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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Saturday, 20 April 2013 00:00

Food Assistance for Rural Students

Written by  By Yong Chiew Fung, Kota Kinabalu / Translated by Ng Say Fen

Noraini (in red shirt) visited her school's students with the volunteers. She said she understands them better after the visits.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】

In March 2013, Tzu Chi Kota Kinabalu launched a Happy Campus Programme to help students from low income families. Since the implementation of this programme, Tzu Chi volunteers have been visiting schools to find out the needs of these poor students.


Located in a suburban area, Babagon Primary School has supported the Happy School Programme that will enable students from low income families to complete their education.

Tzu Chi volunteers visited the school on April 16, 2013, to explain the programme and its execution in detail to the teachers, as well as, invite them to join the home visits.

One of them who went on the home visits was Teacher Noraini Sedin as she was very keen to learn how the volunteers conduct such visits. She also said, "Even though I am not the Class Teacher of the students, it is every teacher's responsibility to understand the background of each student." One student they visited was happy that Teacher Noraini paid her a visit.

Noraini added, "The subsidy currently provided by the government is only offered to a limited number of students. For this reason, not every poor student can benefit from it." That's why Tzu Chi's Happy School Programme has really brought them good news.

Living from hand to mouth

Noraini said that due to environmental and family background, residents in Moyog, a town located 36 km from Kota Kinabalu, only managed to earn about RM500/- monthly by farming and working in rubber estates. The income earned is insufficient for the parents to spend on their daily living expenses and education fees for their children. To compound matters, each family has at least five children.

Noraini shared that she had come across cases where parents, who go to work very early in the morning, have no time to prepare breakfast for their children, and neither can they afford to give their children pocket money. As such, students are forced to go to school with empty stomachs, often resulting in frequent stomach pains. In some situations, parents can only afford to give their children RM1/- daily, which can only buy a pack of plain fried noodles.

Noraini also said, "Those who are rich can afford to have sufficient food while those who are poor can only fill up their stomachs with food assistance." Sometimes, Noraini would use her own money to buy food for the poor students. She emphasized that this programme is vital to the poor students, who are in need of food assistance.

During the home visits, one Tzu Chi volunteer asked a litte girl what she could buy with RM1. Her mother answered that it could buy a bowl of noodles for 50 cents and snacks for the balance.

Understand the students better through home visits

Tzu Chi volunteers explained to the parents that they had communicated with the school's canteen on food to be supplied to the students under the food assistance programme. The parents were happy to learn that the canteen will prepare healthy food, like fried mee-hoon (vermicelli), hot drink and fruits, for their children.

"Do you think this programme is helpful?" Noraini asked a mother.
"Definitely, as it helps my children to continue studying with full stomachs," replied Senia Gabeh.

Senia Gabeh is a 49-year old housewife with four children. Her youngest daughter suffers from Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which has no known cure.

Senia's husband works in a rubber estate. After spending his earnings on living expenses, transportation fees and pocket money for the children, there is hardly any money left for savings. Even with Senia's monthly earning of RM400/- from selling vegetables, it is not sufficient for the family's livelihood. Despite the financial constraints, Senia still insists on preparing food for her children to take to school everyday.

Noraini, who has been working as a teacher at Babagon Primary School for the past 14 years, was glad that through this home care programme, she is able to learn more about the students' living conditions.

With the introduction of Tzu Chi's food assistance programme, more students need not have to study with empty stomachs and they will also have peace of mind.

Home visits for Scholarship Award Scheme

Besides the Happy Campus Programme, Tzu Chi volunteers in Kota Kinabalu have given their full commitment to conduct home visits for the Scholarship Award Scheme regardless of the distance. They also hope to share the parents' burden, thereby enabling them to send their children to school.

Tzu Chi also invited teachers to join the home visits so as to understand more about their students.
Chong Pik Yeh, a Secondary School Teacher, has joined the home visits on Scholarship applicants. She said, "The students' actual living environment is worse than what I thought." She has also invited her husband to join the programme.

Having worked as a teacher for many years, Senior Assistant, Cheong Siew Hwa said, "I had no intention of joining the programme initially due to my busy schedules, but at my wife's persistence, I was finally persuaded to join."

Before embarking on the home visit, Chong and Cheong helped to translate the Scheme's application form into Malay, as well as, obtain the necessary information from the family they were visiting.

Through this home visit, they have learnt that poor living environment would affect the students' performance at school. Cheong said, "I will inform the teachers to spend more time on them."

When they arrived at a single parent family, the children (three girls), who attended Cheong's School, felt shy meeting their teacher at home. Cheong then encouraged the youngest daughter to study hard to get 5As in UPSR.

Through the half day home visit, the two teachers felt empathy about the tough living conditions faced by the students. They said, "We will discuss with other teachers about increasing our efforts to help the students."

Both of them hope to join the home visit again as their first visit has enhanced their understanding and bonding with students.

 

Tzu Chi volunteers and teachers went to a suburban area to conduct home visits.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】   Babagon Primary School supported Tzu Chi's Happy Campus Programme, hoping to help more students from low income families to complete their education.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】

Tzu Chi volunteers and teachers went to a suburban area to conduct home visits.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】
 
Babagon Primary School supported Tzu Chi's Happy Campus Programme, hoping to help more students from low income families to complete their education.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】
 
Tzu Chi volunteers also invited teachers to join the home visits.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】   Chong Pik Yeh (right) and Cheong Siew Hwa preparing for a home visit.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】

Tzu Chi volunteers also invited teachers to join the home visits.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】
 
 
Chong Pik Yeh (right) and Cheong Siew Hwa preparing for a home visit.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】
 
Senia said all her husband's earnings will be spent on living expenses, transportation fees and pocket money for their children. So there is hardly any money left for savings.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】  

Senia said all her husband's earnings will be spent on living expenses, transportation fees and pocket money for their children. So there is hardly any money left for savings.【Photograph by Yong Chiew Fung】
 

 

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