Classes for the poor to go on

Community helpers: Rayhan (left) with his friends preparing to take homework to the children who are still at home.

JOHOR BARU: The restrictions that came with the movement control order (MCO) did not deter him from continuing his “classes” for underprivileged children.

Rayhan Ahmad and his friends, who founded Sekolah Baroka three years ago for such youngsters, have been giving them lessons of a different kind during the MCO.

For example, they would give each of the children some plants and seeds to grow as the school also emphasised environmental sustainability.

Most of these children have parents who work as traders at a bazaar in the city centre.

In the early days of the MCO period, Rayhan would use applications such as WhatsApp to reach out to the children.

They would also use Zoom to meet and discuss things with the families.

When some of the restrictions were lifted, they visited the children, who live in flats or squatter areas, to check on them.

Sekolah Baroka is located on the second floor of a pre-war shophouse in Johor Baru.Sekolah Baroka is located on the second floor of a pre-war shophouse in Johor Baru.

Rayhan, 28, said he felt moved when the parents told him and other teachers that their children were getting better in school and thanked them for having Sekolah Baroka.

He cited the example of two Rohingya brothers, aged 10 and 11, whose mother had to beg for a living but was adamant that her boys should have a proper education.

“When the brothers came here, they could not read despite being enrolled in a primary school. But now they are able to do so, even in English,” he said.

The story of Sekolah Baroka began three years ago when Rayhan and his friends started a small project to help children living on the streets.

They wanted these kids to be educated in a safer environment.

So they started Sekolah Baroka, which is located on the second floor of a pre-war shophouse along Jalan Dhoby here.

Rayhan, who worked previously at a government agency, said that they did not charge these parents any fee.

“Our mission is to help get these children off the streets and into a classroom.

“We have more than 20 children with us between the ages of three and 12,” he said, adding that the school depended solely on public donations and crowdfunding.

He thanked The Star for highlighting the school last year, which helped create public awareness.

“The school was able to attract 20 contributors, who are mostly professionals in their respective fields, to teach the children.

“We have been getting a lot of public help. They wanted to be part of the school and help these children,” he said.

Rayhan said that lessons are conducted seven days a week between 8.30pm and 10.30pm.

“We have normal lessons such as science and mathematics but we have also expanded our language classes to include Mandarin and Tamil, besides English and Bahasa Malaysia.

“The other lessons are based on activities such as arts, crafts, filmography and skateboard lessons, which the children enjoy as we want to create a fun learning experience for them,” he added.

The school has also helped about 100 homeless people by giving them basic necessities.

Rayhan is now planning to get homeless people to collect recyclable items found on the streets.

These items will be given to the children for an art project and he hoped to display it in public as a way of creating awareness about less unfortunate people in the community.

Once the MCO is completely over, he plans to introduce the children to the culture of Orang Seletar (indigenous people) to help them understand more about other communities living around them.
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