Friday, June 5

A study lifeline for poor children

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Yasmin, Guna and their two children moved to Miri from Kluang, Johor, in 2018.

MANY parents in urban cities are turning to tuition centres to give their children the extra help they need to improve their grades.

The tutors can give personal attention and time to help the children with their weak subjects as the centres cater to smaller groups of pupils.

For parents who can afford it, sending their children to these after-school classes is not a problem but lower-income families do not have the same opportunity.

In Miri, such a disparity is evened out by the spirit of volunteerism. A group of good Samaritans is stepping up to the plate with free tuition and an opportunity at education for children from poor families.

The group’s pioneers, Yasmin and her husband Guna, both in their 40s, said it all started back in 2018.

The couple were full-time volunteers even before moving to Miri from Kluang, Johor.

Yasmin tutors children from poor families at one of the centres.

“That year, after learning about the need to set up tuition centres in Miri, especially for the underprivileged, we felt a strong calling to come over and do something for the community. We had no clear picture or vision of what our purpose was but we felt it is God’s will for us to move here,” she told thesundaypost.

According to Yasmin, she and her husband moved to Miri to work for their mission as volunteers and initially, they reached out to the communities in Kampung Pasir.

From there, their local church, Calvary Charismatic Centre (CCC) Miri, opened its tuition classes in Taman Tunku, Saberkas and Tudan.  At first, there were only 40 children – both primary and secondary. The number has grown to 170 today.

Free tuition

Yasmin said since they were doing voluntary work, the tuition is free.

“The children pay nothing to the centres or teachers, or for the teaching materials. Since we have experience in tutoring and teaching, it was one of the first things we could start here. We felt giving tuition was a way to break the poverty cycle.”

Yasmin said the rents and bills are covered by their church, while the teaching materials and incidental expenses are covered by friends and the students’ families besides the church.

“So we can offer 100 per cent free classes as contributions come from many quarters in various ways.

“Recently, Hot Cross Buns and Mui Fang Bakery teamed up with us to sponsor buns for the children once a month.”

A volunteer tutor with her pupils.

Smaller groups

The centres provide tuition for English and Maths with about 20 children to each class.

However, Yasmin pointed out that as many new volunteers have joined them this year, they could break the group of students into five per tutor.

“With the new arrangement, we can provide a more effective learning environment outside the classroom.”

The centres now have about 50 volunteers from various academic backgrounds, races, and religions. Some have just completed their Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), while others are professionals in various fields and retirees.

This year, the centres are operating smoothly with more teachers for the same number of children.

A volunteer tutor with her pupils in a class.

Presently, five areas in the city are covered, including Kampung Pasir and SK Pujut Corner, where the volunteers are helping 20 academically weaker children.

Yasmin said the tuition classes are only meant for children, regardless of race and religion, but they must come from the low-income group and single-parent families aside from those who could not attend school due to documentation issues.

“We’re indeed thankful there is such a high spirit of volunteerism among the people here. It’s because of their beautiful, compassionate, and loving hearts that we can run the centres smoothly,” she said.

Corriena with one of her pupils.

She added that all help is welcomed – be it from volunteer tutors or food sponsors (for the children).

Those interested can contact her (012-2850102).

The tuition classes have been put on hold due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yasmin said they would resume once the situation improved or when the government allowed schools to reopen.

One of the volunteers, Corriena Sarkawi, who has a degree in Mass Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing, said she became part of the group to help underprivileged children get an education.

The 42-year-old believes this would help them to be on par with the other children and succeed in life.

She said being a volunteer had taught her to be humble and allowed her to give back to the community.