Penan youths have the tendency to lose direction and go astray when they are working in urban centres.
Telang Usan District Officer Ezra Uda, in expressing his worry about the phenomenon, said about 500 Penan youths, mostly school-leavers, are here working or looking for jobs.
“Most of them work to earn some pocket money while waiting for their results after their Form 3 or Form 5 examinations. Miri is their most preferred destination as it offers many opportunities compared to Marudi.”
Without the experience and qualification, Ezra said most Penan youths ended up working as shop assistants or taking order of food and drinks in coffee shops and small restaurants. The lucky ones were provided with lodging by their employers while others had to rent cheap rooms.
“They venture into urban areas as there is no job in their villages or longhouses in the interior of Baram. Logging companies don’t dare employ them.
“After being ‘separated’ from their parents after living on their own in boarding schools during their primary and secondary education, the youths shun manual labour and collecting jungle or river produce.
“Primary and secondary education opens their eyes and mind. They want to have experience like youths in the urban areas. Driven by their strong desire and influence from friends, family members and relatives they venture into urban centres looking for jobs,” he said during an interview at one of timber camps in the Baram recently.
He added that they, however, were not prepared to face the cultural shock in their rural-urban migration. Without guidance of adults the Penan youths would sometimes indulge in anti-social activities and petty crimes.
“It is a pity to see that happening as they have the potential to bring changes not only to themselves but also to their families and the community. There is a tendency for them to lose their religious and moral values.”
The majority of the Penans in Baram have embraced Christianity after witnessing for themselves the positive changes it brought to the Kayan and Kenyah communities.
“I can say that most Penan villages, settlements and longhouse have a church each ministered by their own pastors. The church also provides basic religious classes to children through Sunday School.
“They never miss going to church every Sunday and important Christian celebrations back in their villages. Unfortunately, their religious teaching and values are eroded once they have moved into urban centres as many of them do not know where their churches are located.“
In this context, Ezra advised them to identify where their churches were located in the city and get to know fellow Penans who have lived and worked long in the city. “Get to know them for guidance. Better still, have a gathering, say atleast once a week for fellowship.”
He also suggested that they formed an association to look after their affair and welfare. They could do it either on their own or with other non-governmental organisations.
Ezra said he was glad that there were so far no reported cases of Penan youths’ involvement in major crimes in Miri.
Anthony Joseph, firstname.lastname@example.org