Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin (Bernama file pix)
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 (Bernama) -- More than 60 per cent of participants in the Permata Programme initiated in 2007, are from the rural areas and low income families.
Therefore the perception that the programme is elitist is wrong and without basis, according to the programme's senior consultant, Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan Shahabudin.
"Actually, if you look at the early childhood education programme, you will see that our focus is on areas with low income and rural families. That is inclusive, not elitist," she said.
Dr Sharifah Hapsah said this last night, when she appeared as a guest on 'Ruang Bicara' produced by Bernama News Channel.
Another invited guest in the segment was Permata Programme Working Committee chairman Datuk Seri Siti Azizah Sheikh Abod.
Emphasising, Dr Sharifah Hapsah said: "Look at the Permata Pintar programme, for instance; when we do online tests and analyse the students, we found among those that did well are from places that we don't even know existed."
The Permata Programme is the brainchild of the Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor who is also its patron.
It has seven main branches - Permata Negara, Permata Pintar, Permata Insan, Permata Seni, Permata Kurnia, Perkasa Remaja and Hospital Kanak-kanak (HKK)Permata, including Kolej Permata Pintar and Kolej Permata Insan.
Dr Sharifah Hapsah said Permata's focus was also on marginalised teenagers who lacked the opportunity to realise their full potential.
The programme could hopefully steer the target group from aimless activities such as loitering and illegal street motorcycle racing, she said.
Adding on, Siti Azizah said parties who criticised the programme as "catering only for upper level people" were probably just ill-informed about it.
She also drew attention to the fact that many students who had been groomed through the Permata Pintar programme had succeeded in furthering their education to university level in and outside the country.
Some of the students, she said, had even excelled to earn places in prestigious higher learning institutions such as Oxford University, Cambridge University and Stanford University.
"...This is what we are proud of; if we don't take care of them early on, it would be a big loss," she said.
Meanwhile, HKK Permata which was also mooted by Rosmah, would potentially provide stem cell therapy and integrative therapy services by 2018.