A member of an indigenous tribe in Malaysia claims that his community faces daily discrimination in the education system during a conference on cultural rights held in the country’s capital on Thursday, Free Malaysia Today reported.
Sharing his experiences of discrimination, the Orang Asli who only wanted to be known as Rahman, said he had held onto the frustration arising from this unfair treatment for too long.
“In schools, students and even the teachers call us dirty. They call us pigs, they call us dogs,” he said.
“A friend of mine from Kelantan shared a video where this ustaz says ‘don’t be stupid like the Orang Asli’,” (‘Ustaz’ is the local term for teachers in Islamic religious schools)
“This saddens me, and I don’t want this to continue. I want Malaysians to stop insulting us Orang Asli,” Rahman added.
Members of indigenous tribes in Malaysia like Rahman are the oldest inhabitants in Peninsular Malaysia, the majority of which live in rural areas. A significant number live in poverty.
A UNICEF document in 2008 noted there has been great progress in primary school enrolment among
Orang Asli children since the 1990s, recording 26,911 children enrolled in primary schools in 2006. However, only around 20-40 percent who complete primary schools progress into secondary school.
There have been reported cases of abuse inflicted on this particular group of children in their schools as well. A primary school student in 2015 was tied and abused by her teachers for allegedly stealing money from a teacher’s car, according to the “Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report 2015” by rights group KOMAS. The teachers are reportedly still teaching at the school, the report wrote.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in the same year noted that they continue to receive complaints of abuse of Orang Asli children by their teachers, calling upon the Ministry of Education to ensure equal and inclusive access to all children in Malaysia.
“The Commission stands firm that discipline among children must be administered in a manner consistent with both the child’s dignity and the right to protection from all forms of violence,” Suhakam acting chairman Khaw Lake Tee said.
“The Commission reiterates that the right of every child to education on the basis of equal opportunity and without discrimination on any ground must be fully respected.”