Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Penan Dilemma: Many will not be able to cope with the future

Posted on 23 October 2012 by Tan Kai Swee

At the longhouse at Long Jaik,  which is about 10 minutes walk from the Murum blockade, there were 6 volunteers from the Sibu Methodist Church who were conducting English, Bahasa, Mathematics and Science classes for some 30 to 40 children.
A group of very enthusiastic volunteers and equally attentive and participative Penan children and adults were seen to be pursuing education with basic amenities.
6 volunteers from the Sibu Methodist Church giving English and Bahasa lessons to the children of Long Jaik.
There is no lack of will on the part of the Penans to improve and progress.
However what is lacking is the political will of the Sarawak State Government and Federal Government to deal seriously with this group of highly marginalised indigenous tribe.
This is coupled with the non-recognition of their land and citizenship rights.
The children are separated into groups to give maximum teacher student contact time.
Even the adults and longhouse seniors seriously follow the lessons.
The Ketua Kaum of Long Jaik, Matu Tugang making his rounds to ensure that the children attend the classes which starts at 7.30 am and goes on way past lunch hour.
In this longhouse the number of young mothers and young children is alarming since the longhouse houses around 150 Penans.
Their future is dependent on a comprehensive and inclusive education system.  However, many Penans lack proper documentation with regards to birth and national identity.
Without these documentations, access to education, citizenship rights  and employment opportunities, these children are ill prepared to cope with the future .
A copy fo birth certificate showing incomplete details of the parents with no identity card numbers. More than 20 of such certificates were sighted.
Private initiatives such as these volunteers are highly commendable and inspirational, however they are not the long term solution for the Penan dilemma.
This photos shows that there are people out there who cares for the welfare of the Penans.
It is imperative that the Sarawak State and Federal Government make efforts to genuinely help these margninalised Penans and not allow the shame of drowning their homes and livelihoods befall our great nation.
~ Citizen Journalists Malaysia

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