A total of 39 primary school Penan students from Murum recently completed an eight-month educational programme designed to help them improve their reading, spelling and writing skills in Bahasa Melayu and English in order to obtain better results in their first public examination – the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).
In a press statement yesterday, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) said that the ‘Literacy for Social Inclusion Programme’ initiated and supported by the corporation was developed specifically for Penan children at SK Tegulang who were lagging behind in their reading skills.
SK Tegulang is one of two primary schools which SEB helped to set up at the Murum Resettlement Scheme.
The literacy 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.
Students who completed the programme received certificates of participation at a ceremony marking the end of the programme held at Long Wat.
Presenting the certificates was SEB’s head of corporate social responsibility Jiwari Abdullah who was accompanied by senior manager for social investment and community development Joanne Tan Cho Yian and DASwk’s president, Dr Ong Puay Hoon.
SK Tegulang headmaster Anu Garing and Murum Penan Development Committee (MPDC) chairman Labang Paneh were also present.
According to Dr Ong, the programme was geared towards raising education standards in the Penan community to be on par with other communities.
She noted the children’s literacy level 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. Additionally, they will have confidence when socialising,” said Dr Ong.
SEB’s support is part of its ongoing corporate social responsibility (CSR) to communities affected by the Murum Hydroelectric Plant; particularly the Penans whose former semi-nomadic lifestyle prevented 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 SEB’s CSR strategy for the state and that the corporation hopes to support such programme in other schools as well in future.
During the ceremony, books were also presented to the mini community libraries at Long Wat and Long Malim (Penan) which were set up to encourage and inculcate the reading habit among the young.
SEB’s CSR initiatives focussing on education for the resettled Murum communities started in 2012 with the introduction of the Murum Penan Literacy Programme, with over 300 adult Penans now able to read, write and do simple arithmetic.
The literacy project is 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.
Last year, SEB announced an education fund of RM200,000 mainly for the Penan communities in Belaga which also benefits communities at the Murum Resettlement Scheme.
Source : The Borneo Post Online