2020 would have been filled with many exciting programmes at ElShaddai Refugee Learning Centre (ERLC). Unfortunately, Covid-19 happened, and even the very much awaited Sports Day of 17 April had to be cancelled. The Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced and the learning centre had to close as of 15 March.
We at ElShaddai Centre did not sit idle. During that period of total lockdown we were kept active by new needs and tasks, for example we initiated relief efforts in food distribution and financial relief to refugee and immigrant families most affected by the MCO.
The initial and unfortunate two weeks of lockdown was extended to two months and beyond.
A direct hit was suffered by our secondary education division, EXCEL Learning Centre, where eight students had registered to take the IGCSE May 2020 exam and were in the midst of intensive preparation. We had to react quickly by providing them with internet data, allowing them to borrow laptops from the centre and introducing online classes. However, due to the global pandemic, the exam was postponed to October.
What’s more, teachers started to miss their students and, out of their own initiative, started to connect with them through WhatsApp and prescribed them homework. Many students though, had no internet connectivity and thus, were unable to participate. This is a great shame as these students have been disadvantaged in terms of educational benefits and social skills.
The pandemic brought out yet another responsibility for ElShaddai Centre. While distributing food during the lockdown, we were put in touch with many new refugees and irregular migrant communities in various places all over the country; some were even referred to us by an embassy. Though no one was allowed to travel interstate, help managed to reach them, thanks to our partners of the Malaysian Diaspora Network.
When finally interstate travel was allowed, we quickly took action and went to meet these communities in the East Coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, as well as Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. The strategy was to build sustainable platforms of education to consistently engage and uplift these communities. From July to September, two new learning centres were launched in Kota Kinabalu in the Suluk and Bajau communities, and one in Kuantan within the Cambodian Cham community.
Proactively and in anticipation of the preventive measures that must be put in place when learning centres were to reopen, ElShaddai Centre launched three projects.
IMMEDIATE RESPONSIVE ACTION
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who says to Zion, “”Your God reigns!””
The pandemic has brought much fear, many uncertainties, and additional sufferings to many. But at ElShaddai Centre, we strive for a better tomorrow, and therefore we continue to promote and bring hope, support and healing to those most in need. At a time like this, we are reminded of Isaiah 52:7
– Contributed by Dr. Ng Oi Leng, Executive and Education Director