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GUA MUSANG, Oct 12 — A probe into the seven missing children has opened a can of worms as the struggles of the community here becomes apparent.
Claims of being ill-treated and neglected by teachers and wardens of SK Pos Tohoi have surfaced, and are rumoured to be connected to the disappearance.
Investigating the rumours, a Malay Mail team ventured into Pos Tohoi, and heard claims of mistreatment at the school as villagers voiced grave concern about the state of the boarding school.
“My daughter told me they all slept on cement floors in the hostel, and were forced to wear dirty uniforms to class,” said Ayel Ajib, 48, the father of Ika Ayel, whose body was found on Friday.
“She told me on some days, there would only be a total of two hours of classes. In an entire week, there would sometimes be only two days of lessons in total.
“The rest of the time the pupils were left to themselves,” he said.
Some parents said there were stories related to them by their children, in which physical abuse was mentioned.
Sobrie Latip, 25, father of Sasa, whose decomposed body was found on Wednesday, said his daughter had told him of teachers forcing pupils to look for a stick that was meant to be used as a cane.
“The juniors were asked to look for a cane, with the intention of it being used to discipline the seniors. And, if the cane they chose was not satisfactory, the teachers would make them look for another one,” he said.
It is believe that the children had developed such a fear of the school’s teachers that they had evaded the search party, thinking they would be brought back to school and punished.
A visit to the school yesterday shed more light on the situation. Out of 113 pupils, only 10 from the affected villages had shown up, as workers installed a new perimeter fence.
The seven pupils are believed to have left school through a gap in the fence on Aug 23.
“We are at the mercy of the teachers as we have no say in what sort of activities the school organises. We only want them to be educated,” said Sobrie.
“Sasa even told me she saw some seniors getting slapped across the face, and some were kicked like a football repeatedly,” he added.
Nora Tegeu, 39, mother of Ika, said she had always advised her to be patient with the teachers and hostel wardens.
“She had mentioned at times she feared for her own safety, as teachers punished pupils at will, using their own justification and methods.
“The school did not even show any sense of urgency when the pupils went missing,” she said.
One would think such a situation can only improve, but in reality, the plight of the victims’ families has yet to see an improvement even after losing their loved ones.
Latip Aban, 45, said once his granddaughter Sasa Sobrie had gone missing, search efforts did start, but the efforts were less than convincing.
“When all the villagers came to assist in the search, the authorities indirectly handed over the responsibility to us.
Latip said at the initial stage, villagers went deep into the jungle to locate the children along with the authorities.
“They would follow us, as we know the terrain here better, but when the trail got too challenging, a few of them turned back, leaving us to do the search,” he said.