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posted this in Learning Centers, Malaysia on Friday, September 27, 2013

Goducate Sabah celebrates its 5th anniversary

About 5 years ago Goducate heard that in a corner of Sabah there were some 1 million undocumented aliens, and that because of their status, the children were not entitled to state education. The children thus grew up loitering around or getting into mischief, until they, especially the boys, were old enough to find work in the plantations.

These people were mainly from the southern Philippines, who had since the 1960s been going to Sabah to escape the civil strife at home. At that time Sabah’s then Chief Minister, who had family ties in the Philippines, gave the Filipinos asylum. So many people are stateless now because their passports have expired, or because they have entered by the “back door”.

During Goducate’s exploratory visit, we learnt the community was keen for the children to have some education. But how were we to provide education for so many children? When we found out that some of the mothers had had some education in the Philippines, the strategy became clear. We would teach the mothers to teach the kids.

In this way we have opened more than 30-40 centers over the 5 years. It’s a fluctuating population, with some centers having to close because the people have been forced out. At the moment there are 30 centers, staffed by 64 teachers and assistant teachers. The focus of teaching is on literacy and numeracy. Goducate sends a trainer over several times a year to upgrade the teachers. To help the children find jobs, training in livelihood skills such as manicure, sewing, and cooking have also been introduced.

Because of the unsanitary conditions in which these communities live, Goducate has also introduced a health program that includes hygiene and deworming. For adults there is a screening and education program on hypertension and diabetes. And for all, there is a nutrition program, with communities being encouraged to plant moringa, a plant that provides many nutrients.

Most of the older children who have gone through our centers are either working—in shops, restaurants, spas, and factories, or as assistant teachers in our centers. Some have enrolled in schools (either private, or, if they now have identification papers, state schools) after having caught up with their basic literacy and numeracy at our centers.

For the 5th anniversary celebrations, the teachers were brought together to share their experiences informally as well as formally (which gave them practice in public speaking), to show their performing skills, to clarify what they wanted to know during a question-and-answer session, to be thanked for what they have done, to be encouraged to continue their good work, and generally to enjoy themselves. For many it was their first time attending a function in a modern hotel, a far cry from the village life they lead.

Attendees at the anniversary sessions

Attendees at the anniversary sessions

A declamation by a teacher

A declamation by a teacher

Happy group of teachers and guests

Happy group of teachers and guests

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