SISEAP Education Day

Malaysia – Building Bridges Beyond Borders – 5 refugee schools

Soroptimist International Educates, Empowers and Enables females to realise true potential. It is widely demonstrated that education is the key for escaping poverty, for a girl, woman, family, community and a country. Education is the pathway for empowerment and choice as an informed citizen, as highly skilled worker or entrepreneur or advocate or ethical politician.  Community education underpins social cohesion and resilience capacity in adverse situation like conflict, disasters or disease. So, ensuring girls and women have a chance to be educated in basic, intermediate or advanced skills and knowledge, is the wisest long-term investment. Furthermore, educating girls is the key for doubling GDP for whole countries, as women assume gender-equal-futures. Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, with seven targets, three means of implementation.

Asia Pacific Context

In SISEAP, the Day of the Girl Child in October 2022 webinar gave girls a voice. Some had been brides at age 13, some escaped the slave trade, some were not entitled to free education, some had a chance to be educated through Soroptimist supported refugee schools, and some started a soroptimist club at their own High School.  For Education Day in 2023 across the federation, we concluded that several countries had not signed the universal basic human rights, some did not see the benefit of educating girls, and some were not culturally attuned to SDG 8.7 nor the UN Global Compact on Migration. The Asia Pacific Region has been described with the highest risk of:

  • accelerating modern slavery during Covid
  • displacement due to recurring disasters from climate change and earthquakes
  • migration due to labour shortages and national governance
  • migration to transition countries means no laws and probably a decade of uncertainty
  • refugees are at risk because transition countries do not invest in education and skills development, as population may be transient
  • girls at risk because the transition countries may have no rights to education
  • female refugees may have multiple risk factors and limited choices.


BBBB Malaysia – Building Bridges Beyond Borders – 5 refugee schools

SISEAP Goal 2, Objective: Education SDG Goal 4: Quality Education: SDG Target: 4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.


YTL Foundation, Just Volunteers! (UK), University of Bath, UK, Durham University, UK, Sunway University Malaysia, Monash University Malaysia, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Rumah Aman, Myanmar Refugee Community Learning Centre (MRCLC) and Agape Home, Myanmar refugee schools under YTL’s support.

Identified problems

  1. According to UNHCR Malaysia – Malaysia hosts some 181,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. 85% are from Myanmar including 103,000 Rohingyas. The remaining are from 50 other countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia. 45,650 are children below 18 years.
  2. Children in refugee schools like MRCLC do not have access to formal educational opportunities and depend on volunteer teachers and NGOs for support. Children in local orphanages have a poor command of English and benefit greatly from volunteer teachers which SID provides.
  3. During Covid -19 lockdown from 2020 – 2021, the BBBB programme was conducted online as overseas travel was not permitted. In lifting of travel restrictions and re-opening of schools in mid-2022 we transitioned back to face-to -face teaching while maintaining online classes in some centres.


What we did

SID works closely with our partner Just Volunteers! in UK to source and place enthusiastic, reliable, and dedicated university students or fresh young graduates to serve as volunteer teachers and mentors in our partner homes including MRCLC (a school for Myanmar refugee students), Rumah Aman, an orphanage for local Malay children, and Agape Home, a residential home for Orang Asli (indigenous) children.

In 2019, we established a relationship with University of Bath who send students in their placement year to our BBBB programme – these students returned to serve in-person after Covid restrictions eased.  The students earn university credits for this placement. University of Durham students also serve online part-time, mainly at Agape. We recruited several volunteers from local universities – Sunway University, Monash and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) to teach both online and in-person.

Impact and Outcomes

The past decade proved very successful, growing in strength and reach, touching the lives of close to 1500 children from marginalised and underprivileged communities. In 2022 alone, we impacted nearly 1000 children, opening their eyes to wider possibilities, increased their command of both spoken and written English, and improved their self-confidence. Volunteers monitor students’ progress online, through regular tests, and report to Soroptimist International Damansara(SID).

Several refugee students who were relocated to USA have successfully graduated from high school while some completed their university education and are now gainfully employed.

In 2022, we placed 28 young women university students to serve as volunteer teachers, mentors and role models and they equally benefitted from this experience, learning about a different country and culture. Some volunteers have described this experience as “life-changing” and fulfilling.

Corporate sponsorship from Azman Hashim Foundation and YTL Foundation allowed us to continue for so many years because we provide free accommodation, and a nominal allowance monthly to cover food and transport to overseas volunteers.

SID was awarded the SISWP Best Practice Award with a Special Award for “Mentor Young Creators” (2018-2020) and again for the BBBB On-line project (2022).

View the PowerPoint presentation from the SI Webinar on International Day of Education HERE

Sarah Wilkin


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