Even at a young age, Beatrice believed in the value of education.
I grew up in a small Bidayuh kampung called Skibang in Bau, Sarawak. There are fewer than 1,000 people living here and in my class there were only 13 students, including me. I think it’s safe to say most would have never heard of my kampung.
In my time growing up I’ve always enjoyed school; I think that’s thanks to my father who himself is a teacher. He always pushed me to do better because he believed that education would be the doorway to opportunities and a better life. But sadly that wasn’t the case for everyone in the Bidayuh community.
While I stayed in class and tried to finish my work, almost all my peers were looking for a chance to get away from school. To them, it was clear that school was a nuisance and education just a temporary evil. Many couldn’t wait to finish class not so they can further their studies but instead to work. By the time secondary school came around most guys would drop out and find a job, while girls would get married right after if not during secondary school. There are many reasons why people here don’t continue with education such as their socioeconomic background, lack of ambition, etc. but the truth is, many in my community just do not see education as an important factor of having a good life and instead just a formality.
Needless to say, I was quite saddened by this.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a lorry driver, a miner, etc. if you choose to. But for most, it’s an eventuality that they can’t escape. If your mom is a farmer and your dad is a factory worker, chances are those are the only options that are in your mind for your future.
Out of the 13 students in my class, I was the only one that graduated from university.
Leaving her kampung for university was an eye-opening experience for Beatrice.
After finishing secondary school I pursued my tertiary education in University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS). Coming from a rural village with fewer than 1,000 people to a university where the student population itself was already at 16,000, it was a big leap in my life. Back in my hometown I was one of the few that excelled in education and considered ‘special’. This is the first time I was mixed amongst others that were at the same level or smarter than me.
I had the chance to meet people from various backgrounds and ethnicities – it truly opened my eyes to the world. Through group projects and other activities during my university time, I developed new skills that I didn’t get to back in Skibang such as effective communication skills, problem solving, and more.
It was both truly challenging and fulfilling. But no matter how much I learnt or grew I would always come back to the same thought:
“It’s a shame that people back home won’t be able to see this.”
Looking back, that was the moment I realised that I wanted to go back and open their eyes. To show them that there is more to the world than just Skibang – if you’re willing to take the next step.
To show them that education is the step forward, not backward.
Inspired by her own experiences, Beatrice is resolved in bring an excellent education to more communities.
After graduating I came back to Kampung Skibang to join the community Koperasi. To me it was my way of giving back and hopefully slowly change the mindsets of those I interact with. Although the work was fulfilling at first, I felt that there was more that I could do for my community, for Malaysia.
It wasn’t until March of this year that I stumbled on a Facebook post by my friend sharing one of Teach For Malaysia’s recruitment post. Intrigued, I researched and asked around to see if anyone had joined Teach For Malaysia before and met Aina Edeliane, an Alumna from the 2013 cohort. When we met through a friend, Aina shared her experience with me. Just like me, she also wished to show her community the difference that an excellent education made to her life. Listening to her story of empowering children directly in classrooms, I realised that this was the perfect platform for me to give back and help lift my community through education.
Inspired by Aina’s journey and remembering my old dream of becoming a teacher like my father, I chose to apply for the Fellowship.
Just like my time in University, I hope to create a story that’s both challenging and fulfilling. Through the Fellowship I aim to continue learning and growing myself as a person by developing my leadership in the classroom and problem-solving skills for the community. My hope is that I’ll be placed in Sarawak so I can show others in my community the importance of education and empower as many students as I can during the two years or more. To give them the skills and tools beyond the textbook so that they would have the chance to take ownership of their own learning and excel in life.
One day the Bidayuh community will open their eyes and see that education is the way to move forward and that will be my story worth telling.
Beatrice Belinda graduated from University Malaysia Sarawak with a BA in Arts Management and worked with her community’s Koperasi for a year. She applied for the 2019 Fellowship and is set to embark on her two-year journey next year.