BERA: The government has always placed special emphasis on the well-being of Orang Asli in the country, including in the aspect of education, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (pix) said.

He said among the initiatives taken were the Orang Asli Special Admission Pathway to Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) programme which was being studied for implementation next year.

“Such a special pathway and access can open and give more opportunities to Orang Asli children to pursue tertiary education and we are confident to see more of them graduate from UPNM.

“The efficiency and inclusive community of Orang Asli is an important agenda under the principle of Keluarga Malaysia to ensure that they too can shoulder the responsibility to develop the nation with a strong spirit of love for the country.”

Ismail Sabri said this in his speech during a walkabout in conjunction with JAKOA-UPNM Community Service Programme at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Rok here, today.

Also present were Minister of Rural Development Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, Deputy Minister of Education Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, Director-General of Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) Sapiah Mohd Nor and UPNM vice-chancellor Lt Gen Datuk Hasagaya Abdullah.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said some educational aid that was discontinued under the previous Pakatan Harapan government has been reinstalled, some with increased allocation, to help Orang Asli children gain education.

“We are also facilitating the learning process for Orang Asli children who are living in remote areas by providing them hostel facilities...We used to have K-9 schools (Comprehensive Special Model School) tailored for them, and it had also been further improved with K11 schools.

“We want to see more Orang Asli children pursue their education to the highest level possible, probably overseas, and not only to get a bachelor’s degree, but maybe a PhD,” he said.

Government’s special emphasis on the Orang Asli can also be seen in the allocation given to the community in Budget 2022 and the 12th Malaysia Plan.

For the government to fully understand the needs of the Orang Asli community, Ismail Sabri said he himself, when he was helming the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development, had taken the initiative to appoint the first Orang Asli - Datuk Ajis Sitin - to lead the Jakoa in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Jakoa-UPNM Community Service Programme, held under SULAM (Service-Learning Malaysia University for Society) concept is a two-pronged programme to help the local community and develop the characters and soft skills of the students involved.

The programme, which began last week, saw the participation of 50 students and three lecturers from UPNM Faculty of Medicine and Defence Health.

During the event, Ismail Sabri also witnessed the exchange of a memorandum of strategic cooperation between UPNM and Jakoa and the presentation of a mock cheque of RM90,840 from Jakoa to the university to sponsor its four Orang Asli students.

For the record, Jakoa has sponsored 983 Orang Asli students in various fields and levels involving an allocation of RM4.2 million.