Discipline. Perseverance. Confidence.
For many students in this school in Sarawak, these characteristics don’t come easily.
They struggle to be punctual for class. And when they’re there, they struggle to stay focused in class – often staring blankly at the questions on the board.
Recognising these challenges, 2015 Teach For Malaysia Alumnus, Fabian Lim sought a solution through sports.
Taekwondo, to be specific.
Every Sunday for the past year, Fabian trained his students in Taekwondo. These sessions were not just for fun. Fabian was striving for tangible outcomes that will help his students in many facets of their lives, both now and in the future. As a registered trainer holding a 1st Degree black belt awarded by the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), Fabian opened up opportunities for his students they otherwise would not have had in semi-rural Sarawak.
He captured videos of his students during examination performances. These were then forwarded to Taekwondo Masters in Kuala Lumpur and South Korea, allowing his students to achieve certified international recognition for their efforts. As many as 12 students passed their exams and had their certificates flown in from Korea!
Most of them are in the running to skip a grade level if they continue performing as they have. This carrot has led to remarkable changes in a number of students.
“Certification at the international level requires hard work. It cannot be handed out for free,” said Fabian. The monetary payment Fabian extracts is nominal at RM3 per session. The main mode of payment is discipline and perseverance, which Fabian believes will be repaid many times over in the real world. “Taekwondo builds character which will carry students through a world where mindsets count more than anything. Paper certificates are an additional boost.”
His students readily articulated how the classes have compelled them to push themselves in other areas of life. One of them proclaimed, “I am braver and more willing to accept challenges. I try harder before giving up.”
Another student in the vocational stream shares how he can repair more furniture than before. “I am so much more focused now!” he said.
Fabian noticed additional examples of how Taekwondo has contributed to improved student behaviour and engagement. Form 5 students — who after years of disgruntled apathy — have become easier to approach and counsel. They are ever more ready to help their peers and their teachers. Punctuality has improved and, academically, they have become more willing to attempt difficult questions they normally leave unanswered. Some of them, despite being at a late stage in their school lives, have even won the trust of the school disciplinary board and have been appointed prefects.
Fabian’s ultimate aim is for one of his students to eventually gain a black belt. In his eyes, there is no better indicator of a disciplined, perseverant and confident human being. Given his students’ progress, it’s only a matter of time before that is achieved.
Fabian Lim taught at a high-need school in Subis, Sarawak for two years. Before joining the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship, Fabian worked for 5 years in the agriculture sector. He graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons) in Crop Production from Universiti Malaysia Sabah.