KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 7: The young from the Bateq Orang Asli community at Kuala Tahan in Pahang will receive boost from Yayasan Salam Malaysia and Taman Negara Bird Group in a two-day volunteering programme to equip them with better living skills and education on Aug 19 and 20.
Known as SIM23 for Salam Integrasi Madani 2023, it will be held at Kampung Atok, a riverine fishing village in the wilds of Taman Negara which can be reached by about an hour’s boat ride from the Kuala Tahan Jetty.
Nor Zakiah Senin, the SIM23 programme coordinator from Yayasan Salam Malaysia, said the activity is to augment the operations of a school run by volunteer teachers at the village.
She said the village has 130 people from 26 families who are part of the usually nomadic Negrito tribe. Out of this number, there are 45 school-going boys and girls between the ages of five and 18 years who attend school only on weekends.
Nor Zakiah explained that they could only attend the weekend school because the volunteer teachers are only available on weekends while the relatively high cost of water and land transportation in this remote area prevent the kids from attending regular mainstream schools in the nearest district.
A school with basic amenities was built in 2020 by an NGO known as the Taman Negara Bird Group with help from youths from the community.
Teaching is done by two full-fledged teachers from government schools who volunteer to come by boat every weekend and they are assisted by five assistant teachers comprising volunteers from within and outside Kampung Atok. School sessions are carried out on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 3pm.
Nor Zakiah said the school is aimed at laying a strong foundation for the kids to know how to spell, read and count.
In addition, they are exposed to the basics of good language skills and how to communicate effectively.
They are also given lessons on good hygiene and dressing tidily in order to feel at ease when interacting with people from outside their community.
“The hope is to provide them with exposure to basic education so that they can enrol into mainstream schools if their parents can afford to send them later or providing them with basic skills to find jobs that are not dependent on the forest for their livelihood,” she explained.
Besides the teaching sessions, the two-day programme will also see distribution of cooking utensils and foodstuff to the 26 families.
To add colour to the programme, there will also be a sports carnival and a community-based dinner reception.
As for the volunteers from outside Kampung Atok, they will be taught how to set fishing traps in the Bateq orang asli way by the village folks and then go on a night-fishing expedition.
Kampung Atok in Kuala Tahan came into being about 50 years ago. Its location was based on its strategic location to have good linkages with outside communities and for the future development and growth of the villagers’ children.
The majority of the Bateq community depend on resources from the forests which are also their main food source. Some of the villagers have also become more exposed with the outside world, especially in the tourism sector by becoming boatmen and tour guides.
Nor Zakiah said SIM23 is aimed at developing a support system among NGOs, related government agencies and private companies to help identify and overcome whatever weaknesses faced by the Bateq orang asli community and optimising their strengths for their continuity.
It is also to identifying the potential and talent among the youths and provide value-added knowledge to enable them to be involved in ecotourism, business and marketing and service sectors.
The programme also serves to increase the level of confidence and positive values among the Bateq people for improved self-belief and capability and to possess a strong spirit to change for the better to interact with the outside world.
Nor Zakiah said those who would like to contribute to the programme can contribute from as little as RM50.
Donations, which are tax-exempt, can be sent to Yayasan Salam Malaysia’s account at Public Bank 307-287-930-2.
Yayasan Salam Malaysia’s tax-exempt status is under Section 44(6) of the Income Tax Act, 1967/ Ref: LHDN. 01/35/42/51/179-6.4554 Government Gazette: Bil.3263/28-02-2004