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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 25 March 2018 00:00

Striving for a Better Future

Written by  Low Hai Loon, Klang / Translated by Lee Hui Yieng

Thiban’s perseverance and hard work had created unlimited possibilities for him. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Coming from a poor family, 18-year-old Thiban did not give up on his study. Instead, he was motivated and determined to strive even harder. His efforts paid off when he achieved 10 As in the 2017 SPM examination.


“Father, mother and teacher are common nouns. But if we refer to Jita’s father, it is a specific noun because it names a certain and only person as Jita’s father. Are you with me?” A tall Thiban a/l Raman explained to the primary students in his class patiently.

A few days a week, the sound of students reading could be heard at the PPR Padang Jawa, Klang, when Tzu Chi’s tuition classes are conducted. As most residents from the community are socially vulnerable, Tzu Chi Klang has since 2014, engaged teachers to give extra classes to the children, in the hope of improving their level of education and imparting moral principles in them. Eighteen-year-old Thiban, who is now a teaching assistant for the tuition class, was once a student with the tuition class.

A letter to Tzu Chi

Six years ago, Thiban, who had just completed his primary school education, wrote a letter to Tzu Chi.

Recalling that incident, volunteer Chin Woi Im could not help but smiled contently saying, “It left a deep impression on me because Thiban was the first care case I was entrusted with, after I became a charity team volunteer. He mentioned in the letter that he scored 6 As in his Primary School Evaluation Test, but due to financial constraint, he needed Tzu Chi’s help to pay for his tuition fees then. We conducted a home visit and assessment, and have been caring for him until this day.”

Woi Im remarked that throughout her six years of interaction with Thiban, she never had to worry about him. She said, “He would show us his results once he got them, and he always did very well in his examinations. We watched him grow into a teenager from a primary school graduate.”

Thiban grew up under the care of his aunt, Uma. They used to live in another flat at PPR Padang Jawa together with other relatives. But with many kids living together, it was not an ideal environment for studying. Hence, another relative, who had migrated overseas, let him and Uma moved into his flat. This way, the relative could also be sure that someone is looking after his home.

In one of the rooms were a bicycle and two small cabinets full of Thiban’s trophies. Pointing to the trophies, Uma explained gratifyingly, “This is from a service award; this is from an inter-school debate competition; and this is from…”

She shared gratefully, “Life is not easy for us. With me being the sole breadwinner, it is a heavy burden to pay for Thiban’s tuition fees, in addition to educational fees, meals and other living expenses. Fortunately, Tzu Chi subsidized his tuition and transportation fees.” She added, “I can only take up cleaning jobs due to my low level of education. That’s why I want Thiban to study well so that he can secure a decent job and have a better life.”

Uma’s sharing reminded Thiban of a past episode. He recounted, “I remember when I was in Form 3, I got sick and was admitted to the hospital. When I was discharged, I asked Aunt Uma what we should do as all our savings had been spent on my medical bills. She said, ‘You must continue to study because only education can get us out of poverty.’ So, she started to take up part-time jobs and work overtime to support my studies.” To Thiban, it is his life experiences and the wonderful people in his life that has driven him forward.

Education is the way out of poverty

“This is where I usually study.”

Thiban’s small study room next to the kitchen is also their prayer room. Every evening, Thiban would do his revision at the old study desk with two stacks of textbooks and workbooks on it. His computer had broken down long ago so he placed his textbooks on the computer desk behind him.

When asked if his life was only about studying, Thiban pointed to the television in the living room and said, “Actually I love to watch TV, but I focused entirely on my studies when I sat for my SPM examination.” Besides helping out at Tzu Chi’s tuition classes, Thiban would also help out at the temple nearby during his spare time.

Focus and hard work are his main tools in achieving an excellent academic performance. He commented, “Unlike others, I need to go through the same text over and over again to fully understand it. For example, my favourite subject is Advanced Mathematics and I would allocate some time daily to solve some questions.”

Due to his persistent hard work, he scored 10 As in his SPM examination last year. Upon mentioning that, he smiled shyly and said, “To me, it is just a small achievement and the beginning to the next chapter of life.”

Thiban’s academic achievement is indeed rare among the PPR Padang Jawa community. It proved to the younger generation that with hard work and perseverance, they too deserve a bright future. To share his joy and to motivate other children, volunteers especially arranged for a celebration on March 25, 2018. They also celebrated his birthday at the same time.

At the celebration, Thiban told the students and their parents, “I am not raised in the best environment, but I know that education is the only way for me to get a decent job and get out of the cycle of poverty. We should not blame our environment. What is most important is to focus on our life’s goal, which to me now, is to get good results and further my studies.”

On the day the SPM examination results were released, Thiban’s achievement became a hot topic in his neighbourhood. Uma said smilingly, “Many neighbours came to congratulate him and to get confirmation that he truly scored 10 As in the examination because it was really a rare case in the community…” Evidently, Thiban has made her proud.

 

 

Volunteers who have been caring for Thiban celebrated his academic success and birthday. Third from left is volunteer Chin Woi Im. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Thiban, who was once a student of Tzu Chi’s tuition class, reciprocates Tzu Chi’s kindness by becoming a teaching assistant at the tuition class. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Volunteers who have been caring for Thiban celebrated his academic success and birthday. Third from left is volunteer Chin Woi Im. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Thiban, who was once a student of Tzu Chi’s tuition class, reciprocates Tzu Chi’s kindness by becoming a teaching assistant at the tuition class. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
Thiban’s aunt, Uma, thanked Tzu Chi for the assistance provided over the years, which has enabled Thiban to strive in his studies without financial worries. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]   Thiban requested the children who wanted to offer him some coins as his birthday gifts, to deposit them in a coin bank instead, so that they can help more people in need. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

Thiban’s aunt, Uma, thanked Tzu Chi for the assistance provided over the years, which has enabled Thiban to strive in his studies without financial worries. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
 
Thiban requested the children who wanted to offer him some coins as his birthday gifts, to deposit them in a coin bank instead, so that they can help more people in need. [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]