SANDAKAN: An allocation of RM1 million this year for education, including to build two new schools, reinforces a commitment made by Wilmar International Limited over a decade ago to provide access to learning for children of its foreign workers.
These school-going children do not have the option of attending Malaysian government schools.
The opening of the two new secondary schools in the Sandakan region will add to the existing 17 schools at its plantations in Sabah and Sarawak.
In its Sabah plantations, Wilmar runs 10 primary schools with the Borneo Child Aid Society (Humana), and five Community Learning Centres (CLCs) providing lower secondary education in collaboration with the Government of Indonesia. There are two CLCs in Sarawak and these provide primary level education.
Perpetua George, Wilmar’s Group Sustainability General Manager, said providing schools is a commitment to ensure that children of workers receive basic education and become empowered adults.
“There are communities in our plantations and we are always working towards ensuring that our workers and their families enjoy a good quality life. Our workers need a conducive environment to raise their families and this includes schools.
“Collective action is the best way forward – and we need support from the government, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and workers themselves to ensure that transformation truly happens in the palm oil industry,” she said.
Providing education is in line with Wilmar’s No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy introduced in 2013 and the Child Protection Policy launched in November last year, part of which is to provide all children of its workers the best opportunities to access education, as part of ensuring the their overall well-being.
At present, there are some 2,080 children studying at Wilmar’s Malaysian plantations in Sabah and Sarawak, both at primary and lower secondary levels and they are being taught by 72 teachers. The schools provide an integrated Malaysian-Indonesian curriculum of English, Malay and Indonesian languages, mathematics, science, sports and the arts.
From 23 to 25 March 2018, Wilmar’s Sapi Plantations hosted 77 children for the Sabah Bridge Camp, an initiative of the Indonesian Consul-General’s office to prepare selected CLC students to continue their high school and vocational education in Indonesia.
Bapak Krishna Djelani, the Indonesian Consul-General in Kota Kinabalu, who launched the camp said the initiative to orientate students who would be leaving for their home country (Indonesia) for furthering education was crucial as they have grown up in plantations in Malaysia with their parents.
“Sabah Bridge is our initiative to protect the education rights of Indonesian children in Sabah. We are honoured that Sabah Bridge received the Hasan Wirayuda Protection Award from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry last year.
“It is my hope that children returning to Indonesia to study will be able to adapt to the new environment, complete their education successfully and pursue their ambitions. This camp prepares them mentally and physically for new challenges,” Krishna said.
Kiaw Che Weng, Wilmar’s Sabah Operations General Manager, said emphasis is placed on education of workers’ children as part of its sustainability commitments and this includes providing facilities such as libraries and computer rooms.
“We hope children selected for the Sabah Bridge Camp, including those who grew up and studied in Wilmar plantations will do well when they further their studies,” Kiaw said.
The event also saw Krishna present the Sabah Bridge Pin to the top three students. Also present at the event were Chief of the Indonesian Consul-General’s Office in Tawau, Bapak Sulistijo Djati Ismojo and other key officials.
Wilmar operates nine mills at a range of estates at its Malaysian operations in Sabah and Sarawak.