Students dressed in traditional costumes show off the storybooks

One of the key focuses of the ELTDP project was engaging with local communities to support educational outcomes, especially around early year’s literacy.

To this end, in several schools across the country, our mentors carried out workshops with parents and children, empowering them to create their own storybooks. Below is the story of one of those workshops.

In October 2014 a storytelling workshop was held at the little school of SK Tiga Papan, near the Tip of Borneo. No one could have anticipated what wonderful stories would be recorded that day, or that they would be turned into books and published months later.

Two of the stories have been made into storybooks for young readers, written in English and their original language, Rungus. I am Itut-Itut tells the story of farmer Itut-Itut who finds some of his crops have been stolen. He sets a trap and finds something very surprising. The second story Tasu to the Rescue is the story of a dog, Tasu, who saves the day when his family’s crops stop growing.

Children’s stories are nothing without colourful illustrations and this was another cause for celebration, as both books had very talented illustrators. One of them, Antud Didi, was a former pupil of SK Tiga Papan, who lived in the village and this was his debut as a book illustrator. He told us “this project is a bit of a surprise, before I started the project I was just drawing and painting a little as a hobby. I never dreamed someday I’d be doing this.”  Antud was mentored by experienced artist (and the illustrator of the other book) Jainal Amambing, who helped him learn and grow; "working with Jainal has been great. He gives me lots of technical advice based on his experience which is very useful.”

The books were launched at the school and many VIPs attended, including the Head of the Academic Sector for Sabah, many district education officers as well as British Council representatives; Tricia Thorlby, director of the ELTDP project and Keith O’Hare, director of English projects for Malaysia.

Children dressed up in Rungus costumes, there was music and traditional sashes adding to the festive atmosphere. The school was packed with people from the village and after the speeches there was traditional dancing accompanied by local musicians. The stories were the stars of the day, with a dramatization of “Tasu to the Rescue” by preschool children and a reading of “I am Itut-Itut” by year 4 pupils. 

The books now have pride of place in a Rungus Museum set up at the nearby Tampat do Aman longhouse.

Since this workshop, several other workshops have led to the creation of two more storybooks created by parents, teachers and local communities.

A video of the project can be seen here: