On Feb 28, a group of Sikh educationists and alumni members from University of Malaya (UM) met face-to-face with some 40 students in Ipoh, Perak. Their task: help them succeed. Dr Surinderpal Kaur, a senior lecturer at UM, was part of the core experts team. She shares her experience with Asia Samachar.
By Surinderpal Kaur
For far too long the education of our young people has focused singularly upon moulding them into future employees. The social and emotional development of students has been vastly neglected in favour of educational needs that focus upon academic success and equipping students with the skills that would help them climb the ladder of material success.
The big question here is – what happens to the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of young people? We are not only producing students who are not quite ready to face the challenges of life, but also severely curtailing the progress of students who face economic, physical, mental and emotional disadvantages
It was with this in mind that a group of eight of us, all alumni from the University of Malaya, drove up to meet a group of Sikh students in Ipoh, Perak. [See Asia Samachar report: 40 students start one-year pilot project in Perak].
Our brief was simple yet daunting – we were tasked with getting to know the students and to work on a programme that incorporates their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being with their educational needs.
While we had an idea of what to expect – many of the young people we were going to meet were from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as from single parent families – we had no idea about the students themselves. We didn’t have a clue about their personalities, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and their concerns and fears in life.
If we were going to make an impact in their lives, we would need to build a relationship with them first, and to earn their trust. We were certain we would need to work slowly towards building a bond with the students and that couldn’t be done with traditional teacher-student activities. We needed a different approach, one that would allow us, and the students, to open up to one another.
So we decided to embark on activities which would explore the affective dimension of the students – how they feel, what they think, what types of issues they are aware about – in short, the ‘touchy feely’ stuff instead of the cognitive stuff.
The students were obviously taken aback by what we asked them to do. They had come there prepared to undergo another run-of-the-mill revision seminar. But they soon got into the activities and started having fun. With the fun, came the relaxing of their guards, and many of them started opening up.
We learnt that some of them have deep seated fears and worries that almost cripple their educational progress. Some are unable to focus on one thing, their minds (and bodies) flitting around like dizzy butterflies. Others have emotional problems stemming from their relationships with other people. Some have anger management issues and others have control issues. Yet others seem fairly well adjusted despite their economic background. One thing most of them had in common – they want to pull themselves out of their negative life experiences, make the most of their potential, and enjoy life to the fullest.
At the end of the day, many of them came to us, exchanging phone numbers, wanting to keep in touch while waiting for the next seminar. In their eyes, we saw their hope that we would be able to help change their lives for the better. Trust is not built in one encounter but the seeds of trust have been laid, and we were truly touched by their faith in us.
We have been given the responsibility to provide the utmost care and attention to the students in Perak in terms of their social, emotional and spiritual development in the pursuit of education. The task we have taken on seems enormous, and we are committed to it in the long run. We pray that Waheguru gives us the strength to continue, and to show us the way to bring about positive changes in the lives of these promising young people. – ASIA SAMACHAR (4 March 2015)
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
UM Sikhs moulding young minds in Ipoh (Asia Samachar, 4 Mar 2015)
40 students start one-year pilot project in Perak (Asia Samachar, 3 Mar 2015)