At the longhouse at Long Jaik, which is about 10 minutes walk from the Murum blockade, we met up with 6 volunteers from the Sibu Methodist Church who are conducting English, Bahasa, Mathematics and Science classes for some 30 to 40 children. What we saw were a group of very enthusiastic volunteers and equally attentive and participative Penan children and adults.
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.
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 .
Private initiatives such as these volunteers are highly commendable and inspirational, however they are not the long term solution for the Penan dilemma.
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.
Video by Citizen Journalist KS Tan