HER EXCELLENCY TOH PUAN DATO’ SERI UTAMA HAJAH MAJIMOR SHARIFF
THE CONSORT OF THE HEAD OF THE STATE OF PENANG
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
I am deeply honoured to be here at Universiti Sains Malaysia to witness the artistic performance of refugee children through Jungle Book the Musical. I believe this has not been an easy feat but a journey of understanding, sharing and giving. The plight of the refugees especially the children has been garnering attention worldwide and I am happy that School of The Arts Universiti Sains Malaysia has shown their ardent commitment in giving a platform for these children to voice their hopes. Today marks an important day whereby we see the coming together of people from all walks of lives to give their support to the cause of freedom and peace through Jungle Book the Musical.
Congratulations to the Project Director, the entire cast and team on your success. I hope that today will be the beginning of many more interesting and meaningful performances to come from School of The Arts Universiti Sains Malaysia. Last but not least, I wish these talented refugee children all the best in their future undertakings and hope that they will always be graced and blessed by the Almighty.
Yang Amat Berbahagia
Toh Puan Datin Seri Hajah Majimor binti Shariff
PUAN TAN LEAN KEE
WIFE TO THE CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
Congratulations to School of The Arts Universiti Sains Malaysia for the production of Jungle Book The Musical! I believe that this production will serve as a key platform for academia to be engaged with the community. It is indeed a commendable effort for the university to address societal issues and needs of the community and this production is certainly an interesting way to highlight the community’s voice.
Arts is a powerful medium of advocacy and School of The Arts has chosen a most creative way to showcase these children’s talent. It gives me great pleasure to be able to celebrate with all of you the refugee children’s empowerment through musical theatre. I am a true believer that teaching and learning can take place anywhere, anytime and in many ways. Tonight is one such special night where we can all learn something precious from these children and that is - life, love and friendship.
Last but not least I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire Jungle Book the Musical team and hope that this production serves as a catalyst for more upcoming artistic projects that promotes universal love and raises a cultured generation with compassion in their hearts.
Puan Tan Lean Kee
A WORD FROM THE VICE-CHANCELLOR OF UNIVERSITI SAINS MALAYSIA
PROFESSOR DATUK DR. ASMA ISMAIL FASc
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,
It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of The Arts on this special ‘Jungle Book the Musical’ production. This production is indeed a unique way of bridging the university to the community, which is one of the core pillars under the USM APEX (Accelerated Programme for Excellence) agenda.
The university is passionate in addressing the issues and needs of the community through projects such as ‘Jungle Book the Musical.’ This is especially significant as our university celebrates its 50” anniversary — 50 years of being one of the leaders of educational reform of the country’s brightest minds. We not only become an agent of change, but also bring together the academia, industry, community and interested parties in a meaningful engagement.
This musical demonstrates how the School of The Arts actively promotes the agency of Children Empowering the Arts. It is an encouraging move forward by the school towards providing sustainable arts education for our future generation. I take pride in sharing the stage with these children in braving themselves to share their stories, fears, happiness, dreams and hopes through ‘Jungle Book the Musical’.
My special congratulatory note to Dr. Mumtaz Begum, the Dean of School of the Arts and Dr. Pravina Manoharan, the Project Director in spearheading this wonderful university- community project, with the support of the University’s 50° Anniversary Celebration Committee chaired by Professor Dato’ Dr. Adnan Hussein. And to the entire production team and all those involved in this musical, | say this, thank you for what you did and for the excellence with which you did it.
Once again, to everyone in this hall, thank you for being here tonight, and | hope you will enjoy the hard work these children have put into making this musical showpiece possible.
Professor Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail FASc
Universiti Sains Malaysia
CREATIVE DIRECTOR | DR. MUMTAZ BEGUM ABOO BACKER
There’s a phrase we love to use at the School of The Arts, USM - Arts with a Voice. We believe the arts is capable of communicating thoughts and emotions. Jungle Book the Musical clearly demonstrates just how the arts manifests itself in various forms of creative expression. Let us not forget that the arts is also capable of keeping communities connected and engaged in a cause too.
