KUCHING: Sarawak Energy Bhd remains committed to supporting the education of the Penans in Belaga and those affected by the Murum HEP by contributing to the Bakun Charitable Trust for the second year.
Its chief executive officer (CEO) Sharbini Suhaili presented a cheque for RM200,000 to the chairman of Bakun Charitable Trust who is also Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing at his office in the State Legislative Assembly building here yesterday.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between SEB and Bakun Charitable Trust last year to provide further education support for the Penans in Belaga District, especially those directly affected by the newly-completed Murum HEP.
The MoU defines how a special education fund worth RM200,000 annually, parked under the Bakun Charitable Trust, will be utilised to support the education needs of the Penans.
The initiative aims to further motivate young people from the community to attend school regularly and strive for educational excellence.
Masing said the fund was meant to assist the Penan community who had been displaced by the Murum dam through education to lead a more productive life.
“Traditionally, the Penans are hunters and gatherers. We have to move them (their lifestyle) to the 21st century.
“And because of that, we have asked Sarawak Energy Bhd to provide a fund so that we can transform them from being hunters and gatherers into what we are today (having ability and capability to be part of the workforce),” he added.
Yesterday’s contribution, he added, was the second from SEB to support the education of the Penan children after the initiative started last year.
“In the past, it was very difficult to entice the Penan children to go to school. As such, to encourage them to complete their studies Sarawak Energy gives the incentives not only to academic achievers but also for their attendance in school.
“Incentives are given to the students, children and parents to encourage their children to go to school,” he said.
Nearly 300 Penan children are studying at the two primary schools set up in the Murum resettlement scheme.
“This is a game changer for them. Nothing change the world except education. We won’t be here without education. It is education that makes the difference,” he said.
Masing reiterated the importance of education to shift the Penan children and youth into the 21st century society.
Meanwhile, Sharbinin said SEB was pleased with the outcome of this education investment as there were already results within one year.
“In 2016, 266 students from the two primary schools in Murum received incentive awards for their attendance and academic performance, representing almost 80 per cent of the students in the schools.”
He added that this social investment and support were also preparing the community for employment opportunities. So far 17 Penan youths have completed a six-month training at the Centre of Technical Excellence in Kuching.
The fund is specifically used for the delivery of education support for the Penans in Belaga District including seven resettled villages affected by the Murum HEP.
The beneficiaries are residents of six Penan villages and the sole Kenyah Badeng village in Murum Resettlement and another 19 Penan communities from throughout Belaga District.
The fund of RM200,000, replenished annually, will be utilised for programmes such as attendance and academic incentive awards for students in primary and secondary schools as well as financial aid for students pursuing certificate or diploma at approved skills development centres or institutions of higher learning in Malaysia, diploma/degree programme at approved institutions of higher learning in Malaysia and funding of any other educational development programme or provision of teaching and learning facilities deemed necessary as agreed by the committee.
Assistant Minister for River Transportation and Safety and Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang, Pelagus assemblyman Wilson Nyabong as well as Sarawak Energy CSR head Jiwari Abdullah, its social investment senior manager Joanne Tan and its corporate communication head Peing Tajang were also present at the function.