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Meet Ayu. A Successful Orang Asli Educator Who Is Paying It Forward

Ayu A/P Majid, 25 years old was born in Kampung Chengkelik, R.P.S. Kuala Betis, Gua Musang, Kelantan. Gua Musang is home to a sizable community of Orang Asli’s of which Ayu is one of them.

As a young girl, Ayu had very noble aspirations of becoming a teacher. She had ‘pretend play’ sessions with her friends where she taught them under a tree and her ‘students’ would listen attentively.

Although she had great aspirations, Ayu remembers feeling clueless as she had no guidance or advice on the education path towards becoming a teacher. Right after she finished her SPM examinations, she started applying for teaching roles.

She bagged herself some interviews, however, Ayu quickly realised that her lack of confidence and overwhelming nerves were her downfall. It quickly brought her interviews to an abrupt end.  Not only was she rendered speechlessly, but she was also made aware of her lack of soft skills and teaching experience.

After several rounds of rejection, Ayu was on the brink of giving up when she heard about SOLS 24/7, a humanitarian organisation, committed to serve, educate and empower poor and underserved communities. SOLS 24/7 was running an educational program in her village and with the encouragement and support from her cousin, Ayu applied.

Within two weeks of joining the classes, Ayu’s passion for teaching reignited. She was in awe of the different teaching techniques displayed by the trainers and was touched by their sincerity and passion to educate.

Ayu noticed that a majority of the students in the program had stark similarities in the stories they shared. Many of them were struggling in life, even as a young child and opportunities to advance were limited. Just like her, many of the students were clueless on what the future holds or how to reach their aspirations.

At that point in time, I had already been offered a teaching position under SOLS 24/7. When I saw their [the students’] struggle I was even more inspired to help these kids. This was my opportunity. This was my chance to make a change.

Since joining the SOLS 24/7 teaching team, Ayu has been focused on helping the underserved – regardless of race, religion or background. Whoever was searching for an education, or needed a teacher, Ayu wanted to be the person to rely on.  She understood and could empathise with the plight of underserved children when it comes to education and realising their dreams. She was once there.

As an Orang Asli, education was a privilege. Ayu’s grandparents and parents did not have any formal education. Her community sorely lacked basic soft skills such as communication, problem solving and critical thinking to thrive in life. Language was a huge hurdle as Ayu remembers struggling to converse in Bahasa Malaysia, let alone learning elementary English. It wasn’t easy surviving her school years.

I was bullied throughout my school life for being different. From primary all the way to when I finished my SPM. I was picked on by the boys. The bullying got so bad that I wasn’t able to walk around the school on my own because I was always scared. I couldn’t talk about it to the teachers, and since I was living in a hostel, I would only be able to go back to see my family once every month. It was really hard to not question “Why am I in school?”. It would be so much easier if I had just stayed at home.

Yet, despite the mounting challenges, Ayu refused to give up. Keeping the livelihood of her parents and siblings in mind, Ayu knew that if she didn’t take her education seriously, there was no guarantee that her family would be able to live a better life. With her family at heart, Ayu was able to keep moving forward. Now, Ayu teaches a subject that she previously struggled with – English!

Gadis Orang Asli Guru

As a teacher that had been certified under SOLS 24/7, I wanted to be a vessel of a second chance. There is not just one straight route to achieving your dreams. So long as you are willing to keep trying, there is always an opportunity.

With lots of hard work and grit, Ayu successfully earned the job of her dreams. As a teacher with SOLS24/7, Ayu aspires to develop and build the Orang Asli community and ensure that children can speak and write English well in order to multiply their chances of success in the future.

If I were given the opportunity to talk to the younger generation, I would tell them to stay open-minded. Don’t be careless, and throw away opportunities. Don’t waste your potential. I know education can be difficult, but it is so important.

Special note: All photos used are from Ayu’s personal collection, with permission.

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