This project embodies the School’s and University’s strong commitment towards the cause of the community in which the Rohingya refugee children are a part of. I have personally witnessed the positive impact this project has in the lives of this community. Through the arts we are able to educate and we believe education is for all. Without education, a society cannot grow or progress and it starts in the lives of innocent children who will one day be the ones deciding the fate of nations. I wish the best to Dr Pravina Manoharan and the team of Jungle Book the Musical, may we see more creative community projects conducted. To the brave and curious Rohingya children, tell the world the story that you uniquely carry. Let us Malaysians dream and hope with you!
Lastly, my sincere gratitude to all partners, donors, alumnus, friends from the industry, members of the press, wellwishers, university officials, staff, students, parents and of course our distinguished audience. The School of The Arts thanks you for your continuous support. Please sit back and enjoy the show as the jungle comes alive!
Dr. Mumtaz Begum Aboo Backer
Dean of School of The Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia
PROJECT DIRECTOR | DR. PRAVINA MANOHARAN
As Project Director, it was always my vision to create a production where children would enjoy themselves and remember it for a long time. Having fallen in love with this project over the one and a half years of working with the children, it has been a great learning experience for me to watch them learn and grow throughout this production.
Jungle Book The Musical was born out of the idea to provide a safe and non-judgemental platform for Rohingya refugee children to experience the joys of music and dance. So today, let’s sit back and enjoy as they take the stage and wow us with their captivating performance. Let’s all be children and have fun again!
Dr. Pravina Manoharan
DIRECTOR | IZZARD PADZIL
Welcome to our interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book The Musical! This beloved children’s classic comes alive with the Rohingya refugee children from Penang Peace Learning Centre (PPLC). Through our interaction with the children we see how Mowgli’s story of seeking acceptance in the jungle resonates with these children’s journey as a refugee staying in a foreign land. We hope that as the audience you will hear that message of longing and hope and join us in making sure that every child regardless of race or culture, has a chance to be a child and have hope in their lives.
A WORD FROM OUR VIPS
Education is not just a fundamental right, it is one of the most valuable assets a refugee can possess.That is why I am so happy to see local institutions such as School of The Arts USM make this effort to reach out to the Rohingya refugee community. For refugee children, learning and playing are necessary activities for their growth and it is especially important for those who have been forced to abandon their homes and flee the horrors of war.
This musical is sending a message to these children that they are not forgotten and that Malaysians do care for their well being as well. We wish to see more inclusive activities, and access for refugees in Malaysia. With access and opportunity refugees can help rebuild their lives and contribute to society in which they live. I wish Jungle Book The Musical the very best especially for all three nights of performances. I hope the children enjoy themselves on stage and remember this for the rest of their lives!
Co-Founder of Fugee School
Firstly, I wish to thank the organisers of Jungle Book The Musical. This noble and kind gesture to help maintain the Penang Peace Learning Centre as well as the education of the Rohingya children is a good cause that gets my salute and support. Every human being deserves a second chance, a good home and a decent life to live. It is a big task indeed to provide a peaceful life away from cruelty and harm. It warrants a call for all to lend a helping hand to ensure that it is an overwhelming success.
Lastly, music and entertainment have always been more comfortably accepted and appreciated to convey relevant themes and messages to targeted audiences. This musical is an awesome way to evoke sentiments and empathy in giving support to this beautiful cause.
If we come together, we can make THE difference.
Datuk Zainal Abidin
As a mother of two girls, I believe that it is in the heart of every parent out there to want their children to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. However, the reality of conflict is that children are often caught in difficult situations such as these Rohingya children in our midst. I am so glad that School of The Arts USM understands the importance of education. It is so important that the children are not deprived of their childhood and learning opportunities.
I look forward to watching the children present Jungle Book The Musical and I hope that through the performing arts the children are able to find ways to express themselves and enjoy this safe space where they can truly be themselves without being judged or rejected.
