GPF Malaysia Brings Education to Children in Remote Villages

Sofia Aminudin
April 16, 2024

Back to school, a new hope for these 32 dreamers, their families and communities.

A woman in a blue shirt standing outdoors with trees in the background of a remote village.

Lia, herself a member of the Jakun tribe, holds a steadfast belief that the key to escaping cycles of limitation starts with a significant breakthrough.

Over the last year, the Education team from Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Malaysia led by Normaliati Ali, has enrolled 32 children from the villages of Binjai, Terubing, Cerampak, and Padang – small communities often overlooked by formal education systems.

Driven by her determination, Normaliati passionately advocates for children to reach their full potential by exploring new horizons and breaking through barriers.

In this article, we delve into the perspectives of not just the children, but also their families and the broader community.

While many of us hold cherished memories of school, for some, this experience remains a distant dream.

However, for these 32 children, this dream is now tantalizingly within reach.

GPF Malaysia’s educational programs, including the Forest School and Mobile School, have successfully supported over 70 aspiring young individuals. These programs take a comprehensive approach, focusing on more than just basic literacy and numeracy.

They also cultivate interests in arts, gardening, and craft thereby enriching the students’ learning experience and maintaining their connection to indigenous heritage.

The origin of these initiatives can be traced back to a critical observation: in the targeted villages, more than 80% of children were either not attending school or had dropped out. A notably small proportion of Orang Asli (indigenous people of Malaysia) children completed their secondary education. The main challenges contributing to this issue include difficulties with transportation, academic struggles, and challenges in social integration.

Group of adults and children from remote villages standing in front of a store, holding new backpacks provided by GPF Malaysia for education.

Global Peace team and the children standing outside the store where they purchased school supplies.

In this small village, the harsh reality is that many children have never set foot in a formal school, and the trend of dropping out before high school is worryingly common.

This raises a critical question: Is this merely a perpetuating cycle, or a situation that has been acknowledged but left unaddressed?

The answer lies in intervention. Without it, these children’s dreams risk being trapped in a relentless loop.

However, the initiatives conducted under GPF Malaysia’s educational program are breaking this cycle, offering these young minds not just education, but a pathway to a future they once only dreamed of.

For the kids – starting school is something exciting and to keep looking forward to.

“Terima kasih cikgu,” she whispered, a ten-year-old Arfaziera from Terubing eyes sparkled with a mixture of awe and gratitude as our officer, Lia gently handed her a plastic bag brimming with school supplies. Inside lay her new school uniform, complete with shoes and socks.

For most, trying on new school uniforms, shoes, and socks is an annual routine, an aspect of family life as the academic year begins. However, for children like this young girl, such moments are few and far between. This simple act of providing basic school necessities, often taken for granted, is a significant event in their lives.

It’s a poignant reminder of the disparities that exist in access to education and the joy that can be found in what many consider ordinary.

For the mothers – it’s a sign of hope and new beginnings.

Woman speaking outdoors in a remote village with a tree in the background.

Amai Yuni shares her hopes with a gentle optimism, wishing that Sham adjusts well to school life and finds within himself the desire to keep moving forward.

When asked about educational opportunities in her own youth, Amai Yuni, Sham’s mother, reflects poignantly on her family’s history.

She recalls that neither her mother nor her grandmother had the opportunity to pursue education.

With a mix of hope and determination in her voice, she expresses her deepest wish: to see her children not only trying their best academically but also flourish socially in school, make new friends, and eventually secure stable jobs.

At 12 years old, Baha has faced challenges that have profoundly impacted his life. Having never attended a formal school, largely due to the devastating loss of his father, Baha’s educational journey has been anything but typical. His brother expresses concerns, believing it may be too late for Baha to bridge the educational gap.

This situation has been more than an emotional weight, it has posed significant obstacles in Baha’s path to learning. His brother worries that catching up might be too daunting a task, reflecting the harsh realities many children in similar circumstances face.

Two students focused on writing in their notebooks at a classroom table in remote villages, thanks to the initiatives by GPF Malaysia on education.

12 years old Baha

Yet, Baha’s talents, particularly in mathematics, shine brightly. His remarkable performance at the Forest School belies the fact that he has never experienced traditional classroom education. It’s a testament to his innate abilities and resilience.

Amai Lela fondly recalls how her son, Baha always harbored dreams of going to school, a wish that existed even before the passing of his father.

Amidst these challenges, Amai Lela holds onto a simple, yet powerful belief: “As long as he tries his best in school, that’s all I ask for.”

When asked about the Forest School initiative currently underway, Amai Jemilah from Kg Cerampak shared her aspirations with a hopeful tone. “I really hope the children here keep on learning,” she explained. Her eyes lit up with a particular kind of pride and anticipation when she talked about her 12-year-old daughter, Mawa, returning to formal school.

Jemilah’s optimism marks a significant shift from the situation back in 2018. In those days, many children in the village didn’t attend school. Parents faced daily challenges that made education seem unattainable. Waking up before dawn to prepare their children for school was a daunting task, and often, even after this effort, the school bus would fail to show up.

This unreliability led many parents to reluctantly decide against sending their children to school.

It was a decision made from necessity, not preference.

For the communities – it’s a sign they can break the cycle.

Group of people from remote villages holding Malaysian flags outdoors at a GPF Malaysia community gathering.

The community comes together in a spirit of unity and celebration during the Hari Sukan

The Hari Sukan celebration in Kg Terubing was more than just a festive gathering, it served as a unifying moment for the community’s parents. It offered them a glimpse into the potential futures awaiting their children, opening their eyes to the myriad of possibilities that lay ahead.

Cikgu Maizurah, a community teacher for Forest School, noticed a real change afterwards. Parents became more involved and trusting. Some moms even started waiting outside during classes, patiently waiting for her child to finish her class.

And now, if they see Cikgu Maizurah on her way to teach, they remind their kids, “go to class, go to class!” It’s a small but meaningful shift, showing how the community’s attitude towards education is starting to transform.

It’s likely why, eventually, 11 students from Terubing expressed their eagerness to attend formal school.

What’s in for the future?

For these children, heading to school each morning is a journey into a world of possibilities. For their mothers, it’s watching a dream take shape right before their eyes.

And for the entire community, it’s a step towards a future far brighter than any they’ve known.

Investing in education is investing in a new chapter, not just for these kids, but for their families, and their entire community. It’s a story of overcoming, of thriving, and it’s just beginning to unfold.

Here at Global Peace Foundation Malaysia, we are driven by the firm belief that every child, regardless of their background, deserves the opportunity to explore and reach their fullest potential.

This belief isn’t just a motto, it’s a commitment to action, a promise to each child we meet. Our approach is methodical yet filled with compassion. It’s through this dedicated effort that we can slowly transform the landscape of opportunity, ensuring that each young mind has the chance to blossom and contribute to their community’s growth.

One child, one village at a time.

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