The stress of exams, our children’s education and tuition – these are worries familiar to Singaporeans. Believe it or not, the same concerns affect longhouse kids in Malaysia. Find out how one woman has taken it upon herself to ensure kids like Divyaa don’t fall through the cracks. And check out how we as neighbours can read to these kids without having to leave our homes!
Divyaa was struggling in school.
Coming from a low-income neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, there were many school dropouts and few positive role models around.
She needed help beyond the one-size-fits-all approach at school and her struggles were showing in her grades. More importantly, they were affecting her confidence and self- belief.
And while her parents – a delivery driver and a cleaner – wanted to help her do better, their own limited educational background and financial difficulties meant there was little they could do as she headed towards dropping out.
Then her father, Raju, came across the Right to Learn project.
Divyaa, then nine, became one of the first students at the learning centre in 2007.
At the time, it was a one-woman operation run by founder Yans Ganghadaran, who left the corporate world to become a teacher and trainer focusing on child development and parenting skills.
There was no external funding and no proper place to teach; the centre started out in a shack.
Yans wanted to help those who were on the brink of missing out on an education: children from shelters, welfare homes, and disadvantaged or dysfunctional backgrounds that could either not afford the help or didn’t prioritise education.
Along with Divyaa, Raju also enrolled her three sisters.
And not only did they make academic progress, he saw a positive change in their behaviour and attitude as they were encouraged to recognise and tap their potential.
All that at no financial cost to him or his daughters, as the Right to Learn does not charge.
When I spent a couple of afternoons volunteering at the centre recently, I found Divyaa to be an articulate, level-headed 15-year-old who seemed genuinely grateful for being given the chance to learn.
More than 120 children like her have been helped by the centre so far and more are asking to be helped.
So Yans recently started a programme where volunteers can read with students, one-on-one, over Skype.
She says the first session was a great success and she’s hoping to have enough volunteers to make it a permanent programme, especially for young readers.
I’ve been wanting to go back to spend time with the children. With my travelling for work and busy schedule, the Skype option makes it so much easier for me to do that now.
As more children come knocking on her door, Yans is looking for:
• Online volunteers for one-on-one reading sessions through Skype
• Sponsorship for individual children
• Those who can impart their expertise in teaching, counselling and training
• Motivational programmes for the children
• Apprenticeships for the older children to help them be more employable
Shot and edited by Bill Kong
Produced and written by Neha Thakkar
Music by Torley – torley.com