From 4th to 14th May, our team from Singapore, Sabrina, Jennifer, Bristan and Jozanne, visited ElShaddai Refugee Learning Centre to conduct tuition and remedial classes for the children.
Our tuition classes were held on Saturday and Wednesday at Shalom 3 guest house. On Saturday, we did some writing practise and on Wednesday, we helped them with some math problem sums.
On Saturday, we began with some ice breaker activities and games. After the games, we got the primary level students to do composition writing using picture cards as prompts. For each picture card, we got the students to discuss the details of each scene. It was really encouraging to see the students engaged and responsive. Many of them were also cheeky in their responses, and even shared their own personal anecdotes that related to the story of honesty. It was definitely heartening, as teachers, to see their earnestness to learn.
For a few moments, barriers like age, language and race ceased to matter. We simply enjoyed each others’ company in sharing good food and laughter.
Another fond memory with the children was playing train with them over lunch break on Wednesday. We were dragging and piggy bagging the children around the dining room. Even Husnain who is usually reserved, joined in with the fun! For a few moments, barriers like age, language and race ceased to matter. We simply enjoyed each others’ company in sharing good food and laughter.
On the weekdays, we would visit the primary school in the mornings and then go to the E-learning Centre in the afternoons for English remedial. We sat and observed the P5 and P6 classes in the primary school, mainly helping the students with Math and English. We realised that their weaknesses in Math were the problem sums, which challenged their ability to understand the words and to apply the concepts accordingly. Nevertheless, the students always tried their best to grasp the concepts.
One of the students, Suan Tham, said that he felt slightly discouraged and worried. He had just started schooling in ELRC a few weeks ago, and he was struggling to catch up on the half a year’s work. He also felt pressurised as he was one of the older students in the class. However, both me and Jozanne could sense his intelligence in grasping new concepts and his quick adaptability, so we reassured him that he would be able to catch up as long as he worked hard. Indeed, many of the students in ELRC have that similar resilience and remarkable capability to recover from any curveballs that life throws at them. Naturally, we as teachers might worry for the students’ futures, but I soon realised that our worries are unfounded as long as they have that fierce determination and self-belief.
There was no such thing as a failure; the only success that the children saw and encouraged, was the willingness to try. No child got left behind in that safe-to-fail love and care that the children showed for each other.
Most of all, they were rich in love and support for one another. As we walked back from Shalom 3 to Nee Kim’s house, I watched as Bobby and Khai Khai took charge in chaperoning the younger kids. This brotherly and sisterly love displayed by the older children to the younger ones was evident during the tuition as well. After lunch, on Wednesday, we played a game called 7up, which was a game that tested their multiples of seven. Within 30 minutes or so, almost everyone within the circle had fumbled and done the forfeit. What remained indelible in my memory was the encouragement and cajoling offered by the whole group, especially when the shyer kids had to come up to perform the forfeit. The whole group would join in singing the Alphabet song, or in singing their Burmese traditional song with the ‘performer’. The mood was always fun and silly, with the older children being sporting enough to perform hilarious monkey imitations. There was no such thing as a failure; the only success that the children saw and encouraged, was the willingness to try. No child got left behind in that safe-to-fail love and care that the children showed for each other.
Finally, we also provided English remedial classes for the E-learning students. As with the primary school students, many of the students were proactive in their learning, often asking questions on how to improve their writing and grammar. However, the differences in the students’ different levels were also more pronounced in the E-learning centre. The resources and structure of the E-learning centre had enabled many of the students to self-learn through web resources and books from the library at the E-learning centre.
Beyond classroom learning, students there were given an opportunity to grow as leaders, leaders who would lead by serving and taking on responsibility.
On Friday morning, we came to attend Christine’s morning devotions, and witnessed how she inspired and encouraged the students to take personal responsibility for the maintenance of their library and classrooms. Beyond classroom learning, students there were given an opportunity to grow as leaders, leaders who would lead by serving and taking on responsibility.
The time that we spent in remedial with the students, however short, left a lasting impression on us. During lessons, we taught them grammar rules, such as the simple tenses, usage of nouns, subject-verb agreement and the different forms of verbs.
On the last day, we got the students to attempt a descriptive composition on the “Happiest day of my life”. We did not have time to read and to mark the essays during the trip, but I did manage to do so upon returning from Klang. It was touching to read their heartfelt moments of happiness. In reading their essays, we got to share their happiness. Despite their sometimes less-than-perfect grammar, all of them wrote powerfully with honest and bare emotions.
When the time came, it was hard to bid our goodbyes but also hard to feel sad among the ever-bubbly children, who crowded us for photos, Facebook contacts, numbers and playful demands to know when we would be back. And so, we left Klang with feelings of peace and gratefulness, renewed in the love that the students had showed to us and to each other.