The Paitan district is located at the northern most corner of Sandakan division, this area of Sabah is consider to be some of the most underdeveloped regions of the state. From Kota Kinabalu one would have to take a six hour drive to Paitan town, which consists of less than ten shops. The distance from Kota Kinabalu to Paitan town is about 250 km. From Paitan town many villages can only be reached by using four wheel-drive vehicles or riding small river boats up and down the river. Many of these villages would take about 1 hour to reach by boat and a few located at the far edge of the interior will take two hours. Almost all of these villages do not have access to grid, and rain water is collected for their daily water ration. Most of the people here are made up of an ethnic group call Orang Sungai. They rely extensively on farming or working in palm oil plantations for their general income.
While infrastructure is well below par when compared with the rest of the state, population growth here is among the highest. In general, a family will have a minimum of five children, while those that have seven or eight children are the norm. Since education is key to development, the government has built many primary and secondary schools at Paitan. While the kindergarten project is still very low key here, it is never too early to educated the children. Therefore in 2006, the Franciscan Sisters under the leadership of Dorothy Laudi came to help these communities by building kindergartens.
To date there are seven kindergartens started under Dorothy Laudi. Many of these kindergartens are housed in community halls when they are first started. With donations from NGOs and also the locals, building materials for a proper building are made possible. With the help of organisations like Raleigh International and also the local villagers many of these Kindergartens had been completed. Today all the seven kindergartens have permits from the education department. These pupils are taught by certified kindergarten teachers trained by the education department.
Here is a list of the Kindergartens started by the Francisan Sisters in Paitan:
Tadika Pelangi Dalamas
Tadika Sinar Batangon Barat
Tadika Fajar Komuniti Lubang Buaya
Tadika Harmoni Sulit
Tadika Rumpun Lakang
Tadika Sahabat Rakanan
Tadika Cerdik Tawonan
*Note: Tadika means Kindergarten in Bahasa Malaysia.
Tadika Harmoni Sulit
The best of these kindergartens is Tadika Harmoni Sulit which is only about 6 km away from Paitan town. Today the kindergarten sits on top of a small hill in a one acre compound which was donated by the villagers. The kindergarten is a wooden building on stilts consisting of two class rooms. This building was donated and completed in May 2010 by the Raleigh Borneo, an international organisation. Starting from February, three groups of volunteers were needed to complete the job. Each team has about 18 volunteers and each group spent about a month on the construction work. In the 2010 school year the kindergarten had about 32 children from five to six years of age. They were taught by two teachers. The classrooms can be very basic with just chairs and tables for the children. Normal facilities like fans and lights are not seen fitted to the rooms. The kindergarten school hours are from 8am to 12 pm, with a 30 minute break at 10 am, where the children will have some food and drinks provided by the school.
Here is a short history on the places that Tadika Harmoni Sulit had been. It started in 2006 at the community hall in Kampung Sulit, where it was housed for two years. In 2008 the kindergarten was moved to a small wooden house on the present land, the children here was taught in this small house for about one and a half years, before moving into the school hall in the middle of 2009. The school hall here is the total effort of the local villagers. The wooded materials was donated by the villagers and the Inner Wheel Club donated the steel net (BRC), nails and zinc roof. The construction of the school hall was done by the villagers themselves. Here the kindergarten operated until May 2010 when they moved again to the present building.
Tadika Pelangi Dalamas
Kampung Dalamas is about one hour away from Paitan town and it can only be reached by going up stream through the Paitan river. The kindergarten has about 30 children for the school year of 2010, and the children here are taught by two teachers. The present building at Dalamas is a local community effort. As Kampung Dalamas is quite in the interior, when the kindergarten children here are ready to go to primary school, they would have to walk about one hour one way just to commute to school.
Tadika Sinar Batangon Barat
Batangon Barat Kindergarten started in 2006 where the class was run in a chapel. The present building was completed in November 2010. The kindergarten was built by the local community where everybody chipped in, while the building material was donated by the Francisan Sisters. In the 2010 school year Batangon Barat had 18 pupils and they were assisted by two teachers. Dorothy Laudi said the kitchen for the kindergarten is yet to be completed.
Today most of the kindergartens have their own buildings, except two. Tadika Sahabat Rakanan is using the community hall, and Tadika Cerdik Tawonan which fares worse as it is having classes in a teacher’s house.
While the buildings for these kindergartens are mostly completed, Dorothy Laudi from the Franciscan Sisters said donation for food and petrol are the most urgent need for the kindergartens. A boatman has to fetch the pupils from their homes which are about 15 to 20 minutes by boat. If these pupils were to walk they would take about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the kindergarten, which is just too tired for these young children. So petrol is constantly needed to run the boat. The kindergarten also has to pay the boatman for his service. During the 30 minutes daily class break, the pupils are provided with food and drinks, normally packet milk drinks. These again have to come from donations.
Donation can be made to Dorothy Laudi,
Contact Number: +6013 54 77 525
Here is some background on Dorothy Laudi. She is a nun belonging to the Franciscan Sisters Order. In early 2000s she received a full scholarship from the Edith Cowan University of Perth in Western Australia. After three years of studies she was graduated with a Bachelor Degree of Arts in Education that specialises in early childhood education. When she came back to Sabah, she was sent to Paitan to help the local communities to set up kindergartens.
Below is an sad account for some of the villagers in Paitan.
Unknown to the villagers of Kampung Sulit, the one acre of land they donated to the kindergarten cause has been sold to a company that deals with oil palm plantation. The villagers reckon that there are no proper land titles, and they have been staying here for the past 30 years. Now this company wants to take the kindergarten land and the villagers are fighting for their rights to keep it. Apparently this same problem is also faced by the villagers of Batangon Barat.