WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
Six months ago SOLS 24/7 Malaysia (and myself for that matter) was going through a difficult period. We had lost some of our funding for a our major programme, Project 100, and were forced to close 25 community centres. The economic downturn had hit Malaysian business hard and CSR projects were pushed to the side. As a result we were forced to let go some of our valuable team members who had helped build our organisation to what it currently is.
In all honesty, I thought 2016 was going to be a quiet year for us. But we still had faith in our core components and were going to push on with our existing programmes backed by our loyal donors and supporters. Then in early February, we received some fantastic news. Something that would change the direction of SOLS for the next 12 months.
We had been in contact with the Ministry of Finance to become implementing partner for the Malaysian government’s nationwide initiative to teach basic communicative English to Malaysians, both in urban and rural areas. We sent off our proposal in November, along with a handful of other candidates, and waited for the call. I was pessimistic rather than hopeful, given the setbacks of the previous year. We had liaised and worked with the government in various aspects before, but never on a project as large as this. So when the good news arrived, I was naturally quite shocked. It was like a dream come true.
The programme, BI1M (Bahasa Inggeris 1Malaysia), is launched under the auspices of MoF’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS). It aims to prepare thousands of Malaysians for participating in the nation’s high-income economy, to help build their English speaking confidence and to encourage the use of English nationally as a second language. It comes at an important time for the country as declining resources, namely oil, has left Malaysia in an unstable position and searching for alternative answers.
SOLS 24/7 Malaysia has always seen English as the way of the future. We believe English can transform society through economical and cultural growth and can empower underserved communities through access to education and employment. When we started SOLS initially, we attempted to teach English to as many people as possible, with the aim of affecting as many lives as we could, but we couldn’t work out why communities in Malaysia were sceptical of our offer — there was a ‘too good to be true’ mentality.
We then realised if we really wanted to make an impact and to achieve our goals, we would have to work alongside the government as they had the greatest reach and command over the people. Thus, when the government announced the community English project last year, we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for us to be involved and utilise our existing infrastructure.
And weren’t we glad we had that infrastructure in place!
Upon receiving the contract, we were asked to roll out the BI1M programme and recruit over 100 volunteers and teachers within a three week period. Unbelievable! That is a daunting task in itself, let alone in that time frame.
But that’s what is so amazing about our SOLS team! We knuckled down and went about our business of recruiting 104 people and it is testament to the attitude of our SOLSdiers that we have been able to — up until this point — deliver on our word. We’ve had former volunteers and Community Development Officers drop what they are doing in their home countries and travel half way around the world to join SOLS again and be part of this great adventure.
And it is that sense of commitment that we hope will make this partnership with the government an ongoing deal. We are extremely thrilled and excited to be the driving force of Bahasa Inggeris 1Malaysia, but also know this is our one and only chance to truly make a large-scale difference. There are many more challenges ahead of us and we hope to deliver on our expectations and are prepared to go the extra mile to make Malaysia a better country.
All this has snowballed within the space of a month and along with exciting news for our Solar Academy and SOLS Tech departments, it shows that our organisation is heading in the right direction. I feel we have the midas touch at the moment and everything we are doing is working and with perfect timing. We have new people on board who are taking us to that next level and sometimes when you are patient and keep grafting away, success will pop up when you least it expect it. It has been a lot of effort, a lot of blood, sweat and tears as they say, but I could never have imagined a better start to 2016 like we have.
So until next time, remember let’s continue to ‘serve’, ‘educate’ and ‘empower’.
Teacher Raj Ridvan Singh,
Education Revolutionist, Founder-CEO
SOLS 24/7 Malaysia.