Malaysians, instead of regarding this community as outsiders, let us remember that we are all citizens of this earth and we have a mutual responsibility to each other. So let’s support these children tonight and watch them enjoy themselves on stage!
Datin Elaine Daly
Local actor and TV host
Jungle Book The Musical is a joint collaboration between School of The Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Penang Peace Learning Centre (PPLC) that saw the birth of a classic Rudyard Kipling tale grow into a passion project. We believed that the performing arts would have a positive impact on the lives of refugee children.
This musical is part of a short-term grant by the university to introduce music and drama to the refugee children of PPLC. Besides receiving some basic education, the children at this centre have little access to extra co-curricular activities such as music, drama and theatre. Such activities are crucial for a child’s holistic development.
This classic tale by Rudyard Kipling is retold through a script inspired by The Jungle Book and 12 original music compositions. The script contains elements that are reminiscent of issues and challenges faced by the refugee children. One special song features lyrics written by three Rohingya boys narrating their journey from the borders of Arakan to the shores of Langkawi. All the characters have supporting USM students and staff members who work closely with the Rohingya children throughout the rehearsal sessions.
There have been approximately 40 refugee children who have participated in weekly lessons with lecturers and facilitators from School of The Arts. The children learn simple music notation, rhythm, tone colour, how to play hand percussion instruments, singing, dancing and also acting. Attendance was always full except for the occasional drop out when parents removed their children from the schooling system. Unfortunately the reality is education has yet to be viewed as important compared to basic survival.
We were determined to soldier on despite the set backs and continued to give our utmost attention to the remaining children who came in every week without fail for classes. After months of hard work these children will for the first time in their lives tonight perform in English, a language where many of them had only learnt throughout the one and a half years of this project with us. It is a proud moment indeed for them!
Over the three nights, Mowgli’s character will be played by three different children. Given that English is not their first language, we have chosen to divide the acting duties for Mowgli’s character between two Rohingya boys. This will help reduce the stress of memorising lines and choreography on just one child.
Jungle Book The Musical aims to provide a safe and non-judgemental platform where marginalised communities such as refugee children can express themselves freely.
Let’s allow the children to, well, be children!
PENANG PEACE LEARNING CENTRE
Education gives hope to the helpless and provides strength to the weak. It makes a person feel alive. It provides knowledge and most importantly it gives dignity and meaning to a person’s life and that includes children as well. However, this is not the case for a refugee child in Malaysia. Malaysia does not recognise refugees or asylum seekers from any country. They are allowed to stay temporarily in Malaysia pending resettlement to another country willing to accept them.
Since resettlement takes time, the refugees need to figure out how to continue their lives. Adults are not allowed to work legally and children do not have access to free education. Many children just stay home and are taught by parents and older siblings the basics of reading and writing. Most have never attended school, especially the younger ones. They spend their time loitering around the neighbourhood. Some help out in shops or other small businesses. Some resort to begging on the streets.
Rohingya refugee children should be going to school like any other children in the world. This was the reason behind the formation of the Penang Peace Learning Centre (PPLC) in 2013. It started out as a weekend school with students from Universiti Sains Malaysia volunteering their time taking turns teaching the children. The school progressed to become a daily school with two full time teachers and a number of volunteers teaching the improvised Malaysian primary school syllabus to the children. The students are divided into kindergarten, lower primary, and upper primary classes concentrating on Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics, Sciences, and Arts. Time is also allocated for outside activities.
It has been a challenge running and sustaining the school. The school is supported by kind contributions from family and friends. We honestly did not know how long the school would last when the school was started in 2013. But it is still here despite all the challenges. The school will continue to be here if needed by the children and the Rohingya refugee community.
It is my hope that Penang Peace Learning Centre (PPLC) continues to fill the educational vacuum in the lives of these children to help them realise their true potential as children and as young adults.
Prof. Dr. Kamarulzaman Askandar
Chair, Penang Peace Learning Centre (PPLC)
Lecturer, School of Social Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia