GRIK: Ask a Jahai villager in Kampung Sungai Kejar Hilir if his children attend school, and you will invariably get a shocked response: "School? Of course not!"
Efforts to enrol the children at Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Tiang, an hour's journey by boat, had met with firm resistance from parents, said Orang Asli Affairs Department officer Abu Othman Abdul Karim.
All were illiterate, except one or two individuals who only knew the letters of the alphabet, he said.
"We have visited them and arranged for a few to attend courses to change their mindset.
The settlement in Kampung Sungai Kejar Hilir has about 160 people from 27 families. A gravity system gives them water from the hills.
"They no longer migrate to find new places to live, but they still move about in search of jungle produce and live at different places for several weeks," said Abu Othman.
This sub-group of the Negrito were involved in fishing and gathering fruit, honey, rattan and other jungle produce.
His department had supplied seeds, but wild boars and elephants ate the crops.
Brothers Bangkun and Agok said they tried growing corn, brinjal, cucumbers and dokong as advised, but were frustrated by the elephants, that ate their produce.
Relating their troubles, Bangkun said he would be grateful for hand-outs.
Visitors to their village had previously helped them with gifts of rice and sugar. -- By Brenda Lim
The Nes Straits Times Online: 30 Mei 2008