Iskandar Najmuddin B. Othman, 2014
Meet Iskandar Najmuddin B. Othman, better known as Top. He is a Mathematics graduate from the University of Southampton, UK who then became a Teach For Malaysia (TFM) Fellow for the 2014 cohort. While exploring various opportunities to venture into after graduation, he stumbled upon a TFM booth at a career fair in London. After having all the relevant information about the Fellowship Programme conveyed to him, he knew deep down that this was something that he wanted to be a part of.
Contributing back to the community has always been on his heart, ever since being involved with volunteerism back in 2008. One of his most memorable volunteering involvements was with a project called ‘Projek Kalsom’, which was a motivational camp for Form 4 students in rural areas. Helping, interacting and motivating students, especially the under-privileged, was an experience that brought him great joy and one that he never forgot. Hence, he decided to join the TFM Fellowship to do what he loved while giving back to the society and those in need.
Throughout his two years in the Fellowship, he gained many indescribable experiences. “Too many memories are formed, too many emotions are experienced and too many feelings are discovered,” he shared. However, one crucial thing that he learnt, was that different people, places, schools and communities have their own special needs and a one-size-fits-all solution would not do. He taught in a rural school in Perak which had their own particular needs. Taking into account the demographics and issues faced by the school, particularly student absenteeism, he started an initiative that has lasted beyond his years in the school.
Top and his fellow rugby coaches appearing on Astro Arena for an interview session
Unity Through Sports
In his second year of the Fellowship, he was connected to a friend, Syed who had experience in training people to play rugby. Noticing that the students who were absent from school, were actively engaging in sports activities in local parks, he decided to start a rugby initiative in his school with Syed. That team represented the school at the district level competition, which was previously unheard of! The students also felt a sense of satisfaction and achievement being a part of the rugby team, which increased their motivation to come to school.
Top’s students training for the district level competition
After completing the Fellowship and reflecting upon his experiences and impact in the school, a thought came to his mind. “If I can help the kids in my school, can’t I help other kids in other schools too?” This was all the spark he and Syed needed to co-found Coachunity, a non-profit organisation that aims to increase student engagement in rural schools by cultivating their interest in sports. Currently, they have rugby, football and touch rugby programmes available in neighbouring regions. Coachunity is funded by corporate organisations and private individuals to ensure that schools are able to freely have the privilege, opportunities and budget for these types of programmes. Many of the teams formed by different schools have gone on to participate in and win competitions at the district and state levels, competing alongside other elite schools. Some were even in the running for the prestigious Piala Mokhtar Dahari championship.
A Coachunity rugby team representing their school for the Piala Mokhtar Dahari championship
Top and Syed inspiring the younger generation from a rural school to get involved with sports
For Top personally, his biggest highlights was not about sports achievements but an attitude shift in students. A particularly memorable example happened at an orang asli school in Pahang. There was a student named Faizal who joined their rugby programme. On the second day of the training programme, one of Faizal’s teachers was surprised to see him attending school. Top spoke to the teacher and found out that Faizal had been absent for the two months before the rugby programme started. Top was impressed to see him attend school every day for a week, until the last day of the programme. In a conversation with the student, Top found out that he had been regularly attending school “sebab main rugby best.” It was truly an inspiring moment for him to realise the impact that sports can have upon a student’s life.
A Coachunity training programme between 3 primary schools including Faizal’s school
Top has no regrets about joining the Fellowship as it has opened many doors of opportunities for him to do something meaningful in the community, which he never thought would be possible. His personal vision is to inspire students to be motivated in whatever they choose to pursue in life. If Coachunity can play a small part in making that vision a reality, he is more than grateful. Coachunity has currently expanded to many more rural schools in the Perak and Pahang district through the assistance of his team and their many dedicated volunteers. He hopes that one day Coachunity would be able to provide opportunities for every child in Malaysia to explore their potential. Thus enabling many more students to be inspired and motivated through sports.
Iskandar Othman is a 2014 Alumnus who had taught at a high-need school in Kerian, Perak. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Mathematics with Actuarial Science from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. Iskandar is currently still involved with Coachunity but he is also looking to organise e-sports tournaments. More information about Coachunity and the impact that they have made can be found on their Facebook page.