Penan Education Fund Programmes Showing Results

Committee endorses 2018 plan to focus on enhancing academic performances and skill training 

 The Belaga-based Penan Education Fund, now in its third year, is delivering good results with programmes recording significant improvements for 2017 in performance measures such as school attendance and youth employability. 

 Set up in 2015, the Education Fund is a collaboration between Sarawak Energy and the Bakun Charitable Trust, to support Penan students and youths in Belaga and resettled communities of the Murum Hydroelectric Plant (HEP). 

 The Education Fund committee, which is chaired by Belaga assemblyman Datuk Liwan Lagang with Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon serving as vice chairman, met recently in Bintulu and agreed to build on the successes of 2017. Programmes under the 2018 plan will focus on enhancing academic performances and training opportunities, given the remarkable results from students and youths from the community under last year’s programmes. 

The meeting was to chart the direction for 2018 and to update committee members on student academic performances and outcome of the skill trainings.

Sarawak Energy was represented by Jiwari Abdullah, the Assistant General Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Joanne Tan, Senior Manager for Social Investment and Community Development. 

In addition to Liwan and Chukpai, others present included Labang Paneh, Chairman of the Murum Penan Development Committee (MPDC); Belaga Education Department representative Nora Igang, Principals from SMK Bakun, Henry Usat Bit, SK Metalun, Majid Aja and SK Tegulang, Anu Garing, State Planning Unit representative Awi Abang, and Zain Rocky of Belaga District Education Office.

Improved Attendance and Results at Murum Primary Schools 

Last year saw an increase in attendance and enrolment rate for students in the Murum Resettlement schools of SK Tegulang and SK Metalun, with improved academic results. 

“As the awareness grows within the community and the understanding that education opens doors to so many opportunities, we have witnessed positive improvements on attendance for SK Metalun and SK Tegulang. These improvements are due to a greater understanding in the community of the importance of education. I must commend the parents for their commitment and sacrifice to their childrens’ future,” said Datuk Liwan. With this in hand, we will be progressing towards improving the academic performance of the students this year,” he added. 

As the Penan communities were semi-nomadic before resettlement, the challenge used to be one of access. SK Tegulang and SK Metalun were built within the Murum Resettlement area to ensure ease of access for primary school goers, allowing them to continue to live at home without moving to boarding school.

“Over the last few years, all parties have worked together and this has led to a significant four-fold increase in enrolment and attendance for children compared to before resettlement,” said Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon who is also the vice chairman for the Fund committee. 

“In view of the improved attendance rate, this year the Penan Education Fund will focus on enhancing their academic performance,” Jiwari added. 

Brighter Employment Prospects 

The post-secondary group also recorded encouraging achievements. Twenty young men graduated last December from the Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (CENTEXS) in Welding Technology (6G Advance and 3G Plus), Mechatronic (Port Equipment), Chargeman Level 1 and Information Technology.

One of them, Ronny Lagu from Long Malim in Murum, was awarded the “Best Student” in Welding Technology. Some have already been employed by construction and fabrication companies in Kuching, Betong and Samalaju. 

Bekaren Asan, also from Long Malim in Murum, said his 6G Advance Certification had widened his employment opportunities. 

Currently working as a welder with a construction company in Bintulu, Bekaren said, “I am so happy that I am working and financially independent now. “ 

“My goal now is to gain more work experience so that I can work in the oil and gas industry,” said Bekaren. 

Nine young ladies from Long Wat in Murum are now pursuing professional diploma in Hair Design and Make Up. 

An Education Based Partnership for Community Wellbeing 

Funding by Sarawak Energy is aimed towards ensuring its project-affected communities benefit from the presence. Earlier this year, the corporation also presented its annual contribution of school aid to SK Metalun and SK Tegulang students. The company also provides school transportation support. 

“We will continue to actively pursue our CSR initiatives to support education enhancement not only for school students but also on skills training for Murum youth. This is to enable more young people to participate actively in opportunities available to their urban counterparts,” said Jiwari, adding that education and young people remains a key thrust of Sarawak Energy’s CSR strategy. 

During the meeting, Chukpai thanked all partners in the initiatives particularly Sarawak Energy, MPDC representing the community themselves, State Education Department, State Planning Unit (SPU) and all the parties involved on their contribution towards the enhancement of opportunities for the Murum community.

Murum youths together with Chukpai (standing, seventh left) at the CENTEXS graduation ceremony.

Ronny Lagu from Long Malim in Murum with his ‘Best Student’ certificate and award.

Datuk Liwan Lagang (third left), accompanied by Kennedy Chukpai (fourth left) and Assistant General Manager Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Jiwari Abdullah in a photo call after the meeting.

Liwan (centre), flanked by Chukpai on his left, and Jiwari, with other committee members during the Penan Education Fund committee meeting.