In the race for straight As, a movement teaches kids the most important values

As 2013 draws to a close, Malaysia has seen its fair share of events with people who either inspire or bring despair to the country. It has been a year where some feel a sense of entitlement, that it is their way or the highway, that they have to make a name for themselves no matter what and where the little people's hopes have risen and have also been shattered. Yet, there are the few who do good work quietly to help their fellow man, to make Malaysia a better place. Over the next few days, The Malaysian Insider will feature some of them – Malaysia's Inspiring People 2013 – the ordinary heroes who never cease to amaze us with their perseverance, diligence, empathy and vision for a happier nation.

Sick and tired of an education system that teaches kids to compete instead of cooperate, and to be number one instead of helping the weak, Anas Alam Faizli began a movement which helps poor students all over Malaysia to excel in their studies.

"Teach for The Needs", or known as TFTN, is an education movement that aims to put concepts such as love and cooperation back into education so that no child, no matter how poor or weak, is left behind.

The philosophy is a balm to the obsession that has been drilled into Malaysian children that all they should care about is getting the most As at the expense of values like helping others, says the 33-year-old oil and gas professional.

He adds that the current system has also led to the creation of a vast underclass of Malaysian children.

These kids start out weak in reading and arithmetic and are dumped by school administrators into bottom rung classes where they don't get as much attention as the high-scoring students in the upper-rung classes.

"The gap between the smart pupils and not-smart kids will increase. It’s going to be a big issue. They are kids who are not smart when they finish Primary One and they won’t be smart even when they go through Primary Six.

Anas Alam Faizli wants to include love and cooperation in education. – The Malaysian Insider pic by by Nazir Sufari, December 27, 2013.

“There’s this school in Kuala Lumpur where there’s a whole class of Primary Six pupils who can’t even read. When you have Primary Six pupils who cannot read, there is something wrong with our education system,” the TFTN director told The Malaysian Insider.

“Our aim is to nurture love and cooperation. Our children are constantly competing at school among themselves. At the end, there is no feeling of solidarity, of helping each other, there is no compassion.

“The smart should help the weak, not compete against them until the weak get left behind,” says Anas Alam, who studied in Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah, Klang, and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

The movement started on Facebook among a few friends and they started to volunteer to teach kids from poor families.

“We wanted to help families who could not not afford to pay RM100 a year for extra tuition. So we offer free tuition three times a week to a select group of kids.”

Now in its second year, TFTN has 800 volunteers including 300 university students and 60 teachers.

Most of the children it teaches are orphans and as such, TFTN holds its classes in orphanages. There are currently classes in 12 orphanages in Malaysia, including in Sabah and Sarawak.

It also runs campaigns such as #TFTNMembaca, #TFTNCinta dan #TFTNFikir.

Anas Alam says that the movement is 100% voluteer driven, from its teaching and support staff to its funding.

Instead of relying on one big donor, TFTN raises money through fundrasing dinners, carboot sales and by selling its own merchandise.

“Our operations are all done at minimum cost. Our office is on Facebook and all discussions are done through Facebook and apps such as Whatsapp,” Anas Alam says.

To date, it gets no money from the government, although TFTN has been invited for round table discussions, he adds.

“We do not want to get any permanent donors as we do not want our activities to be influenced by their agendas.”

Anas Alam has big plans for the movement. In the future, the movement plans to launch a campaign to examine the National Education Development Plan 2013-2025 which had been launched by Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Right now, it is just about the schoolchildren who can do better if there is some love and cooperation with teachers who are interested in teaching. – December 27, 2013.

Teach for The Needs believes that that no child, no matter how poor or weak, should be left behind. – Pic courtesy of TFTN, December 27, 2013.