Set a minimum allotment for Orang Ulu students

Mutang delivering his speech at the OUCCI launching ceremony. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

KUCHING: The Orang Ulu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OUCCI) has appealed to the government to allow Orang Ulu or native students who may not meet the full criteria to still be allowed to enrol in local public universities.

“Towards this end, OUCCI and the Federation of Orang Ulu Associations Sarawak Malaysia (Forum) will assist by providing the list of qualified students to be considered by the respective institutions, especially those in Sarawak such as Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

“We hope the institutions will be considerate in this aspect, and we are confident this can lead to a further increase of at least 10 percent or more in future intake,” said OUCCI president Datuk Mutang Tagal.

He said this in his speech at the launching ceremony of OUCCI, which was graced by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at The Waterfront Hotel here today.

He highlighted the urgent need to increase the number of Orang Ulu students in public institutions of higher learning (IPTAs).

Mutang said that currently, the intake of students to IPTAs was handled by the centralised system of Unit Pengambilan Pelajar at the Ministry of Higher Education.

“This means that all the applications will be subjected to a set of common criteria, especially academic achievements.

“Although these merit-based criteria seem ideal for students from schools with strong teaching and learning facilities, it has some handicaps for students from rural areas with limited teaching and learning facilities,” he explained.

Mutang said the selection process would often miss out on students which did not meet the criteria stipulated.

He called upon the state government to ensure that government universities such as Unimas and UiTM set a minimum allotment for Orang Ulu students to be offered and accepted to highly sought courses.

“Ensure private universities, such as Swinburne and Curtin offer their programmes at an attractively discounted fee to encourage participation and to make tertiary education attainable to all Orang Ulu students,” he urged.

He also emphasised the need to improve teaching and learning resources and facilities for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in rural schools, especially secondary schools.

“This will help the students to have an early appreciation and interest in the role of Science and Technology in nation building. Once they develop an early interest in Science and Technology, their education path and career will naturally bring them towards these fields,” he said.

He said in the next five to 10 years, this would lead to an increase in human capital in these sectors among the Orang Ulu and natives of Sarawak.

“In this aspect, we envisage this new expertise will not only contribute to the development of the state of Sarawak but they will also be able to compete globally,” he said.

Mutang said the Chamber could play a role by collaborating with schools, bringing in experts who could bring new insights into methods for teaching and learning of Science and Technology.

He also said OUCCI had recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Binary University to assist Orang Ulu students in the fields of Information Technology Management and entrepreneurship.

“Through this collaboration, the university will provide academic and skills programmes to the Orang Ulu communities to enable rural students to access international quality education and enhance entrepreneurial skills of the communities,” he said.

He added that education is a passport to a better, fulfilling and successful life, as well as a way to move out of poverty.

“The only way to fully eradicate poverty among the Orang Ulu community is by empowering children of the less privileged through education so that they can turn their family’s fortunes around.

“There have been many success stories about the poor who became rich because they had knowledge and education,” said Mutang.