The Second Year: Blok A

In their second year, Fellows are expected to start initiatives or projects that address problems within their communities. Here, 2013 Fellow Alina Amir describes her second year initiative, Blok A.

“I started off with night classes in my living room. 5 students would’ve already been too packed. I had close to 18 at the most and no one could move. I had to cut down on the kids I could help. It wasn’t an ideal environment to learn. For a whole year, I ran night classes for selected students. 8-10 students at one time. More wanted help. They bugged me for a slot. There was neither time nor space to help them all.

This year, I was presented with an opportunity. I came across the news that the multipurpose hall at the flat I live in was available. An entire hall, as if dropped on my lap. How could I walk away?

I wrote a proposal and the management approved to rent the space to me for 3 nights a week to turn it into a peer tutoring center for the kids at the flat. ‘Blok A’ was created and named after the block which most of my kids from school are from, the inspiring, aspiring and troubled. I expected at most that 15 would come.

More than 30 showed up on the first Monday. 40 showed up on Wednesday. From reaching 8-10 kids, I now have access to more than a proper classroom. Brothers and sisters came. Parents dropped off their child and waited on them. We suddenly all became a family. I got really excited.

Today, on the 3rd day of Blok A, ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY kids showed up.

Without having to say anything, my secondary kids stepped up and offered help. They huddled around me and waited for me to give them instructions. I didn’t have enough worksheets. I prepared 50 worksheets for the day thinking that was more than enough. Quickly, I told them to each pair up and get 2-3 kids. I told them what they should be teaching for the different levels and in less than 5 minutes I saw tiny groups formed on the floor.

My secondary kids went straight into teaching mode. They started giving out their own questions. They asked for a red pen and started marking the questions they gave out. I saw a few of them drawing stars and write “good job” just like I do on their worksheets in school. One even got on her feet and had a full circle around her and had kids raising hands! One went to the corner and tutored a 6-year-old his ABCs. I heard one going, ‘Tak pe. Buat pelan-pelan’ to the kid who was doing his multiplication table.

At the end of the session, I grouped all my tutors and thanked them. I told them I’ll try to repay them one day. One boy got up and said, ‘Saya buat ni ikhlas. Cikgu tak payah bagi apa-apa pun tak pa. Seronok lah pulak mengajar ni’ and everyone else chimed in with their agreement. I looked over to my project partner David Chak, and I wanted to cry. I told him, ‘Dude, I think we have the best kids in the world right here.’

I was wishing for a peer tutoring center program that would create a sense of accountability for one’s own learning and the learning of his/her community. To take up the responsibility of educating oneself and the people around them. To not wait to be pushed but feel the need to initiate ways to improve. The dream is to one day see them independent, not only wanting, willing and trying to find ways to help themselves but also the community they live in.”