JELI, KELANTAN, 18 MARCH 2018: Around 5,300 Orang Asli throughout the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), including more than 1,250 Orang Asli in Kelantan, have benefitted from the empower ECER human capital development programme introduced by the Federal Government through the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC).
Consisting of Academic Training programme for underperforming students from poor families, and Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme for underprivileged youths and adults, empower ECER is an inclusive human capital development initiative for the Rakyat from all socio-economic backgrounds, including the Orang Asli communities.
“The impact of empower ECER serves as a solid testament to the Government’s success towards social inclusion in the nation’s growth,” said Chief Executive Officer of the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), YBhg. Datuk Seri Jebasingam Issace John.
“We are proud to witness how the programme has transformed the lives of the Region’s Orang Asli community and enabled them to be a part of ECER’s socio-economic transformation.  This is reflected in the improved education levels and higher literacy rate among Orang Asli students in rural areas, as well as the creation of new micro and small entrepreneurs from the Orang Asli community,” Datuk Seri Issace noted.
First launched in Bentong, Pahang back in 2010, empower ECER has since been expanded to 29 districts throughout ECER to-date. These include all the 10 districts in Kelantan, where it has impacted the livelihood of the Rakyat, with greater focus on the bottom 40 per cent (B40) income group.
“As we strive to reach out to more Orang Asli communities, we recognise the need to undertake a more targeted approach to specifically address the unique challenges faced by them. In this regard, we have partnered up with MyKasih Foundation to customise our current programme to cater to the needs of Orang Asli students in ECER,” Datuk Seri Issace noted.
“We first launched the empower ECERMyKasih programme in Tasik Chini in Pahang, and we are pleased to have extended it to Sungai Rual, Jeli in Kelantan. On top of the educational and motivational classes provided via the empower ECER Academic Training programme, our collaboration with MyKasih Foundation will ensure that the wellbeing of Orang Asli students are also being addressed. With greater access to quality education, this will help them to become active participants and beneficiaries of ECER’s socio-economic transformation,” he added.
The empower ECERMyKasih programme in Sungai Rual was launched by the Minister of International Trade and Industry, YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Bin Mohamed, who is also the Member of Parliament for Jeli, earlier today at the empower ECER Training Centre in Sungai Rual, Jeli. Also present were State Assemblyman for Kuala Balah, YB Datuk Abdul Aziz Derashid and the Head of DIALOG CSR and Deputy Chairman of MyKasih Foundation, Mr. Jeffrey Perera.
Alia Binti Alang is one of the 182 Orang Asli students from Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sungai Rual who is currently participating in the empower ECER-MyKasih programme. The eldest of three siblings lost her motivation to study after being left by her parents several years ago to stay with her aunt, and had failed in all her subjects in Standard 1. She was then selected to participate in the empower ECER Academic Training programme since 2012. Over the years, she gradually improved her academic results through the free tuition and motivational classes provided. Following ECERDC’s collaboration with MyKasih Foundation beginning in 2017, Alia is now enjoying a cashless monthly allowance of RM60 to purchase daily meals at the school canteen, as well as books, stationery, sports attire, and other learning essentials from the school bookshop.
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. Through the cashless MyKasih student bursary scheme and other supporting activities, the Orang Asli students, especially those from poor families in the rural areas, will no longer need to worry about daily meals and learning essentials, and can therefore focus on their studies. With improved academic success, we hope this would enable them to seize better opportunities in the future, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty.”
During the event, Dato’ Sri Mustapa presented a mock e-card to the Tok Batin of Sungai Rual, Encik Dollah Bin Teras, to signify the launch of the MyKasih ‘Love My School’ student bursary smartcard, one of the initiatives resulting from the collaboration between ECERDC and MyKasih Foundation. He also handed out bicycles provided by MyKasih Foundation to five Orang Asli students who achieved good academic results during the Pelaporan Pentaksiran Sekolah Rendah (PPSR) examination in the previous year. Another key highlight at the event was the launch of the 21st Century Classrooms at SK Sungai Rual, which are refurbished classrooms equipped with important learning technologies and infrastructure such as computers and projectors to promote digital literacy among students and enhance the overall learning process.
Tuan Haji Mohd. Noordin Bin Mustaffa, the Headmaster of SK Sungai Rual, said that since the empower ECER programme was introduced, the school has witnessed significant improvements in terms of pupils’ attendance and academic performance.  “The Orang Asli communities face many challenges when it comes to getting an education, such as the long journey to school, low motivation and poverty, all of which may lead to poor school attendance and performance in school. Before this, we only had one or two Orang Asli students who were able to read and write. After the empower ECER programme was initiated by ECERDC in 2012, student attendance started to increase. Last year, 98% of our students had 100% attendance. This is unprecedented. As a result, the literacy rate jumped and by the end of 2017, more than half of our Orang Asli students were able to read and write well. With MyKasih’s active involvement since 2017, the students’ wellbeing are also being taken care off, thus ensuring a more holistic approach towards their education development.”
In addition to the Academic Training programme for students, ECERDC had also established the empower ECER Training Centre in Sungai Rual which will benefit the local Orang Asli adults and youth who are keen to improve their livelihood through the field of entrepreneurship. Courses offered at the Centre are specially designed to suit the Orang Asli’s way of living while providing them an avenue to earn a higher income. For instance, some of the courses include Rattan Handicraft, Chillies and Mushroom Plantation, Collection and Processing of Forest Products and Herbs, Beekeeping and ‘Madu Kelulut’ Processing, as well as Business Management. These courses are currently attended by some 100 Orang Asli participants from the area.
Twenty-year old Muhammad Samsul Harun, for instance, was unemployed before joining the Business Management course under the empower ECER Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme. While he is still attending the trainings, Samsul has successfully opened a burger kiosk in early March 2018 and now earns more than RM180 daily.
“We are constantly inspired by the real changes that have occurred in the lives of these individuals. As we commemorate ECERDC’s 10th Anniversary this year, this transformation is indeed encouraging and it certainly motivates us to do more for the Orang Asli community,” said Datuk Seri Issace.
In Kelantan, the empower ECER programme was first introduced in Jeli in 2011, and to-date, it has successfully reached out to more than 22,800 participants in the state. They include more than 18,190 students through the empower ECER Academic Training Programme, with 84% of them improving their academic results. On the other hand, the empower ECER Skills and Entrepreneurship Training programme has benefited 4,639 participants, of which 90% of them have successfully become entrepreneurs and are now earning an income of between RM1,000 and RM10,000 per month.
In addition to the empower ECER programme, ECERDC has also implemented other human capital and entrepreneurship development programmes such as entrepreneur ECER and TERAJU@ECER to assist the micro, small and medium entrepreneurs in the Region to upscale their businesses, as well as ECER Talent Enhancement Programme (ETEP) to improve the employability of jobless graduates. ECERDC’s South Kelantan Agropolitan project in Gua Musang has also helped eradicate poverty among its 600 participants and their family members.