School for refugees seeking help to stay afloat


Chan (left) talking to some of the refugee students at the Top Achievers Academy. The school is seeking the public’s help to pay for rent and utilities. It also needs volunteers to teach the secondary classes.

Chan (left) talking to some of the refugee students at the Top Achievers Academy. The school is seeking the public’s help to pay for rent and utilities. It also needs volunteers to teach the secondary classes.

Three thousand ringgit – that’s all Top Achievers Academy, a school for refugee children, needs to stay afloat every month.

It may seem like a small sum but founders Jeanette Chan and Francis Tay face constant struggles when canvassing for funds to pay for rent and utilities.

Chan, a former life insurance agent, said: “As refugees, the children’s parents are not legally allowed to work, leaving them with very limited resources.

Chan pointed out that if the children did not receive an education, they would be left behind socially and later, economically.

“This may open the door for crime and other destructive elements to take root, harming society as a whole,” she said.

Formerly known as Pandawas Academy, the school that operates from the Ampang Baru Community Hall has 34 students ranging from lower primary to upper secondary.

Chan and Tay have identified five students whom they say are ready to take the International General Certificate of Secondary Education but need money to pay for the examination fees.

In June, the school had to let three teachers go as they could not pay their salaries. The last time Chan and Tay drew their own salaries was four months ago.

The lack of funds also forced the school to cut back on study periods. The children only have three-hour days instead of the usual six as observed by local schools.

But Tay, a retired construction site manager who taught mathematics in the lower and upper secondary classes, was hopeful.

“When the students do well, that is our reward.

“One of my former students was only 12 when he resettled in the United States but the school put him in the eighth grade (equivalent to Form 2). For maths alone, he takes classes with the ninth graders (equivalent to Form 3),” said Tay.

Currently, he has another bright bulb in the form of 13-year-old Jafar Sadeqi who can do Form 3-level mathematics.

But if the school was forced to close down, the curtains would fall for the refugee children’s quest for knowledge and a better life.

Chan said another way to help the three-year-old school, was for volunteers to teach the secondary school classes.

“We need six dedicated volunteers. If they can come in, we will be able to add more subjects such as social studies,” she said.

The school follows a mixed curriculum using the Singaporean syllabus for Mathematics and English as well as online digital learning resources for Science.

To help, call Chan at 016-278 9393 or email helprefugeekids@gmail.com