Samuel Isaiah, Malaysia: A rebel with a golden heart

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Samuel Isaiah completed his bachelor’s degree in the year 2011. He had high hopes of serving an elite school which had the best kind of facilities. He wanted to implement his educational ideas. He envisioned a great career at an elite urban school. Instead he was deployed to a rural school for primary students. It was a school for indigenous children. On his very first day he was told by a colleague that he would not need to do much as these are indegenous children.
The indigenous are called Orang Asli. It is a community which has struggled with poverty. Because of the disregard that society shows to them, it is difficult for them to assimilate into the society. They have lost their own identity and culture. Samuel observed that the teachers there believed that their efforts were not worth teaching these indegenous children which was a major reason that hampered their education. They thought that teaching these children would make no difference to the world so they did not bother to even try. The children believed it to be true and wondered whether they would ever be able to achieve something in their life.
The environment was not that of efficient learning. The teachers often slept in the classes or would skip the classes altogether. No effort was put by the teachers. The school was called the worst school of the district.
On the other hand, Samuel communicated with these children and learnt their culture. He gave them hope and made them realize their potential. He also observed that there was a lack of facilities in the school as compared to the urban schools. A crowdfunding project was set up by him to create a functional classroom with tablets and computers. Now the children have learnt the use of technology and are learning in the similar manner the children learn in elite urban schools. Samuel has launched various other projects for the development of children. To increase their proficiency in English language, he started an email-exchange program where the students communicate in English with volunteers all over Malaysia and international countries.
In national standardized examinations, the students have drastically improved the score from an average of 30% to 80%. It has led to a change in perception of people that yes, indigenous children can achieve heights academically.
Samuel has been honored with various rewards for his sincere efforts. In 2018, at the ASEAN-ELT Conference, he was rewarded with the Best Teacher Award. In 2019, he was awarded the National Hero Teacher Award and the Star Golden Hearts Award. He was one of the finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2020. It is the most prestigious award in the field of education at global level. His aim is to further empower the indigenous children in Malaysia and help them achieve the goals of their lives.

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