MIRI: The Penans have come a long way in terms of achievement in education, currently boasting 252 tertiary-level students among the members of this minority indigenous community, says Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.
He believes that the greater emphasis on education has allowed the Penans to progress together with other communities in Sarawak and strive for better quality of life.
“I believe that in the early 1980s, not many Penan got to enter Form 5 – let alone taking master’s degree or PhD. It’s because at the time, life was hard for the Penans who lived in the forests or deep in the remote pockets.
“They also viewed education far differently then – in the past, Penan parents did not care much about education.
“However, things have changed a lot today. The community must understand that education is the key to a better life and progress,” he said in his speech for the presentation of education financial assistance from Sarawak Tipun Penan Development Association (Petipun) to 25 Penan students here yesterday.
The recipients comprised students of diploma, bachelor and master’s degree programmes, as well as three PhD students – namely Azuriaty Atang, Sarina Keti and Augustine Freddy Minggu.
Meanwhile Petipun president Temenggong Datuk Hasan Sui, who was also present at the event, pointed out that the association had been keeping record of the number of Penan graduates since 1998 – with 87 having completed or still undergoing studies in diploma courses, 155 in bachelor’s degree, seven in master’s degree, and three in PhD programmes.
“There are about 20,000 Penans in Sarawak today, and more than 250 have become graduates.
“This is a very encouraging and exciting achievement for us. I hope other communities would also emulate the Penans in terms of education,” he said.
Established in 2009, Petipun has been assisting the Penans all across Sarawak, including those in Baram and Belaga, in educational development.
In this respect, Dennis remarked: “Development covers 1,001 kinds of things, and is not measured solely based on construction of roads, clinics and other facilities.
“Education is the only development that could not be replaced.
“I know the Opposition choose to harp on matters such as NCR (Native Customary Rights) land and poverty as an attempt to blind our people.
“The fact is all communities have developed and achieved progress via education that the government provides to our people, including building schools in the remote villages in Ulu Baram.”