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KUCHING, March 6: 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).
According to a press statement, 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 its assistant general manager for corporate social responsibility (CSR) Jiwari Abdullah and senior manager for social investment and community development Joanne Tan.
In addition to Liwan and Chukpai, others present included Murum Penan Development Committee (MPDC) chairman Labang Paneh; 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.
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,” Liwan said.
“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 Chukpai.
“In view of the improved attendance rate, this year the Penan Education Fund will focus on enhancing their academic performance,” Jiwari added.
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.
Among them was Ronny Lagu from Long Malim in Murum, who was awarded the “Best Student” achievement in Welding Technology. Some graduates are already 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.”
Nine young women from Long Wat in Murum are now pursuing professional diploma in Hair Design and Make Up.
Funding by Sarawak Energy is aimed towards ensuring its project-affected communities benefit from its 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. — DayakDaily