A new centre for Sarawak children with special needs

Fatimah visiting the new centre which means that parents of special needs children don't need t travel to Kuala Lumpur for therapy. - Bernama

The first One-Stop Early Intervention Centre (OSEIC) in Sarawak which has started its operation a month ago had brought new hopes to children with special needs in the state.

Situated at Metro City, Jalan Matang here, the centre, a state government initiative in collaboration with Petronas, will be officially launched on Oct 30.

Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said initial funding for the project came from Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) but moving forward, the centre will be funded by the state government.

"OSEIC is a project to help those special needs children and its objective was to provide diagnosis, rehabilitation and intervention services under one roof for children with autism, down-syndrome and learning disabilities aged seven years old and below, ” she said.

Fatimah said although there is Agape Centre under Sibu Community Services Associations, which currently houses five different organisations running independently, OSEIC is indeed the first centre in the state providing the services under one roof and is managed by an NGO which is PIBAKAT.

"When we visited Genius Kurnia in Kuala Lumpur, we met parents with autistic children from Sarawak who had to transfer to Kuala Lumpur, in order to be able to send their autistic children for early intervention programmes.

"One mother had to quit her job in Miri just to ensure that she and her husband can stay in Kuala Lumpur and send the autistic son to Genius Kurnia, ” she said, adding that with the establishment of such centre in Sarawak, parents with special children do not have to worry about travelling to Kuala Lumpur, spending extra money or quitting their jobs in order to send their children for early intervention programmes.

"The services are now available in Kuching with affordable fees and for a start 40 children from 40 families have registered with OSEIC and we are expecting a lot more to register and benefit from the services provided at this centre ” she said.

Fatimah also said that under the Penan pre-school project, five preschools have started operating since last year with 10 trained teachers and 42 children enrolled.

The Penan Community Preschools are in the Baram district at Long Leng, Long Kawa, Long Kerangan, Long Jenalong and Ba’ Selulong, with the objective of providing access, equity and quality preschool education for Penan children in the interior areas.

"The results cannot be seen immediately but we do hope to be able to see these children to be successful in education and life, thus able to contribute back to the community and to Sarawak, ” she said, adding that more Penan parents are becoming aware of the importance of education for their children.

Fatimah said the percentage of present primary one pupils in Sarawak who have attended early childhood education stood at 97.74% or 40,025 out of 40,949 pupils enrolled in 2019 and 97.2% or 37,190 out of 38,262 pupils enrolled this year. - Bernama

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