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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Graduation & Appreciation Ceremony for Refugee Children

Written by  Cai Zhong Xun, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Sixty-three children were awarded for their academic achievement at the Graduation & Appreciation Ceremony. An addition five special awards were given out to 30 children. The award recipients proudly showed their awards. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

For refugee children, to be able to receive primary education is a luxury, and to complete it is another huge challenge. On the morning of November 29, 2014, UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres held a Graduation & Appreciation Ceremony for five graduating refugee children and 311 schoolmates at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall, witnessed by 194 teachers and parents.


 
“Let us put our hands together to welcome the student representatives on stage to bring you a series of performance.” This simple line from the Master of Ceremony thrilled the crowd. The first group of performers from Harmony Education Centre presented the Waka Waka dance, followed by performers from Unity and Joint Effort Education Centres, who presented a drama and a lively dance respectively. Children from these three educational centres then took turns to present their choir performance, dance and fashion show.
 
Children shine in talent performance
 
The talent performance offered the children an opportunity to shine and the audience was greatly entertained by all eight performances. These three educational centres had a total of 21 classes and the top three students from each class received an award. Five special awards based on morality, academic progress, diligence, goodwill and creativity respectively, were also given out to two students from each school.
 
Peggy Lee, one of the organizing volunteers for this event remarked, “Refugee children are often neglected by society. Therefore, the main purpose of this event is to recognize these children and encourage them to study hard in school and learn some skills.”
 
Niaz Ahmad, a UNHCR representative also remarked, “UN principles state that all are equal and everyone has the right to education. Since refugee children cannot attend local schools in Malaysia, we have established educational centres to provide basic education and equip them with some life skills. Otherwise, they would spend their days aimlessly, fall into the wrong path and end up as a burden to society.”
 
He added, “Due to limited manpower and resources, we can only provide primary education up to Year 6 at the moment. But, UNHCR is planning to provide secondary education up to Form 6, or even, professional and technical training. ”
 
Principal pleased with the children’s self-reliance and love for school
 
Seventeen-year-old Mohd Ibrahim was one of the five graduands, who have completed Year 6 education in Joint Effort Education Centre, Ampang. His parents divorced when he was young. His father works in Thailand, while his mother has remarried and settled down in Johor. Ibrahim lives alone in Kuala Lumpur; and the school has become his home and refuge of love.
 
Ibrahim exclaimed, “I love school, as I can gain a lot of knowledge and be around my friends. Science and English are my favourite subjects. I love to read about wonders of the universe and I hope to become an astronaut when I grow up. Now, I want to improve my English to stand a better chance when I apply to resettle in the United States.”
 
The School Principal, Lalitha, was very pleased with Ibrahim’s relentless effort in pursuing knowledge. Once a tuition teacher, she became the School Principal six years ago, influenced by her refugee neighbour, who had evoked the loving-kindness in her.
 
Children taught in four subjects and equipped with basic communication skills
 
Lalitha said smilingly, “I sympathize with the refugee children, as they cannot receive decent education here. Being a teacher, I wish to equip them with knowledge and skills.” The refugee children are taught four subjects, namely Malay, English, Mathematics and Science, and the syllabi are in accordance with Malaysian Primary School Evaluation Test.
 
She added, “Five children from my school have successfully completed their primary education and are equipped with basic communication skills in Malay and English. I hope they can eventually resettle in third countries, like the United States, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Australia, put the knowledge they have learnt here to good use and contribute to society.”
 
She also remarked, “Majority of these refugee children are Burmese Rohingya. According to UN statistics, the Rohingya people are one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.”
 
A mother who suffers from cancer insists her children receive education
 
Jamilah from Ampang brought her three children to attend the graduation ceremony. Her eldest son, Mohd Hafiz, was one of the graduands, while her second son, Mohd Firdaus and youngest daughter, Hamidah are Year 2 and Year 1 students respectively. She had mixed feelings witnessing her son’s graduation. 
 
In recalling her escape from Myanmar, she said, “Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I fled to Malaysia from Myanmar, where a civil war had killed many people. After arriving here, we found Malaysia to be a peaceful country. However, due to our refugee status and illiteracy, we lead a tough life.” Suffering from bone cancer, she is worried if she could live to see another day. This makes her realize the importance of her children’s education.
 
She added, “I always remind my children to study hard in school so that they can migrate to Canada and lead a stable life there. Although Tzu Chi is a Buddhist Foundation, I am not afraid, as they help everyone regardless of one’s religion, race and nationality. In fact, I am especially grateful to Tzu Chi and UNHCR for running the educational centre so that my children can attend school.”
 
Education for children of a hundred thousand refugees here
 
According to UNHCR’s 2014 records, there are more than 100,000 refugees spread across a few main cities in Malaysia, with the majority in the Capital, Kuala Lumpur; and most of them are from Myanmar. On September 19, 2007, and with the belief in “respecting lives and be people-oriented”, Tzu Chi KL & Selangor and UNHCR discussed the implementation of Community-based Literacy & Numeracy Programme (CLNP) for children of Rohingya and Burmese Muslim refugees, who have reached school-going age. The objective of the CLNP is to ensure that the children are equipped with basic knowledge (listening, reading, writing and calculating), thereby strengthening their ability to survive. In addition, it would also prepare them for education in local schools, in the event UNHCR could successfully persuade the Malaysian Government to accept Rohingya and other Muslim refugee children in local schools someday.
 
It is indeed a form of spreading love to provide the refugee children an opportunity to study. Hopefully when these ‘seeds of kindness’ grow up and are accepted by third countries, they can contribute to society and country.
 
 
For the first time, the Graduation & Appreciation Ceremony of UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres was held at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. Led by the volunteers, the students marched into the Jing Si Hall. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]   The audience was entertained by the songs and dances performed by students from three educational centres. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]

For the first time, the Graduation & Appreciation Ceremony of UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres was held at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. Led by the volunteers, the students marched into the Jing Si Hall. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
The audience was entertained by the songs and dances performed by students from three educational centres. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
The students were heartily applauded on their performance. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]   Niaz Ahmad (left), a UNHCR representative, and Echo Chien (right), CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, presented awards to the students with outstanding academic achievements. [Photograph by Boon Wai Kong]

The students were heartily applauded on their performance. [Photograph by Sam Pin Fook]
 
 
Niaz Ahmad (left), a UNHCR representative, and Echo Chien (right), CEO of Tzu Chi KL & Selangor, presented awards to the students with outstanding academic achievements. [Photograph by Boon Wai Kong]
 
One of the graduands, Mohd Ibrahim (centre), Teacher Mala (left) and Principal Lalitha (right) posed for a group photo. [Photograph by Woo Phing Pheng]   Despite suffering from bone cancer and with little income, Jamilah insists that her three children must receive basic education. She is glad that her eldest son, Mohd Hafiz (right), has successfully graduated from Year 6. [Photograph by Woo Phing Pheng]

One of the graduands, Mohd Ibrahim (centre), Teacher Mala (left) and Principal Lalitha (right) posed for a group photo. [Photograph by Woo Phing Pheng]
 
 
Despite suffering from bone cancer and with little income, Jamilah insists that her three children must receive basic education. She is glad that her eldest son, Mohd Hafiz (right), has successfully graduated from Year 6. [Photograph by Woo Phing Pheng]