Wednesday 16 May 2012
INSPIRED TO TEACH FOR MALAYSIA
Teach For Malaysia (TFM), a not-for-profit organisation, aims to extend quality education to the poor and marginalised. The inaugural batch of TFM fellows will begin teaching in high-need schools in January 2012. Here, four young people share what motivated them to be in the pioneering cohort.
Shaping the future
Victoria Wong, 25, from Petaling Jaya, has a Bachelor of Psychology degree and diplomas in TESOL and Pianoforte. She is the eldest of 3 siblings and her father is a teacher.
While growing up, I learned that education is the key to freedom from poverty – whether physical or intellectual. Along the way, many educators have encouraged and influenced me. TFM was introduced to me by a friend. I was inspired to apply because I believe a teacher has great opportunities to shape the lives of future generations. One person can make a difference. Take Jesus, for example. His life alone has changed the entire course of human history.
I was once offered several leadership positions in high school but I passed up the chance to lead out of fear. This time, I have resolved not to miss out on the privilege again. God’s will is unchanging. If I miss this chance to make a difference, it could be passed on to another person. By His grace and mercy, I applied to TFM because I want to be part of a movement which aspires to make quality education available to all.
Called to pass it on
Priscilla Lim, 23, is the youngest of three children. She has a Bachelor of Psychology degree from HELP University.
Initially TFM was intimidating to me. It seemed too lofty a task for someone with no guts. However, God patiently persuaded and encouraged me, like what He did for Gideon. He fought off my excuses with His Word, and armed me with confidence in Him. If God took so much trouble to convince me, it must be something close to his heart – and it should also be close to mine.
A crucial contributor to my decision to apply for TFM was my five-month experience at a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) discipleship training school in Sabah. This was the first time that I broke out of my middle-class comfort zone long enough to notice other segments of society. Through this outreach, I had the privilege of teaching Filipino refugees, Dusun children and Iban youth. Many of them have fallen way behind in their grades; some have even dropped out of school. They have neither ambition nor hope for a bright future. Unlike me, why are they set on such a different life trajectory? I realised that there is only one thing that separates me from them: Opportunity. Opportunity to quality education which I have been freely given and which they have been unjustly denied.
Many teachers, both academic and spiritual, have invested themselves into my life. The lyrics, Freely, freely you have received … freely, freely give, remind me that these blessings are not mine to keep; they should be passed on. Jesus Christ Himself took pains to teach and reach out to the poor and marginalised. He had compassion on those who were like sheep without a shepherd. If our calling is to walk in the footsteps of the Master, this is surely one way to do it.
Challenged to make a difference
Abel Cheah, 23, has degrees in Business and Commerce (Economics) and Communication from Monash University. Abel, who hails from Petaling Jaya, is the eldest child. He has two younger sisters.
Though I have been taught by good teachers, the one who inspired me most is my own mother. She has been instrumental in nurturing in me a love for teaching, a passion for youths and a desire to influence society for good.
In 1990, my mother gave birth to my younger sister, Abby, who has Down’s Syndrome. Even so she could juggle all the various demands life places on her – her day job, tutoring students in the afternoon, coaching me in studies and running the household. She constantly challenges her children and students to realise their full potential. She has also conducted Bible studies for Christian domestic helpers in church and taught students Bible Knowledge for SPM without charging any fee.
As a Christian, I’m challenged to love my neighbours, and to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah mandate). During my university semester break in 2008, I taught in a secondary school as a “guru sandaran” (support teacher) and noticed how the students yearned for attention, advice or explanation of concepts. I realised that students born into the cycle of poverty would remain there unless someone intervened. As a teacher with TFM, I will able to help, coach and guide them.
Sowing seeds of hope
Jacintha Tagal, 23, is the fourth child in a family of five children. She graduated with a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University in May 2011.
My father was born in a remote village in the interior of Sarawak. The eldest son in a family of farmers, he too would have become a farmer had it not been for the gift of a primary education from missionary teachers. My father went on to become the first university graduate and the first medical doctor in his village.
My mother had few educational opportunities, unlike many of her peers, though she was raised in Kuala Lumpur. She spent her afternoons taking care of her younger siblings and helping her parents with odd jobs. Every school break was spent peeling chillies and giving tuition for spare cash. When grandfather emptied his savings to enrol her in the University of Malaya – much to my grandmother’s distress – it enabled mum to become a teacher.
My parents’ lives have been transformed by education and the people who believed in them. One simple act of compassion can transform families, communities and nations; it transcends time and relationships.
HOW IT BEGAN
Wendy Kopp believed that the poor should not be marginalised in the field of education. For her undergraduate thesis in Princeton University, she came up with the idea of an elite teaching corps. She knew that many youths like her, including top college students, really wanted to make a difference in the world — and would choose teaching over other more lucrative jobs if such a corps existed. Thus Teach For America was born.
At 21, Kopp raised a few million, hired staff and launched a recruitment campaign for teachers. In the first year (1990), 500 men and women began teaching in six poor communities. Since then, this network has grown to over 28,000 individuals, all committed to excellence and restoring educational equity for the benefit of the poor.
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