Literacy programme empowers Penans

CLASS IN SESSION: Bonny, one of the programme’s facilitators, busy teaching the ‘students’.

KUCHING: Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) is helping to empower the Penans in Murum by implementing the Murum Penan Literacy Programme to address the educational disparity affecting them.

In a statement issued here yesterday, it said the programme was now providing solid literacy foundation to more than 330 Penans, with close to 50 per cent of them now becoming literate, able to read fluently and write with confidence.

“In the ‘Contemporary Ethnography’ survey conducted by the state government’s consultants in 2009, it was identified that out of 550 education-aged Penans in the six communities affected by the Murum Hydroelectric Project (HEP) – 517 were not attending school.

“Working closely with the Society for the Advancement of Women and the Family Sarawak, the programme first started off catering to only the Penan women.

“Due to the overwhelming response received, today, the literacy programme caters to all interested participants in the six affected communities within the vicinity – Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Menapa, Long Singu, Long Tangau and Long Malim,” it noted.

SEB’s manager for social investment Joanne Tan mentioned in the statement that it was heartwarming to know that most of the Penans in Murum, regardless of gender or age, have a strong sense of participation in the programme.

“This clearly shows the initiative that they are taking in order to better their current conditions. We are extremely pleased to be able to provide them with the necessary skills needed to raise their family incomes and standards of living,” she said.

She believed in a few months’ time, the Penans in Murum will go through a major transformation elevating their standard of living.

“The indigenous communities will be able to access education, enhanced accommodation, clean running water, electricity and sanitation utilities. The Murum Penan Literacy Programme is part of SEB’s initiatives to ensure that the resettlement provides much more for the affected communities than just bricks and mortar,” added Joanne.

Gilbert Kiring, one of the 30 facilitators trained by SEB to conduct the literacy classes at their respective longhouses, said the literacy programme not only taught reading and writing as it also encompasses arithmetic, hygiene and healthy living, personal and leadership development and vegetable farming.

“We appreciate the effort carried out by SEB for giving our community the opportunity to learn. We hope that such activities will be continued after we have been relocated to our new home,” he said.

On a related matter, it was mentioned in the statement that the Murum Penan Literacy Programme is only one of the many examples of numerous engagements and community gatherings that have been organised over recent years.

“The reality of the situation contrasts starkly with the baseless allegations made by radical foreign activists who falsely claim a lack of engagement and human rights violations.

“Under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), the government is implementing a comprehensive plan to develop the Sarawak economy by harnessing the state’s competitive advantage in the generation of bulk renewable energy to attract investment and employment in energy intensive industries. This will result directly in the people of Sarawak enjoying higher incomes and standard of living,” it stated.

It also mentioned that in order to support the state’s SCORE agenda, SEB is committed towards harnessing the abundant hydroelectricity resources in a sustainable manner, compliant with Sarawakian and Malaysian law and guided by international best practices.

SEB’s projections indicate that by the middle of the next decade, residential, retail and commercial customers in Sarawak will require 2,000 MW while SCORE customers will consume at least 6,000 MW.

The state’s GDP is expected to expand 5-fold by 2030, with approximately 1.6million jobs to be created when SCORE is fully operational.

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