KUCHING: The adoption of the Iban alphabet can pave the way to the setting up of an Iban vernacular or vision school.
On the other hand, if the Iban themselves were not serious about using the Iban alphabet it may end up in a museum.
“If the Chinese and Indians can have their Mandarin and Tamil alphabet and vernacular schools, so why can’t the Iban community aspire to have their own alphabet and vernacular school?” he asked.
Forum Jaku Iban 2011 (FJI 2011) patron Tan Sri William who is Social Development Minister, gave this advice in thanking the FJI 2011 committee members for starting the initiative to set up an Iban alphabet tuition centre here.
In a text of speech delivered to the press at a media conference held after an FJI 2011 meeting at a local hotel here yesterday, Mawan said the Iban alphabet would be a factor in developing the Iban language.
“The alphabet should not be left to become a museum artefact. For it to be a living subject, the teaching of the Iban alphabet must spread far and wide starting now,” he said.
“What the FJI 2011 committee members has started (by setting up a tuition centre) is very important to the Iban community,” said Mawan, who is also president of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party.
Mawan added he would enroll himself in the first Iban class of 25 people and chose the student number 4. Four is his favourite number.
Mawan however advised that efforts of advancing the Iban language through the alphabet system must not be politicised.
He also said such efforts must be shared by the community and government of the day.
“I would like to stress that efforts and initiatives of setting up training centre for the teaching of Iban alphabet throughout Sarawak or even Malaysia and eventually an Iban vernacular school is a shared destiny, shared vision and shared initiative of all Malaysians,” he said.
He said the Iban community in particular could disagree on several things but they should not disagree with matters pertaining to their identity.
“In the past we had segregated and contradicted ourselves but language is something we cannot segregate ourselves from. Language is a factor that binds us. Because of language, we are one. It is one area where we can’t alienate each other,” said Mawan.
“Language is our tool of advancement. A Language Forum is not a place where we quarrel and tussle with each other. Language Forum is the only place where we cannot segregate and contradict each other. Language forum is where we should be one or always be one,” he pointed out.
“We may be speaking other tongue but if indeed we are Iban, we are in fact Iban. The Iban alphabet I believe is the ultimate tool of our Iban identity,” he added.
The media conference ended with a cheque presentation of RM5,000 from FJI 2011 committee to Assoc Prof Dr Bromeley Philip, the first headmaster of the proposed Iban Alphabet Training Centre and initiator of the Pogramme TULIS which stands for Training on UrupDunging LaserIban System.
Also present at the media conference were FJI 2011 organising chairman Edwin Jemat and FJI 2011 secretary Churchill Edward.
Earlier on, Bromeley said with the money he can start his first class on Oct 15.
The committee members will be charged a subsidised rate and they too must buy the Iban alphabet software, also at a subsidised rate, he said.
The class will be twice a week – one during weekdays and the other, on Saturdays.
Bromeley said FJI committee members have to start first because they were advised to learn the alphabet by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who during the Sept 17 forum proper pledged RM10,000 to support his (Bromeley’s) work.
Bromeley, a university lecturer at University Teknologi MARA Sarawak said there will be another class specially meant for his UiTM students.
TULIS progarmme include handwriting and spelling and students will be asked to practise writing in the Iban alphabet. After two months of tuition, trainees will graduate with either attendance certificate or proficiency certificate.
Bromeley also planned to set up a research institute for revitalising the Iban language.
Coining the institute as BRAINS, he said he needed the support of the government as well as the educational fraternity to realise the plan.
Meanwhile Churchill said he will get current FJI team members organised. And now that they have a common objective, he said he would initiate the setting up of an association which is to be registered with the Registrar of Society.