates by 2020 but the prospects ap­pear re­mote if the voice of the abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties for bet­ter school­ing fa­cil­i­ties to raise en­rol­ment rates con­tin­ues to fall on deaf ears.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.