Written by Hamsaveni Vigneswararao (2015)
Being away in a foreign land opens your eyes to what can be taken back to your own, and that is precisely what inspired 2017 Alumna Ras Atiqah binti Mohd Rosli, to return after her studies in the United States to teach the children of Malaysia.
Why Join Teach For Malaysia?
During her university years, Ras Atiqah was heavily involved with the international and local community through her participation in the International Student Council. According to her, “My involvement with International Student Council was one of the best things I’ve experienced at Iowa State University as I was able to learn about the different cultures from different parts of the world.”
This exposure made her decide to join the Teach For Malaysia (TFM) Fellowship in her final year of university. “Being away from Malaysia for three years and learning about the different countries around the world, especially the United States, inspired me to use the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained to help build a better Malaysia.”
“I am not from a well-off family but education helped me secure great opportunities such as being accepted to one of the most prestigious boarding schools in Malaysia and then securing a scholarship to further my studies in the US. Therefore, I know it’s time for me to give back and make a difference in the lives of others.”
The Fellowship Journey: Highs and Lows
The moment of victory for Ras Atiqah’s students during the Accenture Student Leadership Camp, October 2018.
As with most Fellows, when Ras Atiqah was posted to her school and got her first taste of the Fellowship, she felt she was in for quite a ride. Going to school and serving as a teacher on weekdays, and then attending the mandatory Post-Graduate Diploma of Education (PGDE) classes on weekends was tiring, and she sometimes questioned if it was worth the time and energy.
Challenges were numerous in the teaching portion of the Fellowship as well. “Teaching Sejarah (History) in the weakest class was one of the challenges which consumed a lot of my time and energy. This was because Sejarah was considered a boring subject by the students. On top of that, the students from this particular class could not read and some didn’t even understand Bahasa Melayu. They would usually leave the Sejarah textbook at home because they didn’t care and were not interested to learn.”
“A lot of times I told myself to be kind and patient but despite this, some students in the class rebelled by not answering questions or lying to me that they had left their books at home when they actually had the books in their bags. During these tough times, I would break down into tears when I was alone. I wasn’t sure if I was more disappointed in them or myself,” she said.
Over time, Ras Atiqah picked herself up and tried different strategies to get the students interested, such as by creating simpler activities, summarising lessons into three main points she wanted them to take away, and conducting quizzes after each session. This slowly turned the tide for her. Another high point she experienced was when she coached a group of students to a win during the Accenture Student Leadership Camp. While it was certainly a thrill to win, what she really appreciated was her students getting greater exposure through the competition and seeing the growth in their confidence and proactiveness.
Overall, her thoughts on the Fellowship are, “The Fellowship experience was truly memorable and somehow I wish each step that I took throughout the journey was recorded by a secret CCTV so I can watch it over and over again. There were definitely many highs compared to lows. I got goosebumps every time the quiet students pushed themselves to speak in front of the class. I went speechless when once a student said, “Thank you, miss. Without you, we will be left behind”.
Time and time again, my students proved to me that nothing is impossible and with just a little push, trust and encouragement, they can do wonders! I sincerely believe the small gestures we make, the smiles, the laughter, the kind words, and the effort we make to show our love to the kids go a long way in creating a bigger impact in the lives of the students.”
Life after the Fellowship
After her two years in the Fellowship, Ras Atiqah decided to join Project ID, a social enterprise founded and run by TFM alumni (currently led by Kelvin Tan, Loh Chee Hoo, Kamil Hakime, and Gabriel Samson) which focuses on improving the socioeconomic status of underserved communities through education. “Two years of the Fellowship exposed me to the different needs of students, and one of those needs is training in soft skills. Working with the team members of Project ID has been truly an inspirational and empowering experience for me. Project ID focuses on building students’ career aspirations, leadership skills and values which help students to go out of their comfort zones and work hard to achieve their dreams regardless of their backgrounds. This focus resonates with me as I believe educating and exposing students to different skills and values will open up greater doors for them in life.”
Despite having completed the Fellowship, Ras Atiqah also continues to stay involved with Teach For Malaysia; she is a member of this year’s Teach For All Asia Pacific Alumni Gathering planning committee. Teach For All is a Global Education Network which Teach For Malaysia is a part of, alongside sister organisations in over 80 countries.
Her Advice for Potential TFM Candidates
Ras Atiqah hopes that more candidates will join the Fellowship and support the mission. “Joining the Fellowship is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Being able to be on the front line and making a difference in the system is truly an eye-opening experience. These two years as a Fellow have motivated me to create bigger impact and increase awareness of the reality faced by students in Malaysia’s education system. I believe that each one of us can play our own unique role in helping all children get an excellent education, so really, don’t hesitate to apply!”
Ras Atiqah Mohd Rosli is a 2017 Alumnus who taught at a high-need school in Pasir Gudang, Johor. She graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and International Studies from Iowa State University. Ras Atiqah is currently attached to Project ID, a social enterprise that runs empowerment programmes focusing on values, leadership, and career aspirations.
Teach For Malaysia recruits, trains and supports Fellows to teach in high-need schools across the nation. Beyond the Fellowship, our Alumni continue to champion education in different ways. As of 2019, we’ve impacted over 92,000 students, working with the Ministry of Education and other partners.