Tapping Potential Through Technology
Twenty-one-year-old Fedilia Gampat frowns as she navigates her cursor around the Microsoft Windows Office tools. Coming from Kampung Kiau Nuluh, Kota Belud, a small indigenous village at the foot of Gunung Kinabalu, Sabah, technology was not an option she was given to explore. Her world, limited. Her potential, untapped.
Gentle instruction from a teacher beside her transforms her features, as a clarity enters her eyes and she clicks away purposefully.
Fedilia is a student with Science of Life Studies 24/7 (SOLS 24/7), an NGO that provides free education and boarding to underprivileged youth ages 16 to 27 years old.
A few short months ago, Fedilia and the rest of her class were youth without the means to advance socially or economically. Some were school dropouts; others were unable to further their education due to financial or family difficulties.
SOLS 24/7 provides life skills, comprehensive English language classes, computer skills, basic mathematics, and leadership and character training, which is incorporated into all aspects of the students' learning experience.
"I did not get a chance to learn in school as I do here. I believe I can achieve more and want to be a computer engineer or teach others to love education," said Yohannes Fazil, 21.
"I love learning about English, and no one else in my family knows as much as I do about computers now!" laughs 16-year-old Kogila Tandayuthabani.
SOLS 24/7 recognizes that technology, and computer skills in particular, are essential in enabling youth to get a better education, be skilled workers who can earn higher wages, start a business, and stay connected with this fast-paced world.
Enhancing the academic component of building computer skills, SOLS 24/7 is also a Malaysian Department of Skills Development Accredited Training Center, providing certified computer systems assistant technician and technician courses. Hand in hand with Microsoft's commitment to providing a foundation for youth in technology, SOLS 24/7 is truly grateful to be partnering with software visionaries in serving the underprivileged youth of Malaysia.
Raj Ridvan Singh is SOLS 24/7's international director. As a Microsoft certified systems engineer and a teacher, he understands the great role of technology and IT in an increasingly globalized world and the need for increased computer literacy to bridge the digital divide. "Along with a good character and leadership skills, computer literacy is fundamental to securing a good job and to ... [having a] brighter, more holistic future," he said.
As SOLS 24/7 reaches out to grassroots communities, the hopes of many marginalized youth are being rejuvenated through the powerful force of education and technology. In turn, these youth graduate with the ability to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families, and give back to society and the nation.
Soft-spoken Peirres, 18, said he was initially confused about IT and only touched a computer once or twice a month when he followed his friends to a cybercafe. He had worked as a rubber tapper in Sabah for RM 300 a month and in an air-conditioning repair shop for RM 600 a month before joining SOLS 24/7. "I understand more about how to use computers effectively now! I want to use my knowledge in schools, to teach IT," he said.
"It's good for everyone to learn IT and English," classmate Maimah Mailon, 23, added. "I want to be a teacher too. Education is so important."
Without a doubt, the quality of education provided to the youth has been given an immense boost through the generous support of Microsoft and TechSoup Asia. With their commitment, SOLS 24/7 students are given the access to stable and secure technologies that are current and used on a large scale, allowing an ease of knowledge transfer when they enter the workforce.