The Bajau Laut people or sea gypsies are some of the marine nomadic tribes in Southeast Asia who spend most of their lives on the sea. As they rarely set foot on land, it is common for the young Bajau Laut children to not go to school, unlike most children.
Concerned with a missing component in their lifestyle, education, a Malaysian man then set out to a mission to travel to their villages to teach the children.
Every week, he would travel to the villages which two or three times on his own expenses to teach the children.
In a now-viral Facebook post he shared, the man named Khairul Jamain wrote that it was not easy to make friends with the Bajau Laut tribe at first as they were wary of outsiders.
According to Khairul, he spent about four months at the Celebes Sea, off the coast of Semporna where the tribe built their villages to observe their lifestyle.
During his time observing the sea gypsies, he slowly approached the community and that was when he realised that the Bajau Laut children lacked formal education.
Since then, he became determined to become a teacher for the Bajau Laut children.
“Pencil and paper had scared the Bajau Laut people,” Khairul wrote in his post.
“I was determined to be a teacher here, though I did not teach them the ABC’s or their 123’s, because they had to learn to know life, so I did not teach them like how they do in a formal school,” he wrote.
For his classes, he always brings papers, sets of crayons, chalks and a chalkboard to teach the children through drawing, singing and storytelling, an abstract way of learning he deems is the best to learn morals and values.
He also recalled the first time he learned that the children never saw a complete set of pencil colours before his visit.
“I remember when I first gave them papers and pencils, they did not want to touch it because they were scared and didn’t know how to use them,” he wrote.
“That is why I’m willing to use my own money to visit them 2 to 3 times a week just to teach them, because I believe they have hope. I had to spend RM400 (US$ 97) a month for a small boat to and fro their village. The journey takes between 30 to 50 minutes depending on the sea and the waves,” he continued.
Even though the mission has been proven quite a tough one, Khairul is not one to give up so easily.
Moreover, it appears that the community has already accepted Khairul as one of their own.
Apparently, the villagers are really thankful for his effort to teach their children that one of the villagers named their child after his name.
Now, all Khairul hopes is for the children to be able to have a school of their own one day.
“My dream is just a small one, I want them to have their own school, capable of educating the Bajau Laut children here. If the Bajau Laut people of Indonesia are defended, given education and equal right, why can’t Malaysia?” he wrote.
Thank you teacher Khairul for your selfless actions!