Prior to the Movement Control Order, Nourish spent a good few days and nights in Tawau, Sabah and the surrounding areas, including an island called Pulau Sebatik. We were guided by a local teacher Cikgu Deen who has been a teacher in Sabah for more than 20 years and knows the area too well. We managed to visit at least 3 schools and countless villages. “The students need a bit of a ‘push’ (motivation),” said a headmaster at one school that we visited. He added, “The good thing about being in rural areas is that there are less distractions, but then they need more to succeed.” We also spoke to their teachers and parents, to get as much feedback as we can.

Based on a UNICEF report released in August 2017, children in rural areas, and especially rural areas of Sabah, experienced significantly more non-income deprivation relating to education, health and housing/environmental conditions than children in urban areas. More than 14 percent of children in rural Sabah live in households with incomes below the national poverty threshold, compared to only 1.6 percent in rural Peninsular. While the government subsidizes school fees, parents may not be able to pay for the costs of school uniforms, books and supplies or afford the missed-opportunity cost of child labor. Feedback from low income families indicates that fees or costs associated with education, even as low as RM 1, were enough to keep their children out of school.

During our visit, we also found that it is common for these children in rural areas of Sabah to leave villages at a young age and stay in hostels far away from their families in order to attend school. For those who must walk to school, their journey can be very challenging, especially during heavy rains and scorching hot days.

This Ramadhan, Nourish is raising funds for these children. We would like to nourish them not just physically, but also intellectually, so all funds raised will be used to buy food, books and prizes as an incentive/gifts for outstanding students. With the help of their teachers, we will identify the most underprivileged but promising students, and support selected students and his/her family for at least a year.

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