Learning valuable life skills

National 2 minutes, 43 seconds

BELAIT

Special education students earn from handicraft, gardening

PRE-VOCATIONAL special education students from the Perdana Wazir Secondary School prove they are able to become contributing members of society through profitable and self-sustaining activities such as handicraft and gardening.

Homeroom teacher, Hjh Jamilah Hj Sulaiman, who is in charge of the school’s Life Skills Training Centre, said that her special education students have warmed up to the handicraft and gardening activities since they were introduced more than three years ago.

Over the years, the handicrafts and produce has even become a source of income for the centre.

“For the time being, the students’ handicraft products are sold at roadshows and events organised by various government ministries such as the Ministry of Education and the Special Education Unit as well as local NGOs,” said Hjh Jamilah.

“Because the cost of raw material is low and the quality of the products (are good), we are able to sell them at a competitive price. We also get bulk orders for the handicraft items for door-gifts at weddings.”

The produce from the school’s vegetable and fruit gardens - including local vegetables such as sawi and kangkong as well as fruits such as lime, longan and bananas - are marketed regularly to school staff and parents as part of the school’s own support for the project.

“A result of this activity is that some of the students have gained an interest in farming and have started their own gardens at home,” said Hjh Jamilah.

Proceeds from the activities are showing remarkable results and students are further motivated by a commission system that earns them money from each sale.

“After deducting cost, nett profit from sales is divided among the students. Forty per cent goes directly to the students as commission while the remainder is put towards the pre-vocational fund. The fund itself goes towards student learning and activities such as supermarket shopping trips and educational visits,” the teacher said.

She added that the centre has even contributed back to society, giving up to 10 per cent of the funds to charitable work and giving slippers to the nearby Kg Pandan Mosque as wakaf (endowment) for the coming Ramadhan.

Since the fund was set up in April 2011, the centre has raised $2,333.05 in total nett profit, with the numbers growing each year. In 2013 alone, $725.40 was collected in nett profit. The longer-term plan is to turn the projects into commercially-viable independent businesses with the students at the helm once they graduate from school.

Both activities, while teaching the students to be more independent and grooming them for social life within their activities, also emphasise the use of functional academic learning in basic subjects of language and mathematics.

“Students with learning difficulties are now more easily able to recognise every-day shapes, colours, and types of vegetables and fruit, which will help them in daily chores at home and at work. For mathematics, through weaving and sewing on cloth, the students understand practical use of measurements for length of thread and area size. They are able to make sense of numbers in this way,” said Hjh Jamilah.

The Life Skills Training Centre takes in students with moderate and severe social, communication and learning disabilities such as autism and Down’s Syndrome.

The Brunei Times