AT TAYLOR'S: Cheryl Nicholson (CherylAnne.MarieNicholson@taylors.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: Fugee School (contact@fugeeschool.com)

The Fugee School was established in May 2009 by former Miss Malaysia and Taylor’s College Subang Jaya (TCSJ) Canadian Pre-U student, Deborah Henry along with Shikeen Habibullah and Shaafie Sharif, Somali community leaders who were offering Somali refugees private tuition classes. Today, the Fugee School works very closely with the Somali community in providing 130 students with an education. Every year these refugees receive a free education through a diligent academic curriculum and life-skills training. At the Fugee School the curriculum has been tailored to address the specific needs of refugee children who face trauma and disruption following their displacement from their war-torn country. The school also aims to develop students’ critical and creative thinking and encourage them to discover their strengths and work with local partners for an avenue to develop these skills.

In mid-2014 Ms. Henry was approached by Ms. Cheryl Nicholson of Taylor’s Business School (TBS) with a new initiative to provide these refugee students with educational opportunities online. The idea was to provide access for these students to an education program called Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that has been designed and now widely used to supplement the American education system.

During the August 2014 semester, a module was set up within Taylor’s Business School that would enable TBS students to act as guides and mentors for the Somali students as they made their way through the MOOC learning program. The Somali students aged between 16 to 25 were brought to Taylor’s Lakeside Campus every Tuesday for four weeks to participate in this program. Taylor’s is the first private university in the country to embark on this unique platform that uses web navigation and multimedia content to share knowledge. TBS has designed a business program that is practical, easily understood, provides a platform for participants to share opinions and ideas, and is widely accessible.

Ms. Nicholson explains, “The intention of this program was first of all to help the Somali students overcome barriers to achievement in school and promote their academic success. The program also linked a racially diverse group of TBS student mentors with the Somali students in one-on-one mentoring sessions. Considering that both sides of students were from completely different cultures and backgrounds, there was minimal interaction and communication between TBS and the Somali students during the earlier weeks of the program. But their relationship vastly improved over time and towards the end of the program many friendships were made and both sides worked well together.”

Upon completion on the program, all students were awarded a certificate by the Dean of Taylor’s Business School, Ms. Vinitha Guptan, at a ceremony that was hosted by TBS and attended by Ms. Henry and several dozen Somali students. Dean Guptan, whose Business School embeds many community service activities within its curriculum, noted: “Serving others is not an add-on to education at Taylor’s; it is the principal component of a holistic practice that seeks to educate the whole person: the head, the hands, and the heart. It is at the core of everything that we do at the Business School.”

For more information on how you can help the Fugee School, please visit their website at http://fugeeschool.com/ or contact Deborah Henry at deborahenry@gmail.com. To know more about the rapidly expanding MOOC program at Taylor’s Business School and other programs hosted by TBS, kindly contact Dean Vinitha Guptan at vinitha.g@taylors.edu.my or visit their website at  http://university.taylors.edu.my/business  

Written by Amelia Ooi