Education is essential for all children to learn the basic skills required to survive daily life, such as reading and writing, as well as gain an understanding of the world around them. Children also develop confidence and interpersonal skills from schooling that helps them to deal with new experiences as they grow, and prepares them for adulthood. A good education ignites curiosity, forges connections and opens opportunities, enabling young people to pursue their dreams with confidence.
Unfortunately for many young refugees, such educational experiences are disrupted, restricted or simply not available for much of their childhood and teenage years. Many refugee children have had inadequate schooling in their home countries through persecution and instability, and any schooling has necessarily been put on hold whilst they have fled and sought protection in a new country. In Malaysia, refugees do not have access to formal education, and whilst some attend refugee-run community learning centres, access to these is limited and resources are scarce.
For teenage refugees in Malaysia, the situation is particularly difficult. With fewer educational opportunities that meet their needs and pressure to earn a living, the UNHCR estimates that just three percent of refugees aged 13-18 are enrolled in any form of schooling. Some are compelled to take odd jobs in the informal sector, often dirty and dangerous work, in order to support themselves and their families. Their situation is uncertain, not knowing if they will be resettled, remain in Malaysia, or return to their home country to rebuild their lives. Many suffer from anxiety caused by feelings of alienation and insecurity about their future.
Project Self Help creates an opportunity many refugee youths have never had – a structured and quality education that will enable them to take on life’s challenges with valuable skills and greater confidence. It is a chance for them to acquire new skills at an age where they have great capacity and energy to learn, yet few options to do so.Project Self Help enables refugees on the brink of adulthood to have better choices, greater empowerment and increased self-reliance for their future, whatever that may hold.
The expertise of HELP as a well-established tertiary and vocational education provider, and the UNHCR’s experience in working with refugees in Malaysia have been harnessed in establishing the programme.
“This project is an actualisation of HELP’s mission statement which is to help people succeed in life and lead a life of significance through education. At HELP we feel that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, social or economic background should have equal opportunity to education,” said Adam Chan, Executive Director of HELP International Corporation Berhad.
“Project Self Help is a very important initiative as refugees in Malaysia do face difficult circumstances, especially refugee youths who don’t have easy access to formal opportunities for education and vocational training,” said Alan Vernon, UNHCR Representative.
“UNHCR is pleased to collaborate with HELP Education Group on this as it provides refugee youths a chance to learn practical skills in an organised manner which will help them in their future.”