Kuala Lumpur, 18 November 2008 - Christopher leaned towards the computer screen to check his email at the Faculty of Management and Information Technology (FOMIT)’s computer lab. He was among ten 13- to 17-year-olds from the GOSM Precious Network, Petaling Jaya, to get weekly computer classes at UCSI University.
Most of them are having their school break; the rest are lagging in their studies, after being neglected or homeless for some time. The parents of most of these children are currently undergoing rehabilitation programmes and before they get on their feet again, the children are placed in stable homes, cared for by the dedicated staff of the GOSM Precious Network, ensuring that not only their basic needs are being taken care of, but that of education as well.
This is where Associate Dean of FOMIT, Mr. Stephen Corneilius and lecturer, Ms. Sharon Lee step in, to help the students hands-on, by engaging members of the faculty, not only to teach these children valuable computer and language skills, but also commit part of their monthly salaries to defray the home’s monthly utility bills.
The scene at the lab was typical of UCSI’s commitment to society’s underprivileged.
Ms. Sharon bent down to check a boy’s worksheet, as he could not spell the word ‘eleven’. “The children need to be taught basic English before they can use the computer,” she says. Simple exercises prepared by lecturers at FOMIT and administered weekly, ensures that the children reach a stage where they can use the computer independently to set up their own email accounts, surf the Internet, and learn basic computer software applications.
The Faculty’s commitment to the Precious Network began in early August 2008. A visit to the home was undertaken to acclimatize staff members to the children’s situation. “I found that what we could truly offer as a University was education, and education for these children can go a long way in the long run,” Ms. Sharon says. This is in line with UCSI University’s mission to provide equal opportunity education to all.
General Overseer of the GOSM Precious Network, Rev. Dr. Robert Judah Paul concurs with this. “These weekly classes may seem small in comparison to the many other classes going on at UCSI University, but it is monumental for the children and for the home as well,” he says.
The GOSM Precious Network operates near the Chow Kit district of Kuala Lumpur, and provides food relief and shelter, rehabilitation opportunities and facilities as well as counseling sessions.
The children are also taught to give back to society, despite coming from harsh backgrounds.
“During school holidays, the children are encouraged to go out and do social work themselves. We want to teach them to give back to society, and learn the joys of giving instead of taking, like they have for most of their lives,” said Danny, one of the guardians at GOSM.
Danny also says that UCSI University is the first higher education institution to help out this home through its computer classes. “It’s surreal, because we pass by many private colleges and universities, but were never able to see past their main gates. Just being inside the campus grounds is life-changing for some of the children, as they feel that there is hope for a better life for them,” he says.
There are 14 homes under the care of the GOSM Precious Network. Over 600 individuals were picked up from the streets and at least 45% of them have been integrated back into society and continue their lives as dedicated citizens.
Apart from basic necessities such as food, clothing, books, toiletries and pocket money for the school-going children, the Precious Network also needs funds to pay for its utilities, as well as wages and allowances for a full time staff.
The weekly computer classes at UCSI University is but a small step for the children to succeed in life, but for now, the light at the end of the tunnel never seemed brighter.