What inspired you to start EduNation?
John. John is an orphan who lived in an orphanage behind the Assunta Hospital sometime in 2005. Back then, I was a civil engineer and I was tutoring kids in orphanages. John was 15 years old and it was one month before his PMR. He was having trouble with fractions so I tried, with little success, to explain Form 3 math to him. I also tried asking him Form 1 math questions but he only nodded his head. So I thought to myself, “John doesn’t actually seem to know anything. What does John actually know?” I then asked him for the answer to half plus half. After a long pause, he answered, “One quarter”. This shocked me and I lost all hope. So, I did something that I am totally ashamed of. I ran. I never went back to another orphanage again, and I never saw John again. I gave up…but the thought of John never stopped haunting me. This experience with John has thus inspired me to start EduNation.
What is EduNation about? What are its key features?
EduNation is a volunteer driven non-profit educational initiative that provides free online tuition for secondary school students in Malaysia. Its website includes more than a thousand videos covering most core subjects, an exercise platform to test your knowledge, and a social platform so that students can give and receive help from other students, volunteers and teachers.
What are some of the challenges EduNation has encountered?
1) Monetary. Nobody wanted to sponsor us for a year and a half after the idea was conceived in 2011. We were totally broke and even sold off a training company only to find out later that the money was not coming in.
2) Staffing. Finding great leaders and teachers appeared harder than we thought. Along the way, we’ve met many amazing people whom we now hold on to closely.
If you had to name one thing about EduNation that you’re proudest of, what would it be?
It would be that we are slowly building a movement that is not about EduNation, but education. Hence, our collaboration with Teach For Malaysia, Khazanah, FrogAsia and many others. We are very happy that we have friends from various sectors, with the same goals, and heading in the same direction. This shows that collaboration is crucial in improving the education landscape in Malaysia because solving such big problems need the collective effort of many. We either win as a team, or fail as individuals.
In your opinion, why do you think education is important?
Education is important because everybody has the right to a dignified life and to the pursuit of happiness. Education opens up the doors to both.
What’s your vision for education in Malaysia?
That education in Malaysia empowers creative minds and free spirits, and creates a melting pot of cultural love and understanding.
Does that sound too hippy?
If you could send a message to the students of Malaysia, especially those from challenging socio-economic backgrounds, what would it be?
As a child, I was physically and mentally abused. I had very little friends in school and I didn’t do well in my studies. I even had nightmares every single day until I was 14. So, if life is tough for you, I really do understand, and I’ve learned that books are of great help. The more we read, the better we become. Bookstores and libraries can give us a better life and a way out of our problems. Read everything and anything, fiction and non-fiction, biographies of amazing people with amazing lives, suffering, travel books, and travel blogs. Most importantly, dream. Just as we are working hard in the pursuit of our dream for a better Malaysia.
Life gets better if we continue to read, to be curious, and to try to be better at something every day. And when life does get better, remember to bring someone else along with you.
Visit EduNation now at http://www.edunation.my/.