KUALA LUMPUR: Having mastered Bahasa Malaysia and English in just two short years, 16-year-old Syrian refugee Hasan al-Akraa is making the most of his language prowess by helping others.
Armed with an iron resolve and sticks of chalk, Hasan is a full-time volunteer teacher at the Jasmine Ash-Sham Education Centre in Ampang for Syrian migrant and refugee children since last year.
“My dream has always been to teach because I enjoy helping others. Giving them knowledge and education is a way for me to protect and help my people here,” said the cheerful teenager.
When Hasan arrived in the country in 2012 with his family, he only knew Arabic. Hasan comes from a family of eight.
“Every day I’d memorise five words in Bahasa Malaysia and English,” said Hasan, who has also given inspirational talks at schools and universities on his educational journey.
The teenager is also writing a book in Bahasa Malaysia, slated for publication next year.
“It is based on my life and the stories of refugees here in Malaysia,” said Hasan, who is studying on his own for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, which he plans to sit for next year.
While things are looking up for him now, he knows full well that there is no express lane to success, and that refugees and asylum-seekers continue to fall through the cracks when it comes to social security.
In 2014, an Immigration crackdown on a Gombak cafeteria where he was working, landed him behind bars for nine days.
He was only 14 years old and found himself in a lock-up at the Bukit Jalil detention centre.
“When they put me in handcuffs, I started crying. I couldn’t believe my fate.
“At the jail, I met another boy, who was only 11 years old.
“He came here alone to find work to support his family in Myanmar.
“We didn’t speak the same language but every night I’d tell him stories to help him sleep,” he said, his eyes tearing.
When asked about his hopes for the future, Hasan said he wants to help rebuild Syria when the unrest there ceases.
“I want to study here because I have big plans. I want to set up a small organisation and social programmes to help the homeless.
“I feel sad seeing my young cousins in Syria taking up arms instead of staying in school.
“I tell them, focus on your future, it is bright.
“You can be a doctor, an engineer, anything, just leave the politics to others.
“If all the young ones die in battles, no one will be left to rebuild Syria in the future,” he said.
As of April, there are 154,140 registered refugees from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia in Malaysia.