EXIT

Kuala Lumpur’s Ideas Academy is pro­vid­ing high-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to refugees and state­less chil­dren whose fam­i­lies have found life in Malaysia starker than ex­pected

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - – Madeleine Keck

State­less stu­dents find refuge in Kuala Lumpur’s Ideas Academy

For mil­lions of stu­dents world­wide, a day at school can of­ten be the last way they would choose to spend their time. Ter­ri­fy­ing teach­ers, bick­er­ing over pop­u­lar­ity and the pres­sure of achiev­ing good grades of­ten ren­der one's school days far from mem­o­rable, much less en­joy­able. Yet many stu­dents do not re­alise quite how lucky they are, or con­sider, even for a mo­ment, that for mil­lions of oth­ers the op­por­tu­nity for an ed­u­ca­tion has been snatched away by ex­treme vi­o­lence and war.

In Malaysia, this is where Ideas Academy comes in. The learn­ing cen­tre ed­u­cates refugees and state­less chil­dren aged be­tween 12 and 19 who have ar­rived from coun­tries such as neigh­bour­ing Myan­mar or as far afield as Afghanistan. The idea is to reach those who find them­selves un­able to en­rol in the coun­try's na­tional school sys­tem be­cause they do not have le­gal sta­tus or the right to re­main in the coun­try.

Lo­cated in the Pudu area of Kuala Lumpur, the academy opened in 2014 as a joint ven­ture be­tween the In­sti­tute for Demo­cratic and Eco­nomic Af­fairs and Sticht­ing Young Refugee Cause, a Dutch foun­da­tion that seeks to im­prove the lives of refugees through ed­u­ca­tion.

The school's six teach­ers of­fer an in­ter­na­tional Cam­bridge cur­ricu­lum, which gen­eral man­ager Sopiah Suid said al­lows stu­dents to con­tinue their stud­ies when they move on, wher­ever that might be.

“From a long-term per­spec­tive, we would like to see our stu­dents suc­ceed in life – not just be gain­fully em­ployed but able to take their place as re­spon­si­ble, eth­i­cal and em­pow­ered cit­i­zens of the world,” she said. “We would like to in­crease our stu­dent numbers as there are many un­der­priv­i­leged and dis­placed stu­dents out there. We have 125 stu­dents cur­rently for the Septem­ber 2017 in­take but we have about 60 more on the wait­ing list.”

Ateeba An­jum, 19, joined the Academy two years ago af­ter ar­riv­ing in Malaysia from Pak­istan. She cred­its the school for giv­ing her the tools to come up with a clear ca­reer goal: be­com­ing a fash­ion de­signer.

“For me, I think ed­u­ca­tion is the only key to suc­cess. It's the only way I can ful­fil my dreams and the most im­por­tant thing in my life,” she said. “Some­times I feel very help­less when I can't help mem­bers of my fam­ily. My re­spon­si­bil­ity is to get my­self ed­u­cated so I can help them in fu­ture. They are build­ing their present, but I am build­ing their fu­ture.”

Clock­wise from top left: An Ideas Academy class­room in ac­tion; stu­dents per­form in an­i­mal cos­tumes; Sopiah

Suid, the school's gen­eral man­ager

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