IN THE beginning, neither the teacher nor pupil could comprehend each other but now, a year later, some 100 children of Rohingya refugees in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, have learnt to speak decent Bahasa Malaysia.
The children, aged between four and 18, have lawyer and social activist Nur Atiqah Talkah to thank for sparing some of her time to provide free tuition to them under a voluntary programme called ‘Tuisyen Ikhlas’ that she herself initiated early 2018.
Expressing her satisfaction over the achievement of the Rohingya children, she said initially they faced communication problems due to the language barrier.
“Some of the children had earlier been learning mathematics and science in their own language as the teacher was from their community.
“When fellow volunteers and I started teaching them in Bahasa Malaysia, they couldn’t understand what we were saying,“ the 29-year-old told Bernama.
Nur Atiqah, who runs the ‘Tuisyen Ikhlas’ programme with her friend Nur Farah Farhana Mughni, an engineer, has roped in about 15 volunteers – comprising university students and working people – to teach the children basic subjects such as Bahasa Malaysia, English, mathematics and science.
Nur Atiqah said she was inspired to start the tuition programme after participating in an activity involving Rohingya refugees organised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Bukit Broga, Selangor, last year.
“I realised then that the children of the refugees have lost their right to formal education and I felt compelled to help them,“ she said.
To get the tuition programme started, she and her friend Nur Farah Farhana forked out their own money to buy books, whiteboards, stationery and teaching aids. They also publicised the programme on social media, which attracted the attention of several people who volunteered to teach the children.
“We are thankful we have enough volunteers to conduct classes for the 100-odd Rohingya children here,“ said Nur Atiqah, adding that they also have enough funds now to conduct the programme as they have received contributions from NGOs, private firms and members of the public.
This writer recently had the opportunity to observe a class in session and noticed the children’s eagerness to learn. If they do not understand something or feel that their teacher is going too fast, they would politely ask him to repeat or explain what he had just taught.
According to Nur Atiqah, their grasp of mathematics, English and science was still low but the volunteer teachers were confident that they will improve over time.
She said to encourage the children to attend the free classes, she and her team had to make sure that the classroom atmosphere was conducive and comfortable for them.
Having fled their homeland (Myanmar) with their families to escape religious persecution, the Rohingyas are generally reticent and afraid to face the public.
“To make them feel comfortable, we would sing with them and carry out other activities to engage with them and make them more active in class,“ said Nur Atiqah, who has been participating in humanitarian activities involving refugees since 2017.
She added that the success of her tuition programme was largely due to the Rohingya community there who supported it and would show their appreciation to the volunteer teachers by preparing food for them for the breaking of fast during the Ramadan month. — Bernama