11 Mar 2009

Medan and Lake Toba (3)

The Batak village in Samasir

The entrance to the Batak Cultural Village

The picture above is a Batak Settlement on Samosir Island. Samosir Island may be as big as Singapore but it's very sparsely populated. Although there are roads and electricity, there is only one primary or elementary school and a few sundry shops, some fishing villages and a post office. Everything used on this island has to come from the mainland. The older children have to go to school on the mainland, that is at the town of Parapat and a few other towns along the coast of Toba. Traditional Batak houses look somewhat like Minang houses - with the curved roofs that is so typically Minangkabau. But the doors are smaller and the windows are all on the second floor. These houses are no longer lived in though - they form part of the cultural village on Samosir Island. Most of the modern Bataks are also no longer here. Many have left for a better life elsewhere. Bataks are actually quite good singers and are well known in Indonesia and Malaysia for their singing. When we came to the island we were entertained by a trio of Batak boys who sang some traditional Batak songs. These poor boys though don't go to school - at least when I asked them why they were not in school they said they didn't go. Is it because of poverty or because of the inaccessibility of school? I guess even though education at the primary level is free, they'd have to pay the boat fare and books and so on. Most of the Bataks who lived here are actually fishermen and the women sell crafts and tourist souvenirs for a living. The only way out for the children would be education and if they don't get any schooling how can they ever get out of this vicious cycle? The answer is they just don't and it's so sad.

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