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Lending penan children a helping hand

EDUCATION is an impor tant element that will help to improve the livelihoods and future of children from the Penan community in the Baram district.

Baram District Education Officer Yunos Apok said education could help boost the level of understanding, confidence and creativity among Penan children.

Yunos said, however, not many of the children were interested in going to school based on the low percentage of their attendance.

“These children have little interest in going to school due to several reasons.

Among the factors include motivation and support from their parents.

Like most of us, family relationships are the most valuable and important things for the Penan community.

“Parents are afraid to let their children go to school.

They are afraid that their children could not adapt to a new and different life outside their comfort zones,” said Yunos.

Another factor, said Yunos, was the difficulty faced by children in travelling from their homes to school every day.

Yunos said some of the Penan children, who are still living in the interior, are having a hard time going to school because of their location.

He said it was hard for them to get transportation to bring them out to the city.

“Because of these factors, they have become complacent and are cut off from the outside world,” Yunos said.

He said currently there are 1,000 students and 16 fully Penan schools in Baram.

Since 2012, only 465 students from primary and secondary schools attended classes.

Last year, the Baram District Education Department together with Batu Lintang and Miri Teacher Training College conduc ted a p ro g r am m e c all e d “ P ro g r am Kembara Minda” among the Penans in the rural areas of Baram.

Yunos said the purpose of the programme was to educate Penan students in primary schools on the importance of education.

Apar t from the programme, they also conducted an intervention programme, which focused on educating the parents on what was happening in the outside world and changing the lives of the Penan people.

Ten students from 12 primary Penan schools were selected for this programme and Yunos said since the programme started, these 120 selected students have achieved 95 per cent of full attendance at their schools respectively.

He said the programme, which is in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint, has indeed produced positive results in students and their families.

“Some of these students who underwent this programme have gone on fur ther to secondar y schools.

“The programme is indeed a good move.

They will be left behind if they don’t have proper guidance.

We will continue this effort because we are positive that we can achieve 100 per cent attendance among Penan students in the future,” he said.

He also said students who have difficulty getting to their schools every day were encouraged to stay in the school hostels.

Yunos added that the students would then not have to worry about transportation.

“We also limit their meetings with parents during holidays because if they go back to their hometowns, chances of them not coming back to school would be high,” he added.

Yunos hoped that more people in the Penan community could adopt an open mind and try to adapt to something new by taking part in the various educational programmes introduced by the government.

“The Penans are a special group of people in the country and we want them to do well.”

-NST

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