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Najwa: Giving Stateless Children A Reason To Dream Again Via Cahaya Society 

 Wiki Impact celebrates Teacher’s Day 2023 by honouring teachers who go above and beyond to ensure that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, citizenship, abilities, or background, have access to education. Their names may not immediately ring a bell, but these unsung heroes have positively impacted countless lives and futures. 

Najwa’s wisdom belies her age, as she calmly narrates her story and how she gives back to the centre that taught her to read and write. Despite wishing to speak more confidently in public, she has already become an inspiring role model for stateless children in Sandakan, Sabah.

Najwa’s story started in 2019, when she was 12 years old. She along with 12 other stateless children in Sandakan, Sabah attended Cahaya Society, formerly known as Cahaya Learning Centre. 

It was here that she discovered the immense power of education as a fundamental pillar in life. Her exceptional teacher, Cikgu Rin, played a significant role in shaping her outlook towards education.

Cikgu Rin told me that education must always be a priority. He said that I must not compromise on getting a good education in life.  

Inspired by Cikgu Rin, Najwa decided to become a teacher herself and returned to the centre as an educator, teaching basic skills such as holding a pencil, learning the alphabets, and reading to stateless children.

She [Cikgu Rin] made such a big difference in my life. I will always remember how she taught us. 

A year after completing her studies, Najwa returned to the centre as a trainee teacher with Cikgu Rin as a mentor. Cikgu Rin continues to teach Najwa to be a better teacher through different teaching techniques and life lessons. 

I learned a lot from Cikgu Rin. I love observing how she teaches in class and I will try to apply different learning techniques in my class too. 

Her classes cater to stateless children who often lack the basic knowledge of holding a pencil, learning the alphabets, and reading. Many of these stateless children come from illiterate families, lacking the foundational knowledge that other children take for granted. 

Despite the seeming simplicity of these lessons, their impact is profound, as Najwa has already seen some of her students move up to higher classes within a year.

I often start by teaching the children how to hold a pencil properly, learn alphabets and do simple reading. The progress may be slow but recently, I saw four of my students advance to another class. 

Najwa’s dedication to teaching goes beyond just chasing her own ambitions. It stems from a deep desire to be accepted and valued by society, as she remembers the loneliness and isolation she felt due to her own stateless status. She implores others to see beyond the label of “stateless”, and instead see them as humans with potential. 

Please look at stateless children and don’t alienate them. Stateless children can help too. Stateless children can be very creative, they can create great things. They are more than their non-status.

In Najwa’s eyes, education is a powerful tool for changing long-held perceptions about the stateless community. Along with other alumni from Cahaya Society, she reaches out to families in different villages, urging them to enrol their children in the center’s basic education program. Unfortunately, many parents still prioritise immediate income over education.

We have met many parents who ignore education. They would rather have their children earn an income rather than study. We visit these parents and try to persuade them. 

Najwa’s journey as an educator may be challenging, but her unwavering commitment to her students and her community is inspiring. She hopes that her students will grow to become individuals who believe in themselves and their ability to make a positive impact in the world. Ultimately, Najwa dreams of a world where stateless children are seen and heard, and their aspirations are no longer just mere dreams.

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