Education for children of the nomadic Bajau Laut and other marginalised or stateless children of the East coast of Sabah

Education for children of the nomadic Bajau Laut and other marginalised or stateless children of the East coast of Sabah

Humana Learning Centres

When I first approached the Bajau Laut (sea gypsies), I asked them if they wanted to see their children in school. One of the old ladies told me they knew nothing about school, and it was not for them. But when the children mastered literacy skills, their parents realised that education is good and that it offers a beacon of hope.

Torben Venning, CEO of Humana Child Aid Society Sabah


Thousands of children who live in plantations or are part of indigenous communities are without access to basic education because of legal status, distance and poverty. Their number is steadily increasing and is close to 100 000. Since 1996, Humana Child Aid Society Sabah has been providing primary education for these stateless children. The children are kept away from life on the streets which often leads them to glue sniffing and criminal activities. More importantly, education gives them a hope for their future.


  • To provide education, in accordance with the UN’s Child Rights Convention, via learning centres for vulnerable groups of children in remote areas of Sabah who do not have access to school.


  • 128 learning centres providing education for over 12 000 Bajau Laut and other marginalised children who do not have access to government schools.


  • Schooling provided for over 12000 children.


Help across seas

Bajau Laut (sea gypsies) Abduhan and his wife Siti Lorina have never even heard about schools, much less received any form of education throughout their lives.

As nomadic seafarers, the Bajau Laut are born and raised on boats at sea. They roam the waters between Malaysia and the Philippines, and have never had any legal documents owing to their indeterminate status. Being stateless, their children have no access to government schools.

Illiterate and impoverished, the Bajau Laut have been vulnerable to exploitation by local gangs who recruit them to use bombs and cyanide for fishing, thus ravaging the coral reefs.

The Humana Learning Centres have provided them with the opportunity to gain basic education and after that, a chance to move on to find employment in shops, restaurants or as tour guides.

"The illiteracy should stop at our generation: we don't want our children to stay on boats like us. When they know how to read and write we hope they can find employment and have a better future," says Abduhan.