There are some 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. The overwhelming majority, some 140,000, are from Myanmar. As Malaysia has not yet signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, the country lacks a formal legislative and administrative framework to address refugee matters. With few legal rights, refugees are often at a high risk of exploitation. This is particularly true for in women, who can be subject to physical and sexual abuse, and children, who are deprived of educational opportunities. UNHCR works with partner organizations to support refugee safety, health, and education.
The Nexus International School works with the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur to offer refugee children the opportunity to interact with their local community. This outreach, called the Nexus Community, is made up of Nexus students and teachers and Myanmar refugee children, aged 6 to 15. The activities focus on developing language skills, but activities such as sports, art, music, dance and cooking classes are also held to provide the children with a more holistic education. Brian Kratz, program coordinator explains, “Nexus Community is a program that not only encourages Nexus students to explore their potential, but also to witness the growth of the Myanmar refugee children from reserved and shy individuals to confident young adults.”
Nexus students have a unique opportunity to put their International Baccalaureate Learner Profile into practice and develop as independent self-guided learners who are virtually in charge of running the CCA autonomously. It allows Nexus students to make a change in the lives of others, even if it is in the smallest way such as teaching them a new word, or some chords on the guitar. Over the past couple of years, the learners have really taken ownership of the program and the relationship with the Myanmar learners is becoming an integral part of the Nexus identity as a school community.
Marianne Chang, a parent volunteer in the program explains, “Sparing some time to teach the Myanmarese children makes our students realize that they can touch someone else’s life and make a difference. These refugee children get to experience school life in a safe environment; their confidence boosted in the process. By opening up its facilities to these children, Nexus is leading by example an educational hub that is discharging its corporate social responsibility. Seeing their happy faces doing activities with the Nexus learners, running around freely in the football field, frolicking on noodles in the swimming pool, or just having fun at the playground, has just been enough to make my day. These children are here in transit, and will one day be placed in host countries that will open their doors to them. Their experience in Nexus will prove to be an invaluable preparation for the next phase of their lives. I am happy and proud to be part of that team that makes this happen.”
Those who would like to volunteer or are simply seeking further information about Nexus Community are invited to contact Project Leader Mr. Brian Kratz at email@example.com
Written by Stephen Wise