A refugee is defined as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.” – Article 1, The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
. According to UNHCR Malaysia
, there are some 146,200 registered refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia as of end June 2014 and about 92 percent of the refugees are from Myanmar
. There are close to 31,000 refugee children below the age of 18 in Malaysia.
Not only do these children have no access to formal education, they are also unable to enjoy even simple activities like playing outdoors, due to security fears. To fill this gap, many refugee communities set up their own education centres in the cities and towns where most of them live. Garden International School
has been involved with helping the Myanmar refugee children for the past five years. GIS is presently running a student-led teaching program to 12 Learning Centres in Kuala Lumpur. This program is being offered by GIS students aged from 9 to 18 years old (Year 5 to Year 13) who prepare and teach lessons to 120 refugee children from the refugee learning centres four afternoons a week for an hour.
, the Community Service Coordinator for GIS explains, “Reach Out, which aims to benefit both our students and as well as the refugee children, is one of our most successful programs here at GIS. About 30 to 40 refugee children come to our school daily. We divide them into groups of 10 students each, which will include our own student leaders. The student leaders prepare and conduct the lessons for their own group.” Shamsiah notes the acceptance and appreciation of the refugees for this program. "Since the parents don’t speak the local language, they fear for the safety of their children on the street by themselves. Most of them keep their children indoors when they are not at school.”
No wonder, then, that when these children children come to the GIS program, they relish the time away from their learning centres where they can release pent-up energy and explore their undiscovered talents. Different learning centres - and there are a dozen of them - will come on different days. When they arrive at the school every afternoon, they have some time to play in the GIS primary playground before their classes begin.
The objective is to help the refugee children develop their functional English through ICT, Science, cookery, drama, music, mathematics and interactive games. Shamsiah notes, "Both GIS students and the refugee children gain so much from this experience that we see many of our students sign up to the CCA program year after year." At present, GIS is partnering with 12 Learning Centres around Klang Valley for this programme.More information about this program, and about how you can help these needy children, can be found be contacting Shamsiah Binti Ismail through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Amelia Ooi