“It is of paramount importance that we choose wisely what we build the future of our country on and what we pass on to the next generation.”
As a child, I enjoyed my school years very much. This was largely due to my beloved teachers who nurtured a positive and loving environment for me to grow in. It saddens me to see youths growing up without a sense of purpose and belonging, and I’ve seen and represented so many of them who got on the wrong side of the law, while I was working in the Attorney General’s Chambers. Teach For Malaysia came at the right moment for me. As a young professional, I was looking for a way to give back to the community and Teach For Malaysia gave me the opportunity to address one of the country’s pressing needs.
It is a common phenomenon that utmost and undue attention is given to students who perform well in school, as their successes in the public examinations reflect positively on the school. However, my students were the students on the other end of the spectrum. My students were those who didn’t excel in examinations, those whom everyone had already given up on, those who had already given up on themselves.
I had a very good relationship with them as their form teacher, but trying to teach them was incredibly difficult. Everyone automatically switched off when I tried to teach. I used various methods to make the lessons interesting – but the results were not encouraging. It took some time, but I finally had a small breakthrough.
Leka*, one of the girls in the class, was viewed as the ‘leader’, and I made it a point to give her some encouragement and a little extra attention – and as a result she managed to do quite well in her monthly test. Her friends were dumbfounded; and while some of them shied away even more, some of them began to embrace my lessons and made an effort to learn. At the end of the year, the failure rate was no longer 100%, and one student, Kamal*, even managed to score an A.
In truth, I learned so much from the kids that cannot be put into words – and I often think that I have learned more from them than they have learned from me. In spite of the many obstacles throughout the Fellowship, being able to continue made the journey even sweeter. Teach For Malaysia also proved that the power of an idea combined with creative problem-solving, an airtight support system and holding on to what you believe is far greater than any obstacle or challenge.
In the face of various challenges and obstacles, we must instil in students the belief that they have the power to determine their own future. It is of paramount importance that we choose wisely what we build the future of our country on and what we pass on to the next generation. Teach For Malaysia is an opportunity to do just that.
*Students’ names have been changed to protect their identity.
Aiman Bin Basir is a 2014 Alumnus who taught at a school in Perak for two years. He graduated with LLB Law from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and was formerly an Associate at a private law firm.