LONG LAMA (July 4): Despite being one of Sarawak’s minority ethnic groups with a majority still living in most rural areas, the Penan community has produced 226 university graduates in a span of under three decades.
In saying this, Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said he was proud of that achievement, given that he had started a school for Penan children in Long Jekitan some 34 years ago and was pleased to see the fruit it bore.
“Today, we are so fortunate that we can officiate the opening of five Penan preschools here – about 34 years ago, I went to Long Jekitan and started a school for the Penan children there.
“We started with Long Jekitan and gave an opportunity to the Penan children to attend school and now we can see the success. Today, we have one Penan Resident, we have a Penan district officer and many of our officers are from the Penan community,” he said when officiating the Long Leng SeDidik preschool in Apoh, Baram today.
Abang Johari said that based on records, between 1998 to 2022, the Penan community has produced three graduates with Masters degrees, 142 Degree holders and 81 Diploma holders.
He added that there are two Penan students who are still pursuing their PhD studies, Masters degree (1), Degree (22) and Diploma (21)
Abang Johari, who is better known as ‘Menteri Penan’ by the Penan community in Baram, said he was optimistic that more Penan will graduate from universities in the near future.
“I think we (Sarawak) will have a brighter future, including the Penan communit, even though it was difficult to get them to go to school before,” he said.
In a press conference held later, Abang Johari said he was optimistic that the Penan, with their strong ethnic background, will be able to develop their rural areas especially with new technology including carbon trading, forest conservation and biodiversity.
“If you can have skilled scientists among the Penan community for that matter, who are very familiar with our biodiversity, one day you can produce medicine that can cure diseases including Covid-19 or other infectious diseases.
“But for us to produce these talents, they must be exposed to good education. For them to go up the ladder, their foundation must be very strong, which is why we emphasise early childhood education,” he said.
He added that the Sarawak government under Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will continue to emphasise early childhood education, whether in the urban or rural areas.
Meanwhile, Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah, who was present, said the construction of five preschools was possible due to a generous contribution of RM2.75 million from Petronas.
Four of the preschools are built at Long Kawa, Long Leng, Long Kerangan and Long Jenalong and were completed in 2019, except for the SeDidik Ba Selulong which was completed a year later.
At the same function, Abang Johari approved an allocation of RM2.25 million for the upgrading of the Long Leng longhouse following the request by its headman Maister Lolee.
Among those present today were State Secretary Datuk Amar Mohammad Abu Bakar Marzuki, Deputy Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Datuk Rosey Yunus, Deputy Minister of Community Wellbeing Development Mohamad Radzi Sitam, Baram MP Datuk Anyi Ngau and Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.