KUCHING: As of 2016, Sarawak has around 25,810 Penans (with most of them already having permanent settlements) compared to only 16,281 in 2010, said the Penan Education Community Programme (2010 – 2020) coordinator Dr Abang Ismail Abang Julhi.
According to Dr Abang Ismail in his study, the Penan communities, who inhabit the inaccessible tropical forest highlands and river basins, are part of the Dayak group in Sarawak and Brunei.
They can be broken down into two groups known as either Eastern Penan or Western Penan; the Eastern Penan resides around Baram, Limbang and Tutoh (the main Penan settlements in Sarawak) and the Western Penan around Belaga and Bintulu.
Based on statistics from the Miri Resident Office, a total of 121 Penan settlements were relocated due to the construction of the Bakun and Murum dams in 1987 where about 12,000 residents from 15 longhouses in Hulu Balui were instructed to move to Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan areas.
Meanwhile, in terms of schools with Penan students, seven primary schools, one of which is SK Lusong Laku in Belaga, consist of 100 percent of students from the Penan community.
Apart from that, the Penan children were also found in 10 secondary schools throughout the state, namely SMK Long Lama, SMK Marudi, SMK Datuk Temenggong Lawai Jau and SMK Tutoh Apoh in Baram, Kolej Tun Datu Tuanku Haji Bujang (Miri), SMK Belaga, SMK Bakun and SMK Kapit (Kapit), SMK Bintulu (Bintulu) as well as SMK Mendamit (Limbang).