SAVED by the bell – that’s how many students feel at the end of a long school day, but if you study in one of the over 40 residential schools in the country, “escape” may not be so easy.
“Residential school students lead quite a pressured life. They are isolated in their school – away from parents and family – and it is not very easy for them to meet other students their age. Their lifestyle is also very regimented and the workload is heavy, so you can imagine the stress they face, “ says teacher Shylaja William of SM Sains Kuala Selangor.
Thus, for students at the school, making the school environment as “homely” as possible is a prime concern. After all, William explains, for many, it is their first time away from home, and they have had to learn to look after themselves and be independent.
Hence, it’s no surprise that the ideas mooted by the students for the Hotlink Nationwide Student Community Service Competition convey the need to create a home away from home – an environment that is safe, pleasant and conducive for both study and recreation.
“The school is their home, and teachers and friends their family, so it is understandable for them to want to make their lives there better,” says William.
One interesting programme is to rid the school of crows and stray cats.
“Kuala Selangor is infamous for its crows and, being new, the school’s open space attracts these stray animals. So a group has come up with a plan to clean up the school, which will run in tandem with a recycling project for fund-raising,” William adds.
Another group, called Ice-Blended Cappuccino, hopes to promote a healthy lifestyle for their schoolmates through sports.
“The students in this school study all the time. Many hate to sweat or get dirty. So my group thinks futsal is the answer,” says team member Yan Chyun Soon, 16.
For the uninitiated, futsal is a mini football game started in South America in the early 20th century.
“It is like street soccer but has more safety features. Although it is big in many countries around the world, it is still new in Malaysia. There are not enough facilities and trained coaches here for the game to grow,” says Yan.
Played in five-sided teams, futsal uses smaller balls and “carpeted” (Astroturf) courts, making it safe for players.
What Yan and his team mates plan to do is promote the game – starting at their school, followed by other schools in Kuala Selangor, and then schools throughout the country. This they plan to do by organising contests once a court is built in their school, to raise awareness and interest in the game.
They will also have to come up with ideas for maintenance costs and funding for the tournaments and competitions.
Fortunately, almost all the students have pledged to support plans to make the sport available in the school, adds Yan.
Meanwhile, a group called “saVe” or student active volunteers, aims to help students in Kuala Selangor with learning disabilities.
The idea came about when group member Radin Edi Aizudin, 17, met a teacher from another school in Kuala Selangor at an interschool competition recently.
“She told me that in her school alone there were about 20 students with learning disabilities and many more unreported cases. That got me thinking that maybe my friends and I could go to their school and carry out various activities with them – not only academic activities like how to read and mathematical skills, but also drawing and dancing,” he says.
The first step he took was to get more information from his mother, who is involved with an association for children with learning disabilities in Kuala Lumpur.
“Then I went on the Internet and spoke to the teacher to get help on how to contact the school and parents in Kuala Selangor. Once we successfully get this off the ground, we hope to expand the class activities to other children with learning disabilities,” he says.
The biggest challenge though, he adds, is to get permission to venture out of the school every week. To their relief, the principal has been very supportive.