Government’s Efforts including Academic and Entrepreneurial Programmes Benefit Orang Asli in Tasik Chini

TASIK CHINI, PAHANG, 14 APRIL 2018: The living standards of the Orang Asli communities in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), have vastly improved following the Federal Government’s concerted efforts to ensure that they are not sidelined in the nation’s transformation programme over the years.

The inclusive human capital development plans in the Orang Asli villages, including education and skills empowerment programmes, as well as jobs creation through sustainable tourism growth initiatives in Tasik Chini, Pekan, have transformed the lives of the local communities, particularly the Orang Asli in the villages.

To date, a total of 118 Orang Asli students from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Tasik Cini are currently benefitting from the empower ECER-MyKasih programme, a joint initiative between the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) and MyKasih Foundation. The programme is aimed at helping the Orang Asli students improve their academic performance through the provision of free tuition and motivational classes. On top of it, various facilities at SK Tasik Cini were also upgraded as part of the holistic and inclusive programme to support and aid the Orang Asli children.

“ECERDC first introduced the empower ECER Academic Programme to the Orang Asli community in 2016 to cater to the different lifestyle and needs of the Orang Asli students, as we recognise that they face many challenges that may prevent them from getting a good education. In 2017, as part of our effort to enhance our programme, we partnered with MyKasih Foundation, whereby we work together to address the welfare and needs of the students in a more holistic manner so that they can better focus on their studies. We believe that by cultivating excellence in school, no child from the Orang Asli communities will become the future poor and be left behind in the socio-economic transformation of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER),” said Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, Datuk Seri Jebasingam Issace John.

“Moreover, we are truly inspired by SK Tasik Cini’s rapid transformation over the years. Today, it is recognised as the best Orang Asli school with Band One (excellent) rating in Malaysia, a big leap from 2009 when it was one of the poorest performing schools ranked at 6,910 out of the nation’s 7,617 schools. This truly demonstrate the students’ desire in wanting a better future ahead and the teachers’ commitment in helping the students overcome many obstacles, such as poverty and the long commute,” he added.

Earlier today, the empower ECER-MyKasih programme was launched by the Pahang State Executive Councillor and Chairman of the State FELDA Affairs Committee, YB Dato’ Sri Abu Bakar Bin Haji Harun. Also present at the event was MyKasih Foundation Trustee, Datuk Yaacob Md Amin.

As part of the empower ECERMyKasih collaboration, ECERDC and MyKasih Foundation upgraded the Villa Gumum hostel at SK Tasik Cini in 2017, which provided a more comfortable accommodation for the Standard 6 students who are staying there in preparation for their UPSR examinations. With the upgraded lodging, the students’ attendance and participation have improved significantly, as they no longer need to endure the long commute to school by boat or skip school during bad weather.

SK Tasik Cini’s Headmaster Tuan Mohamad Halim Bin Mawi said, “One of the main challenge is getting the Orang Asli parents to understand how education can provide a better future for their children. In the past, many parents feel that it is sufficient for their children to just pass their examinations. To change this mentality, our teachers made it a point to visit the students’ parents and engage them. Following these one-on-one discussions, parents are now showing their support towards school-organised events including empower ECER sessions, which in turn has resulted in improved academic performance. We are happy that the empower ECERMyKasih programme has helped us to improve the student’s performance, while at the same time take care of their welfare.”

On top of this, ECERDC and MyKasih Foundation equipped SK Tasik Cini’s classrooms with the necessary digital learning equipment such as computers, laptops, printers and other teaching materials. This new “21st Century Classrooms” initiative has gradually improved the digital and technology literacy of the Orang Asli students, while enhancing and transforming their learning experience in a fun and interactive manner.

The students are also provided with a monthly allowance of RM60 through the MyKasih ‘Love My School’ student bursary smartcard. This allows them to purchase meals from the school canteen as well as learning materials from the bookstore. As many of them come from low-income families, the financial support has helped alleviate their parents’ financial burden while safeguarding the students’ welfare. MyKasih Foundation contributed RM345,000 to support the Orang Asli students in SK Tasik Cini when the programme started in June 2017.

Executive Chairman of DIALOG Group Berhad, YBhg. Tan Sri Dr Ngau Boon Keat, who is also the Chairman and Co-Founder of MyKasih Foundation, said, “DIALOG is a devoted supporter of the MyKasih Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation set up to feed and educate economically-challenged households through food aid, student bursaries, academic scholarships and training programmes. As we share ECERDC’s vision of empowering households including the Orang Asli to attain better living standards, we are pleased that our partnership with ECERDC has brought about meaningful change to the Orang Asli students in Tasik Chini.”

To ensure more Orang Asli students will have a better future ahead, the programme will be extended to all 13 Orang Asli schools in Pekan, Bera, Raub, Bentong, Cameron Highlands, Lipis and Rompin in Pahang in 2018, thus benefitting more than 2,600 students.

In addition to the empower ECER Academic Training Programme, ECERDC has also initiated the empower ECER Skills and Entrepreneurship Training Programme specifically for the Orang Asli adults and youths in Tasik Chini. Courses offered, such as Handicraft Weaving and Motorcycle Maintenance Works are specially designed to suit the Orang Asli’s way of life while providing them an avenue to earn a higher income from the tourism activities at Tasik Chini. Some 24 participants from the area are currently attending these courses.

Juliana Puling, for instance, was formerly a full-time housewife, and has since set up her own shop in Kampung Gumum selling handicrafts to local and foreign tourists visiting Tasik Chini. Through her small business, the 42-year-old mother of four has helped increase her family’s household income to RM2,000 per month, while still having the flexibility to look after her family.

Apart from empower ECER, the entrepreneur ECER programme has also recorded many success stories among its Orang Asli participants. One of them is Baharim Bin Sunta who used to earn RM200 a month selling wood carving tourists. After receiving guidance under the entrepreneur ECER-SIRIM programme, his business improves tremendously. He is now earning RM7,500 a month on average and employs five workers to cope with the rising demand. Baharim’s handiwork is now displayed at Seni Kome in Genting Highlands and his customers include foreign tourists and dignitaries.

Around 5,300 Orang Asli throughout ECER, including more than 1,250 Orang Asli participants in Pahang have benefitted from the empower ECER and entrepreneur ECER human capital development programmes. The programmes are currently implemented across 29 locations in the region.