Teachers are taking a different route to raise cash for initiatives that will benefit students.
MALAYSIANS are certainly passionate about education; it is an evergreen topic of conversation which more often than not, revolves around the state of our schools.
However, short of becoming educators or campaigning for policy changes, what can the average Malaysian do to improve teaching and learning in classrooms right now?
How can we reach out and support dedicated teachers across the country who are trying to make a difference for their students.
This is what Give.my aims to address, by providing a fundraising platform for teacher-led education projects in Malaysia.
Give.my is a partnership between Tandemic, Kelip-Kelip, Sekolahku and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC).
The platform enables educators to raise funds through crowdfunding, where anyone with an Internet access can directly contribute to teachers’ project ideas.
What the Give.my team focuses on is the quality of the projects, by vetting them and advising teachers to contribute ideas which encourage holistic education rather than just strict academic learning.
These projects can range from field trips, to creating conducive learning spaces, to out-of-the-box learning experiences which directly benefit students.
In order to be as transparent as possible to donors, Give.my also collects information from educators. It includes their teaching experience and details on how the funds will be used.
This is to ensure that the projects are all carried out smoothly.
In its pilot phase last year, the platform successfully raised over RM50,000 for 12 projects across Malaysia, benefiting more than 3,000 students.
This year, Give.my aims to raise RM80,000 for a new batch of projects ranging from education for refugee children to coding programmes for young girls.
If you would like to check out these projects, or participate with your own ideas, go to www.give.my.
Remote school’s Sports Day success
Muhammad Syamil Yahya’s project stemmed a from simple wish – to organise a Sports Day for his pupils.
The teacher in SK Airport in Belaga, Sarawak, was keen to have the school’s 104 pupils exposed and engaged in activities and games.
While many schools take for granted that the Sports Day is an annual event, the only sports day that the school ever had was in 2012.
That sports event was a community highlight, with parents and villagers actively getting involved in preparations for the big day.
“There were no medals for the winners; just a few soap bars wrapped in kertas minyak (tracing paper) as presents. The pupils accepted them proudly.
However, due to financial constraints, even something as simple as a sporting event was too much for the school to handle in subsequent years.
In fact, many of the teachers have often forked out their own money just to provide their pupils from the surrounding community of longhouses, with learning necessities.
As a sports teacher, Muhammad Syamil was determined to give his pupils a real Sports Day in 2015, and decided to put his cause up on Give.my.
Within one month, he raised over RM1,600, above his initial target of RM1,300. The funds were used to purchase sporting attire for the pupils, medals, and even rope for a tug-of-war game.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be able to raise the funds for the sports day in just a few weeks,” said Muhammad Syamil.
“The response was so overwhelming. I received so much support and encouragement from everyone, even strangers.
“The entire community was present for the sports day, and the generosity of donors had touched them too.
“It certainly has reignited my passion for teaching. The schoolchildren were very much involved and eagerly participated in the many games that were held throughout day.”
Therapeutic action for kids
SHE has suffered from cerebral palsy from the time she was an infant.
Miriam (not her real name) who is now a 10-year-old can walk several steps at a time but with assistance.
She also relies on a wheelchair to help her get around.
Once she’s in the water, Miriam is much more mobile than she is on the ground.
“I can’t believe how she moves almost effortlessly in water which is impossible for her to do otherwise,” said Miriam’s teacher, Hadibah Mohd Judin.
“She has the freedom to move when she’s in water... it gives her a sense of independence,” she said.
Hadibah, who is a special needs teacher at SK Datin Khadijah in Kuala Kangsar, Perlis, also helps to run an annual aquatic therapy programme for pupils with multiple disabilities.
The school caters to 50 such pupils with various needs including learning disabilities, autism and Down syndrome.
Last year, Hadibah decided to crowdfund her project on Give.my, and successfully met her RM5,000 target to run the programme for 30 children aged between five and 14.
The programme featured structured swimming exercises run by instructors, while offering room for children to play and enjoy themselves in the water.
Hadibah said the therapy is tailored to address the physical and cognitive needs of participants, adding that water is a “leveller” as it offers children with special needs greater freedom of movement.
“Being in water allows children to perform and learn movements that would otherwise be too difficult to perform on the ground ... it also helps in building muscle strength and developing coordination.
“While movement is essential for both physical and mental development, it creates lots of emotional benefits too.
“For most children, the water is relaxing. The overall enjoyment of the pool makes achieving therapy goals much easier,” added Hadibah.
Shedding light on cave art
DID you know that the Tambun Caves (or Gua Tambun) in Perak is home to some of Malaysia’s oldest prehistoric paintings?
These cave drawings date back to the Neolithic era, some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, and were discovered in 1959 by a British army officer during a routine patrol of the area.
The drawings depict human, animal and abstract designs, and are said to resemble those found in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
Although Gua Tambun was gazetted as a National Heritage site in 2010 for its cultural significance, public awareness of this site is unfortunately still lacking.
According to a survey of 100 Tambun residents, over three-quarters of respondents were unaware of the history of the site.
“At present, Gua Tambun is severely vandalised by modern graffiti and illegal quarrying – mainly due to the unawareness of this valuable and fragile cultural heritage among the local community,” said archaeologist Dr Goh Hsiao-Mei.
She leads the Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project (GTHAP), an initiative comprising like-minded individuals from Universiti Sains Malaysia and local non-governmental organisations.
Realising that public awareness needs to start with young people, she chose to raise funds on Give.my for a public archaeology educational programme for secondary school students in Perak.
After raising over RM5,000 through the platform last year, Dr Goh ran one-day workshops for students as well as local community members.
With 10 to 15 participants for each workshop, GTHAP focused on not just promoting awareness of Tambun’s heritage through site visits, but also encouraged participants to actively get involved in conserving and managing the rock art site.
“This project is very important because it is the only platform to connect the local youth to their own heritage.
“It is also to empower them to play their part in the future delivery of conservation and management of Gua Tambun,” she added.
A mission accomplished
MISSING classroom doors, ruined whiteboards and broken chairs and tables was what Soonufat Supramaniam’s students were accustomed to.
Soonufat, better known as Soon was serving as a Teach For Malaysia fellow at a school in Kedah.
He said the lack of good learning spaces for the 545 students of the school was one of the reasons why his students were not motivated to learn.
“As a student, I would not be inspired either. It is hard to be enthusiastic about learning when your class and surroundings are in such a mess.”
His objective was to improve the learning environment and make it conducive for his students.
He initiated the “STAR Project” for Forms One and Four students in the school to learn English.
“I wanted to curate a comfortable, enjoyable, interesting, visually stunning learning environment for my high-needs students.
“My hope for the English learning room is for it to be a print-rich environment, with portable whiteboards and over 500 English comics and story books,” explained Soon.
After hitting his target of RM5,000 in funds on Give.my, the enthusiastic teacher quickly created the room that he wanted for his students.
While much of the effort was his, Soon’s students were involved in putting up the posters and arranging the furniture.
Doing so, was to give them each a sense of ownership over the learning space.
The room is not just stocked with books but is also equipped with tablets and has Internet access.
While a big chunk of the fund was used on the English learning room, a portion of it was also spent on an “English learning trip” for the students to Penang.
Every ringgit was well spent said the proud teacher as he managed to achieve what he set out to do.
The passing rate for English in the entire batch of students in Form One was beyond expectations, he said.
“It jumped from 70% in the mid-term to 91% for the final examinations last year.
“Even the weakest class showed tremendous improvement in English! The passing rate improved from 31% (midterm) to 74% (final term),” said Soon.