WITHIN the global landscape of sustainability, Malaysia’s pursuit of SDG 4 — Quality Education — has been underscored through concerted efforts to expand access, promote inclusivity and nurture a conducive environment for learning.
According to research conducted by Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development, Malaysia has made significant advancements in SDG 4, achieving full literacy and ensuring that teachers in schools possess appropriate qualifications.
The majority of students across Malaysia demonstrate strong reading proficiency, both at Grades 2/3 by the end of primary levels .
While we have made progress in this area, it is important to note that achieving that also means to “ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations” as laid out in Target 4.5 of SDG 4.
In continued pursuit of SDG 4
Despite generous federal funding for education in Malaysia, there are still those who slip through the cracks and need a hand.
Certain schools may lack the resources they need to provide a quality education, such as textbooks, technology and equipment. Not to mention, schools in rural and low-income areas receive less funding than schools in urban and high-income areas.
This can lead to difficulty for students to learn effectively and inadvertently create gaps in the quality of education between different regions of the country.
These gaps are how and where private sectors come to play their part in nation building through their environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.
The right help for the right groups
The Eco World Foundation was first established in May, 2014, as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, devoted to three goals: to provide basic educational assistance to disadvantaged students; provide general welfare aid to the underserved populations; and assist the needy with medical treatment or equipment.
Speaking practically, the foundation’s chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye says: “We may have lots of programmes and activities we want to carry out but without funds, it becomes difficult to implement them.”
Noting the importance of funds, the company had held numerous fundraising campaigns on top of the contributions of Eco World Development Group Berhad (EcoWorld) to the Foundation.
“When we got started, we made it a point to do annual fundraising. Part of it comes from [EcoWorld] and part of it comes from our business associates,” says Lee.
With an average sum of RM3mil a year, the foundation supports about 3,000 students through its Students Aid Programme (SAP) currently.
“This is a programme we’ve worked on jointly with the Education Ministry,” explains Lee on the approval process for donating to schools.
“Every year, we write to them to tell them about the programme and how we want to help the government,” he adds.
To date, the foundation has helped over 8,000 students all over the nation — from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Johor, Perlis, Kedah, Pahang and Sabah.
No child left behind
Schools that apply for the programme undergo a thorough application process conducted by EcoWorld staff volunteers to ensure that the schools’ underprivileged students receive aid.Under the programme, primary school students are provided with school bags, uniforms, canteen meals, and school computer class and tuition fees worth approximately RM1,100.
Meanwhile, secondary school students can apply for continuation of assistance of between RM1,000 to RM1,400 yearly for their educational needs.
For tertiary level students, the foundation spends between RM8,500 to RM18,000 a year to pay for their tuition fees and for living expenses.
Improving the learning environment
Creating a conducive learning environment also means that schools need to be equipped with the proper facilities. It is possible that with a positive enrollment rate in schools, the growing number of students can sometimes exceed the “bandwidth” of school facilities.
Earlier this month, the Eco World Foundation, together with Eco Ardence, contributed towards the expansion of SJKT Ladang North Hummock’s canteen with the Project Eko Kids Café.
Before the much-needed canteen extension, SJKT Ladang North Hummock Setia Alam had a small canteen that required three recess sessions to accommodate its students.
The RM40,000 Project Eko Kids Café included a 20mx5m extension involving roofing, flooring, wiring inclusive of lights and fans together with four sets of canteen table and benches.With the school’s rising student population, the expansion will give students a bigger and more comfortable environment.
Another beneficiary, SK Seri Perling 2 in Johor Baru, received a sheltered walkway measuring 50 metres which had been constructed at the rear gates, providing relief to students from waiting under extreme weather conditions.
Before the construction of the walkway, there was no shade available to protect students in that area as they waited for school buses or when they arrived for classes.
Looking ahead, Lee says that the foundation is looking at creating more tangible impacts.“We also want to look at introducing projects in line with the environment [aspect of ESG] at schools like tree planting to cultivate the love for nature in students,” says Lee.
“If there is any way we can promote ESG in Malaysia, it is through education. By conducting this programme we [can] also educate students from an early age to take care of the environment.
“Schools are a place to learn unity and harmony and we have a role to play in nation building. It’s where students learn about our multicultural, multilingual, multireligious nation, and learn to appreciate one another.”
He adds that the foundation plans to diversify the SAP to include aid for special needs children, and create and maintain a community and alumni between students in the programme.
References:1. SDGs for Malaysian States, QUALITY EDUCATION, https://sdg-for-malaysian-states-sdsn.hub.arcgis.com/pages/sdg-4-quality-education