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Skills for everyone
The first of its kind camp for special needs children was held to provide guidance to those sitting for the SPM and help them to be more independent.
CELINE Lean Yew Lin is a young lady with big dreams. She aspires to be a lawyer advocating for the rights of the disabled and to study at either Oxford or Cambridge University in Britain.
The 17-year-old became blind due to leukaemia when she was four-and-a half, and wants to improve the lives of the disabled community.
“There are many areas that can be improved in Malaysia, such as resources for the blind,” said the Klang girl who became inspired after going for an exchange programme to the United States last year.
The Sekolah Menengah Pendidikan Khas Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, student has a keen interest in the English language, and will be taking Literature in English and English for Science and Technology as her electives for this year’s SPM exam.
“I love reading – for the joy of discovering new stories and improving my command of English,” said Celine, who enjoys the Harry Potter series and Shakespeare stories.
Developing skills: Zaleha says this is a first of its kind camp for special needs children from the 33 special education schools all over Malaysia.
She was among the participants at a four-day education and motivation camp called “National Identity Strengthening and Excellence Camp for Special Needs Children from Special Education Schools 2015”.
Celine and fellow attendee Calvin Isaac Arvinathan, who had completed a class on how to answer the SPM English paper at the point of this interview, said they now had a better idea on how to score for the paper after knowing what the examiners look for.
Calvin enjoys photography and graphic design, and will be taking Computer Graphics as his elective for the SPM exam.
“I particularly like taking portraits and capturing people’s expressions,” said the 19-year-old who helps take photos of events at his school SMPK Vokasional Indahpura in Kulaijaya, Johor.
“I plan to further my education at a polytechnic and improve my skill, and hopefully open my own graphic and photo shop one day.”
The hearing impaired youth, who has four younger siblings, shared that he is actively involved in a deaf organisation and church when he not busy with school activities.
For the younger participants such as Nur Zulaikha Mahri, 10, the camp offered an opportunity to make new friends.
Nik Alif Aiman, 11, particularly enjoyed the arts and crafts session that allowed him to express his creativity.
“I like painting! My favourite colour is yellow,” said the shy pupil from Sekolah Kebangsaan Pendidikan Khas Taiping, Perak.
“This is a first of its kind camp for special needs children from the 33 special education schools all over Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak. These children comprise those with visual disabilities and learning disabilities, and the deaf, with their ages ranging from eight to late teens,” said Education Ministry Special Education Division Human Development Sector head Zaleha Osman.
“It’s a three-in-one camp for three target groups – SPM exam students (59 participants), school students (63) and teachers (93).
She said: “For those taking the SPM, the programme will prepare them to be physically and mentally prepared for the exam this year. We have expert teachers and examiners who will guide them on the compulsory SPM subjects – English, Bahasa Malaysia, science, maths and history.
Improving lives: Celine, who hopes to be a lawyer advocating for the rights of the disabled, wants to study at either Oxford or Cambridge University in Britain.
“For the other students, we want to build their character to create more positive individuals. They will be guided on how to be more independent, handling their emotions, communication and recognising their potential.
“For the teachers, it serves as a professional development session to train them to be more responsible and dedicated towards teaching special needs children,” she said.
Teachers who teach special needs students undergo the same five-and-a-half-year programme to earn their teaching degree, but take on an additional module on Braille, sign language or learning disabilities.
Zaleha said there were about 5,000 such teachers nationwide, and the number was enough for now.
The camp, which was held at Kem Bina Negara Ulu Sepri in Rembau, Negri Sembilan, was run by National Civics Bureau trainers and Special Education Division officers. They were assisted by teacher escorts and able-bodied student volunteers.
As it was held during the peak of the haze period, Zaleha said all outdoor activities were cancelled and everything was held indoors.
“We hope that society would be more inclusive towards the disabled community, and that private companies would be willing to hire disabled individuals to work,” she said.
“Of the 33 special education schools, three are vocational schools located in Selangor, Johor and Pahang, with another slated to open in Kedah next year.
“The vocational schools train those who are not so academically inclined on skills such as landscaping, crafts and culinary arts.
“Some are further trained under the Seat-Buying Programme, whereby the Government sponsors students with special needs to pursue vocational programmes like culinary arts, mechanical, electrical and automotive work, or dressmaking in private institutions.”
Zaleha said the organisers hoped to make the camp an annual event to inspire the students to do well, in spite of their disabilities.
Some student graduates, she added, had gone on to become professionals such as lawyers and teachers.
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