SHAWN, from Kapar, Klang, grew up in a poor family. His mother took up multiple part-time jobs to support the family and make ends meet. Unable to afford toys or a television, Shawn would peek through his neighbour’s window to watch movies for entertainment.
When he was 16, Shawn met Brian, a Teach For Malaysia (TFM) Fellow.
“Cikgu Brian told me that I was good in maths and chose me for the school’s Math Olympiad team. It was life-changing; I felt special and unique,” said Shawn.
Cikgu Brian inspired Shawn to choose accountancy in Form Six for STPM. Unfortunately, life got even harder for Shawn. “To make ends meet, I’d work as a waiter on weekends, give tuition and even became a yo-yo coach.”
Despite the adversities, Shawn managed to score a 3.75 CGPA for his STPM.
It was an improvement from 5A’s in SPM and 2A’s in PMR.
“Even though Cikgu Brian was no longer my teacher, we kept in touch. He even advised me on my university application.”
Once, after Shawn failed to obtain a minimum required English test score, Cikgu Brian arranged an internship for Shawn, enabling him to learn in an English-speaking environment.
Shawn re-sat the English test, met the minimum requirement and was subsequently awarded a Jeffrey Cheah Foundation scholarship to study accountancy at Sunway University.
“I am thankful to Cikgu Brian for helping me see that I had a future beyond high school and could pursue my dreams,” said Shawn, who started his first undergraduate class in January 2017.
Dayang, 15, never attended kindergarten because her family often moved. This caused Dayang to be very shy. At the age of 13, she met Cikgu Kamil, a TFM Fellow.
“He is my favourite teacher because he supported me – whether in my studies or sports, whether I excelled or struggled,” said Dayang.
“Although I was struggling with maths, Cikgu Kamil would continually encourage me whenever I didn’t understand or was too afraid and shy. Now I’m braver, and I’m starting to improve in maths.”
One of Dayang’s biggest moments was when she hosted an event in school and spoke in English.
“I practised very hard, overcame shyness and on the day of the event, everything was excellent. My parents were there and they were so proud of me.”
Since its inception in 2011, TFM has grown into a movement of about 300 Fellows and Alumni and impacted over 44,000 students in more than 100 schools across the nation.
Shawn and Dayang’s stories are just a few examples of the inspiring work TFM does.
A movie was even made based on TFM Fellow, Cheryl Ann Fernando, who had inspired her village school to success in a choral speaking competition. Check out Adiwiraku – it’s a great watch.
“TFM’s mission is to empower the nation through education, to address inequity and to ensure every Malaysian child has a chance at a brighter future,” said Dzameer Dzulkifli, co-founder and Managing Director of TFM.
TFM Fellows consist of top Malaysian graduates who come from some of the best local and international universities.
To date, almost 30% of TFM Fellows who have completed their two-year Fellowship joined the Ministry of Education (MOE) as teachers.
Some TFM Alumni continue to contribute to the education sector through start-ups that focus on STEM or maker education, literacy, crowdfunding for teachers and leadership. Many are also involved in policy implementation, school transformation programmes and other educational groups
“We are proud of our alumni, whichever path they’ve chosen,” said Dzameer, who was also recently appointed a TN50 ambassador.
When asked about MOE’s role, Dzameer said, “Since 2011, MOE has been a great partner to TFM. In fact, MOE and the Economic and Planning Unit (EPU) had initiated the idea through the 10th Malaysia Plan to assist with funding, training of Fellows, as well as placing them in schools. School teachers have been great mentors to our Fellows, too.”
“TFM’s success today would not have been possible without MOE’s and EPU’s support. It’s a model that works and is an example of an effective public-private partnership.”
In March, TFM launched a fundraising campaign known as #EmpoweredTo Unlock MY Potential.
“A donation of RM50 monthly helps empower one Fellow to impact two students. All donations contribute to the resources needed to recruit, train and support our Fellows to teach in high-need schools,” said Dzameer.
He adds, “Many of our Fellows go beyond the call of duty, even using their own resources, to add value to their students’ learning experiences. To them, it is a small sacrifice for a greater good.”
The campaign runs until June 22.
“To date, TFM has secured about RM1mil in corporate pledges – however, we need the public to donate so that the corporate pledges can be unlocked,” reminds Dzameer.
“With more sustainable funding, we can continue to empower our Fellows to keep inspiring Malaysia’s future via education.”
Danial Rahman has education close to his heart and welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own. Those who are interested in donating can head to www.teachformalaysia.org for details.