Thirty Nine Penan Children from Murum Complete Enhanced Education Performance Programme

KUCHING, 16th NOVEMBER 2016, WEDNESDAY: Thirty nine primary school age Penan students from the Murum community recently completed an eight-month educational programme specially designed to help them grasp the skills of reading, spelling and writing in Bahasa Melayu and English so that they can improve their performance in their first public examination at UPSR level.

Initiated and supported by Sarawak Energy, the “Literacy for Social Inclusion Programme” was developed specifically for Penan children who were lagging behind with their reading skills at SK Tegulang, one of two primary schools the energy development corporation helped set up within the Murum Resettlement Scheme. The programme was facilitated by Dyslexia Association of Sarawak (DASwk) and organised in collaboration with the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak Education Department.

The programme, extended to students from Primary 2 onwards, incorporates innovative, fun and participative teaching methods to encourage students’ active learning to improve their reading and writing skills. The programme adopted a tested phonics-based methodology which was highly structured, intensive, repetitive, cumulative and multi-sensorial which have been proven to facilitate learning.

Students who completed the programme received a certificate of participation at a closing ceremony of the programme held at Long Wat recently. 

Presenting the certificates was Sarawak Energy’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Jiwari Abdullah who was accompanied by Senior Manager for Social Investment and Community Development Joanne Tan Cho Yian (陈楚燕)and DASwk’s President, Dr Ong Puay Hoon. Headmaster of SK Tegulang Anu Garing and Murum Penan Development Committee (MPDC) Chairman Labang Paneh were also present.

According to Dr Ong, the programme is geared towards enabling the Penan community to be on par with other communities in educational level.

She added that the literacy level among the children was relatively low with high rates of absenteeism from school, drop outs and poor performance in examinations.

“Education is a fundamental human right, and if a child is literate he or she is able to participate actively in learning activities in school. In addition, they will have confidence in socialising,” said Dr Ong.

Sarawak Energy’s support is part of its ongoing corporate social responsibility to the Murum Hydroelectric Plant project affected communities; particularly the Penan whose former semi-nomadic lifestyle hindered their children from attending school regularly and completing formal education.

In his speech, Jiwari stressed that education and young people is at the heart of Sarawak Energy’s CSR strategy for the state and that the corporation hopes to support such programme in other schools as well in future. 

“We recognise and value the importance of education in advancing social and economic development. Through strong partnerships with dedicated like-minded organisations such as the Dyslexia Association of Sarawak, we hope that we can actively work towards complementing efforts by the government to support students in rural areas requiring special attention so that they too can participate in the mainstream of development,” he said.

Also at the ceremony, both the Long Wat and Long Malim (Penan) communities received books for their mini community libraries which was set up to encourage and inculcate the reading habit among the young.

Sarawak Energy’s CSR initiatives on education for the Murum resettled communities started in 2012 with the introduction of the Murum Penan Literacy Program, with over 300 adult Penans now able to read, write and do simple arithmetic. 

The literacy project was implemented in partnership with the Society for the Advancement of Women and the Family Sarawak (SWAF) which received national and international recognition for the achievements. 

To further assist the students’ educational growth, last year Sarawak Energy announced an education fund of RM200,000 mainly for the Penan communities in Belaga which also benefits the communities at the Murum Resettlement Scheme. 

A student confidently displays her reading skills for all to hear.

Tuai Rumah Asan Jalong receiving books from Jiwari for the mini community library at Long Malim. Also in the photo are (from left) Labang, Joanne, Dr Ong and Anu.

Students shows off their certificates in a group photo at the closing ceremony