Perseverance educates underprivileged children
11 April 2022

It was a 'never-say-die' attitude that paid off for 75 underprivileged children.

The children, who included those from broken families and refugees, managed to complete their basic educational classes conducted online the past two years. Among them was a Myanmar refugee named Rokiya, 18.

They celebrated their achievements at the 'Class of 2021' graduation ceremony at the Dignity for Children Foundation's premises in Sentul Boulevard.

Rokiya is a product of Dignity's 'Empower-A-Child' programme that has benefitted many of them.

Recounting her predicament, Rokiya said the students struggled to obtain an internship at Dignity since 2020, as it was disrupted for months by several Covid-19 lockdowns (since March 18, 2020, and economic downturn).

"Our journey began on a difficult note, as 2020 hit all of us real hard. Despite the odds, we did not give up to start our online classes (during the Covid-19 lockdown).

"Many of us struggled to attend classes and follow the online lessons, while having to deal with a myriad problems.

"These included our family's financial issues, the loss of jobs and income, loss of family members, fear of apprehension of contracting the virus, fear of the uncertainty and so on.

"Many of us lost our motivation to study online.

"Nevertheless, our teachers have been really patient in encouraging us, and checking on us and our families from time to time."

The youngest among them, she said, was a pair of twins from Dignity's pre-school programme.

She added that she was honoured to be at the ceremony because it marked the most significant day in their lives as students.

"Just like all of you, I am proud to be among the 75 who have gone this far to graduate from Dignity.

She thanked her teachers for their dedication and hard work in getting them to where they are today.

"Their unassuming ways of caring for us was their way of empowering us, so that we could in the future, be elevated from the current dismal state," said Rokiya.

Rokiya also paid tribute to all the students' parents, who although were not able to join them at the graduation, but were equally proud of their children's achievement.

"It has been an incredible journey which as taught us to be equally kind to other less fortunate ones.

"We pledge to strive to do our best in our undertakings and endeavours," she said.

Meanwhile, Dignity's co-founder Elisha Satvinder said his organisation, through public support, assisted the needy students with financial aid, house-rent, funeral expenses, education fees, utility bills, medical aid and groceries.

"Once case in point is where a parent was suicidal, as he had no money or savings to pay rent and was at risk of getting evicted.

"Dignity intervened immediately with a public appeal which raised almost RM150,000.

"Similarly, 30 other families were saved from being evicted from their rented premises, while we used part of the funds raised to pay the surgical fees of some parents," said Elisha.

He praised Malaysians for their generosity in assisting the aggrieved children.

"The last two years showed up many facets of Malaysians who stood out as 'unsung heroes' by genuinely being humans.

"As families tried to stay safe from being infected by the Covid-19, these caring Malaysians came forward to assist the refugee children and youths who could not afford to be left behind in terms of education.

"While putting food on the table was essential and crucial, their education could not be dismissed under the circumstances," said Elisha.

He added that it may mean little effort on the part of these individuals, but it meant a great deal for the marginalised.

Dignity, he added, took the initiative to provide the affected children online education. All hands were on deck to get second-hand laptops, mobile devices, SIM cards and data top-up to support virtual learning.

"The digital divide was a real and huge challenge. It took Dignity months to continuously attend to and address the needs, mitigate the problems faced by the children or even their parents," he recalled.

Elisha said that Dignity would continue to do its bit for the refugees, 'undocumented people' or jobless migrant workers, they are left to fend for themselves – falling off the radar of government, corporate or philanthropic aid.

"With empty wallets and literally living from hand to mouth, their survival is all the more crucial.

"Looking back today, as we see the light at the end of the proverbial dark tunnel, it was amazing how they survived and what a life journey it has been!

"Yes, it was a hard-fought battle of many fronts. Over two years of pandemic, 35 weeks of school closure, prolonged periods of income loss and more. Yet, they made it!"

Additionally, Dignity distributed 5,712 packs of food as well as sanitary products to other deserving students, marginalised community and also B40 staff.

About Dignity

Dignity for Children Foundation is a non-governmental organization that provides holistic care and education for children and youths in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
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