Hello! On the 21st of January, I had the opportunity to volunteer for Kelas Jati, a program in collaboration with Dapur Jalanan KL and Kedai Jalanan championing free education. The project is a 9-month-long initiative that aims to help underprivileged children in the Damansara Perdana area brush up on their reading and writing skills. Do check them out here!
I found out about this relatively new programme through twitter, and felt really attracted to the project’s righteous vision. I strongly believe that education is what will change the world and every child, regardless of creed or religion deserves a quality education. So I decided to sign up and had the chance to be part of the team.
Class was scheduled to start at 8am so we all had to be there at SK Bukit Lanjan early in the morning. Coincidentally, my sister who’s currently studying in Seri Puteri Cyberjaya was going to have the annual Cyber Run 2017 on the same day. So my dad had to make his way to Cyberjaya before doubling back and sending me to Damansara Perdana — all before 8 am. Phew, busy morning. Thanks bah, love you.
Fortunately, we reached SK Bukit Lanjan on time. For first impressions, the school was painted the standard brown and orange, and looked relatively well cared for, despite the small area and the occassional rundown. By the time I reached the school the group of coordinators and the few volunteers assigned had already assembled, most of them having carpooled from LRT Bangsar.
The small school compound was already bubbling with kids aged 7-14 running around and talking over each other just as primary school kids do, it reminded me of my primary school years. Part of the coordinators involved in Kelas Jati gathered us volunteers for a short briefing session while the rest tried to settle the kids down at the canteen. The eight of us who volunteered that day was given a brief walkthrough on how the programme that day was going to go.
We were told that SK Bukit Lanjan was in fact a school for the Orang Asli Temuan children that resided in the area and that we were there to help them brush up on their reading and writing skills. The children were going to be divided into small groups of five to six students based on their level and each group was going to have two volunteers as tutors. I was paired with Aqeela, a really friendly UNITEN student. We were both assigned to the level 3 group which comprised of 12 to 14 year olds. Although they provided teaching guidelines, we were given the flexibility to teach the kids using various methods and generally just foster a fun learning environment as opposed to the usual formal classroom approach.
After getting the general idea of what we were supposed to do, we volunteers were ushered to a classroom along with about 20 of the students. I couldn’t help but grin at how adorable the children are, so small and bright-eyed, looking at the world through such curiosity. It made me feel motivated to do my best at teaching them.
So in class after assembling the students into their designated groups it was time for some one-on-one teaching. First we got to know the kids we were teaching and had a little ice breaking session. As a shut in it was quite awkward for me at first but I’m glad Aqeela took the reins on this one — she’s a natural with children that one, I really have a lot to learn from her. She started slowly breaking the ice between us and the kids and before long I was able to fall into rhythm.
Getting to know the children was fun. The children I had the privilege to teach were Rossakina, Dana, Sapinas, Safuan, and Nasuha. They all had different characters and were a blast to get to know. Aqeela and I started the teaching session by identifying if they knew their ABCs. We were provided with flashcards and all the students were very energetic and cooperative. They were all brilliant, only needing the occasional helping hand here and there. One or two did shy away at first but as someone who grew up shy, I totally understood how it felt to be uncomfortable in a group so I didn’t probe them as it was best to just give time to adapt. Then we did some exercises on vowels and also had a colouring session! They kids coloured in a butterfly and their masterpieces were beautiful!
Throughout the teaching session I had a really fun time engaging with the kids. I took the chance to really get to know them on a personal level. Sapinas loved BTS (Yes, the famed Kpop group) and Safuan is great at drawing. Rossakina and Dana are brilliant kids albeit being a little shy. Nasuha just wanted to go home as soon as she could but still showed as much enthusiasm in class as the others.
The atmosphere in class was really relaxed and I do believe the children fared well with the hands on approach. The younger ones were taught to spell by forming words with plasticines.
I’d like to think they enjoyed the class as much as we did. Soon class was wrapped up. We then made our way to the canteen for light brunch. After eating we gathered at the school grounds for a short conclusive session and then, it was finally time to leave.
Within my short time with them, I really have gotten attached to the children there. They are all very enthusiastic to learn and equipped with the proper access to education, I do believe all of them will achieve great things. All in all, I gained a lot of experience being part of Kelas Jati and learned a lot about the Orang Asli community as well as about myself. Although I don’t think I’m suited to the role of a teacher, I do believe there are many ways I can contribute in fighting for education. My fellow volunteers were also all very friendly and the coordinators were not short of welcoming. I’ll be volunteering again on the 4th of February and I can’t wait to see them all again.