Untapping success

The school in Malaysia helping refugees build a brighter future

Kuala Lumpur’s Ideas Academy is providing high-quality education to refugees and stateless children whose families have found life in Malaysia starker than expected

Madeleine Keck
October 23, 2017

An Ideas Academy classroom in action

For millions of students worldwide, a day at school can often be the last way they would choose to spend their time. Terrifying teachers, bickering over popularity and the pressure of achieving good grades often render one’s school days far from memorable, much less enjoyable. Yet many students do not realise quite how lucky they are, or consider, even for a moment, that for millions of others the opportunity for an education has been snatched away by extreme violence and war.

In Malaysia, this is where Ideas Academy comes in. The learning centre educates refugees and stateless children aged between 12 and 19 who have arrived from countries such as neighbouring Myanmar or as far afield as Afghanistan. The idea is to reach those who find themselves unable to enrol in the country’s national school system because they do not have legal status or the right to remain in the country.

Located in the Pudu area of Kuala Lumpur, the academy opened in 2014 as a joint venture between the Institute for Democratic and Economic Affairs and Stichting Young Refugee Cause, a Dutch foundation that seeks to improve the lives of refugees through education.

The school’s six teachers offer an international Cambridge curriculum, which general manager Sopiah Suid said allows students to continue their studies when they move on, wherever that might be.

“From a long-term perspective, we would like to see our students succeed in life – not just be gainfully employed but able to take their place as responsible, ethical and empowered citizens of the world,” she said.  “We would like to increase our student numbers as there are many underprivileged and displaced students out there. We have 125 students currently for the September 2017 intake but we have about 60 more on the waiting list.”

Ateeba Anjum, 19,  joined the Academy two years ago after arriving in Malaysia from Pakistan. She credits the school for giving her the tools to come up with a clear career goal: becoming a fashion designer.

“For me, I think education is the only key to success. It’s the only way I can fulfil my dreams and the most important thing in my life,” she said. “Sometimes I feel very helpless when I can’t help members of my family. My responsibility is to get myself educated so I can help them in future. They are building their present, but I am building their future.”

This article was published in the October edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here

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