was interested in the hall. This very basic building of around 20 feet x
40 feet has walls constructed of breeze blocks and wooden planks. The
roof is corrugated metal, and the floor is raw concrete. Inside, there
is a storeroom, a toilet, and a simple concrete stand for the sink.
This was a
collective village decision, and it was alleged that the building had
been built on land owned by one of the villagers. In other words, the dewan was sited on private land.
Even older villagers had expressed a
desire to be educated. The prospect of learning made the villagers
excited about their new experiences and exposure to the world outside.
However, the Little Napoleons took a dim view of the initiative shown by the Semai of Pos Woh.
another part of the world, one would imagine that the state, or any of
its agencies, would be thrilled that a group of villagers had refused
handouts but used their own drive to increase their knowledge in an
attempt to improve themselves through education.
But this is Malaysia, where there is a directive to punish Malaysians who want to speak English because they are “disrespecting” the national language.
One would not be wrong in thinking that the state wants its subjects to remain in a state of blissful ignorance.
The Russian teacher
seven officials asked about the presence of the Russian volunteer
teacher, Valeriya “Valerie” Astashova, who in 2020 inspired the Semai
with her willingness to live amongst their people and teach English.
At the start of the pandemic, nations closed their borders, and Valerie was stranded at KLIA. She returned to Kuala Lumpur to distribute food to Orang Asli villages.
found a niche opening in Pos Woh, whereby she could teach English to
the children. The then village chief was supportive, so a local NGO
applied for a permit for Valerie to volunteer as a teacher. Her
application was successful.
Valerie’s expatriate friends in Kuala
Lumpur donated toys, books, old computers, games and furniture for Pos
Woh. She made learning exciting, and this sparked the villagers’ quest
for knowledge. They were hungry for more.
However, Valerie’s success
angered (and embarrassed) the top brass in Jakoa. Together with the
Special Branch, Jakoa visited the village, threatened Valerie, revoked
her permit, accused her of committing various acts, and threatened to
deport her unless she left Pos Woh.
Jakoa and Special Branch’s intimidation has resumed. Yesterday, the
officials warned the villagers that Valerie was not allowed in the
village as it was against the law.
Despite Valerie entering
Malaysia legally, these officials said that her entry into the country
only entitled her to stay in a hotel, but not at Pos Woh, unless a
special pass was obtained. What ridiculous law/pass is this?
claimed that if Valerie wanted to teach, she should apply for a permit
from the Immigration Department. They made it sound so simple. So, were
they hoping the villagers would compromise Valerie?
In the next
breath, they told the villagers that Valerie would never be allowed to
teach at Pos Woh. Why does their story keep changing?
these officials turn up a few days after Valerie had left the village
and Malaysia? Who snitched on her? The officials know that the villagers
are not well versed with their rights, so did they wait for Valerie to
leave? Fear is how our government “controls” us.
Jakoa has now threatened to demolish the Dewan. Why deprive Orang Asli children of a future?
then warned that any villager, including children caught having lessons
via Zoom, would be severely punished. What law is this, Jakoa?
Jakoa forgotten Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, which says that everyone has the right to education?
Jakoa were to retaliate against the villagers for daring to make a
stand, I am sure that many Malaysians would support the Orang Asli.