Thursday, June 19, 2008

No holistic plan to upgrade the Penans

The government plan to upgrade the living standard of the nomadic Penans in remote Sarawak has alway been half-cooked and non holistic.

To raise the living standard of the Penans, they must be encourage or educate to settle down and provide them with basic infrastructures like roads and electricity, facilities like clinic and schools and job opportunities like farming projects or cottage industries. Without job opportunities, they are better off living their nomadic lives and hunts for food in the jungle.

Being a minority group, the Penans are also rakyat Malaysia and at the moment are treated unequally and they too deserved the benefits and development enjoyed by the rest of Malaysian.

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Education can turn Penans into settled people By Lucas Jalong Bato MIRI: It is a waste of effort to get the semi-nomadic Penans to change their way of life without transforming their mindset first. Having come to this conclusion, a former councillor of Baram District Council (BDC) strongly believes that the most effective means of converting them into a settled community is by educating the children. Anthony Lawai Karing (pictured right) may not be a qualified sociologist or anthropologist, but he interacts daily with several Penans who come to his shop at Long San in upper Baram. They come from their nearby settlements to buy necessities such as sugar and salt. Other times, they come to send their children to St Pius Primary School. “During my dealings with them I would encourage the parents to let their children continue going to school, and I would explain to them the importance of education,” said Lawai to The Borneo Post yesterday. The parents sometimes stay for a week at Long San’s Umai Sakai (a sort of rest house) to be near their young children. Admittedly education would not bear fruits immediately, but Lawai is confident that over time they would be on par with other Malaysians. “Spending millions of ringgit on non-educational projects for them won’t work if their minds are backward,” he continued. To drive home his point, he recalled an occasion when some civil servants told a group of Penans that they had a government-funded project for them. It was a good, well-intended project and the Penans were glad. The catch was they were to work on ‘gotong-royong’ basis. To the puzzlement of the officers, they asked how much they would be paid. They refused to work without pay. “Had the officers known that these people had not been educated about ‘gotong-royong’, they could have used a different approach,” said Lawai. On how the Penans are doing around this time, he observed that more and more of the parents are sending their children to the school at Long San and the dropout rate is decreasing. “I was told that there are 109 Penan children at St Pius primary school and there are at least 20 in secondary school,” said Lawai. On Uma Sakai at Long San, he promised to seek assistance from the district council to maintain it. “Electricity should be connected to the house. Presently, while the rest of Long San is well lighted at night, the house is in darkness,” he said.


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