On December 18th, our sister group Orang Asli Community Learning Centres Outreach and I, representing Mari Kita Membaca, took a trip up to Kampung OA Pos Musoh near the Perak-Pahang border. We set off in three 4-wheel drive vehicles, including the famous Tuah of Malaysians in Motion. At Tapah we met some other members of the OACLC Outreach Project, the respected activist Tijah Yok Chopil, and our local contact Kato who is from a village near Pos Musoh.
To get there, you have to drive up the road from Tapah toward Cameron Highlands until somewhere around Batu 8 (8th Mile) and turn off onto a narrrow, single-track road that is maintained by Tenaga Nasional. After some kilometres, the tarred road is replaced by a concrete road built by the villagers themselves. Along the way, we passed some children making their way to a wedding in a nearby village, and we also met the kindly headmaster of SK Pos Musoh, En. Zul, coming down on a motorcycle to make sure we hadn’t fallen off a cliff, unlike one of Tenaga Nasional’s backhoes.
We arrived at Pos Musoh in late morning. It’s a small but beautiful village high up in the mountains, wreathed in cloud. The school has six teachers and twenty-something primary students. The older kids go down to Tapah for secondary school. The school has a few computers and solar panels, but due to their small size and the clouds, they only provide sufficient power for a few hours per day.
The community learning centre behind the school was set up by some villagers before the government installed the school itself. Wak Linang, the lady in the turban, is of the family who initiated it.
When we entered, we found the kindergarten/preschoolers sitting on the floor and the primary girls and boys at separate tables. You may wonder why the boys’ shirts and the girls’ kurungs look so floppy – the Outreach Project folks had previously brought up a batch of bigger school uniforms, and were going to bring smaller sizes the next time – but the kids mati-mati wanted to wear new uniforms!
Besides our Library in a Box, there were several other boxes of books and some arts and crafts supplies from other donors, including Asia Foundation. Alison had also brought along some arts and crafts supplies for the preschoolers to make noisemakers.
The orang putih (white guy) is my husband Steven who was getting to experience a “cuti-cuti Malaysia” that most other tourists won’t see. After they were done, I entertained them with an Audubon book and learned the Semai word for “bird”. Some of the bird photos were familiar, but I resorted to charades to explain “penguin” to a bunch of kids who have never seen “Happy Feet” or “March of the Emperors”!
Meanwhile, the primary students made thank-you cards for the donors. Some of the OACLC Outreach members had an interesting discussion with Tijah and En. Zul had an interesting discussion about education and empowerment, while others played and chatted with the children.
Here’s the group photo we took with the preschoolers and primary students:
Personally I really enjoyed the trip – it was not the first time I have visited an Orang Asli village, but the previous occasions were in my childhood – and I definitely plan to keep in touch with Wak Linang and En. Zul and revisit Pos Musoh to find out how best to help the kids along in their education.
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