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“Skills program helps underprivileged youth”
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“Skills program helps underprivileged youth”

Even as education rates rise, some students are being left behind. Santhiya Ramadas, 27, a Correspondent from Malaysia, describes a unique organisation that gives vulnerable youth a path to skills and a livelihood.

You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day; you teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime. This is the philosophy that MySkills Foundation not only preaches, but practices diligently in their organization.

MySkills Foundation, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is not your ordinary non-governmental organization. It operates as a social enterprise. It focuses on reforming the lives of many underprivileged youths who have been deprived of their basic rights not just to have an education, but also to have a decent life in general.

Looking at the current trend in the literacy rate among youths aged 15-24, we do see a positive improvement. According to the data from UNICEF, the rate of youth literacy has increased from 83 per cent to 91 per cent over two decades, thanks to the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the world. Yet, there is still a large percentage of illiteracy among youths in many parts of the world, especially evident in West and Central Africa and South Asia.

Let’s shift our focus to Malaysia, which is among the rapidly growing developing countries. Education in Malaysia is accessible to every child up until the secondary level, thanks to government initiatives. But, is an accessible education alone enough to prepare a child or a youth for the real world? Statistics from the country’s Education Ministry show that 30 per cent of the population do not continue their secondary education. There are negative forces such as gangsterism, drugs, teen pregnancy and dysfunctional family background that have been plaguing youths for many years. Most youths manage to strive through, but there are a certain group of them who succumb to those bad vibes surrounding them.

But not all of the education hurdles involve social issues; there are groups of youth who get expelled from the education system simply because they do not have an interest in studying, or can not cope with the syllabus and thus are labelled as failures. What happens then to these kids who do not have a clear pathway or guidance? While some may end up making something useful out of their lives through their own initiative and hard work, others may drift into a troubled life.

There are many organisations to help youths who are having a problematic life by equipping them with essential skills that they can use to sustain and lead their own lives independently.

MySkills Foundation is one such non-profit organisation that helps train underprivileged youths to become skilled workers. It has volunteers ranging from pastry chefs and secretaries to teachers and technicians who help in training these youths to become skilled workers. My experience with the Foundation came about when I heard from a friend about a café run completely by underprivileged youths. There, I witnessed how the food was made and served by the youths themselves. The cashier was one of the young trainees as well.

The youths are supervised by one of the managers of the Foundation. These are all school dropouts, abused children and those who were once involved in drugs or gangsterism. They were well trained and groomed to suit the needs of the real working world. All the earnings from the café operation are used to give allowance for the youths, and to maintain the café. Once they are well trained in this café, they are then provided job opportunities outside the Foundation. The Foundation has also taken the initiative to open up a garage to facilitate training in mechanical related skills. The social enterprise that they are working on seems to really help a lot of youths, who gain a reason to believe in themselves, feel accepted, and take control of their lives in a respectable manner.

These initiatives give a positive perspective on what can be done to help youths who have been neglected. They shed a light on the different approaches that can be taken to realign troubled children’s lives. There are many other children who are waiting for opportunities like this, and it would be an immense help if other organizations come forward to help the many others who are in need of proper guidance to be trained and well outfitted to survive the working world.

photo credit: Mr.Sai 小麥菓子 via photopin (license)
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About me: I am a young and ambitious secondary school English Language teacher. I love all things involving adventure, seeking knowledge, children and travelling. Trying new things and pushing the boundaries to challenge myself in various aspects of life just to get to know myself as an individual even better is what drives me.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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