AAC expands welfare programme for students facing hardships

National 2 minutes, 50 seconds

BELAIT

ANTHONY Abell College (AAC) in Seria has expanded its student welfare programme to further involve stakeholders in reaching out to students facing hardships.

AAC Principal Mas Diana Abd Samat told The Brunei Times that this year's series of house visits would also target students who face difficulties in attending school regularly, whether because of transportation issues or due to commitments in supporting their families.

Picking up where the school left off last year, when only the Parents Teachers Association conducted the visits, this year will see relevant officers from the Department of Schools as well as the relevant Penghulu or village head accompanying.

The visits will also be managed formally by the school under its Student Affairs Department.

This week, visits were made to the homes of Year 11 student Barry Freddy in Anduki, Year 10 sisters Agnes anak Gait and Angela anak Gait in Kg Jabang, as well as Year 8 student Siti Ezzah Tunnawarah Abdullah in Kg Lorong 3. Each student was presented with a token cash donation as well as daily necessities such as rice and consumables.

"We "radar" our students first, identifying those who really need assistance at school. We will now involve NGOs and village heads. Hopefully, through this method, these students will be more motivated to come to school and will be convinced that the school truly cares about their welfare so they can progress well academically," said Mas Diana.

Barry Freddy, speaking to The Brunei Times, said that the location of his home, which is about one kilometer off the asphalt road by the An-Naeem cemetery, meant that he had to rely on a family friend to go to school.

Because of historical complications, his parents, both Red Identity Card (Brunei-born) permanent residents, were only able to register him as a Green Identity Card holder, making him ineligible for even food aid given by the school.

"I also have to support my elderly parents with farming and fishing. I admit, this has affected my attendance at school," said Barry.

The principal said that the involvement of community leaders has been a positive step so far, with the parties involved showing good collaboration and commitment to tackle the root issues of students facing hardship.

"These students live in poor (housing) conditions. We try to help in what ways we can, including assisting them with housing applications to the government, where they can enjoy the comfort of electricity and security… (the village head and other officials) have been very forthcoming and quick to respond to their needs," she said.

Kg Lorong 3 village head Hj Sadin Hj Ibrahim, for whom the visits were his first since taking office three months ago, believed that assistance was obligatory as the students' needs were obvious.

"Their applications (for assistance) are justifiable. They live far away from school and in poor conditions. I believe we should be able to do something for them urgently," he said.

Following the visits, the school will continue to monitor the students' conditions and work with the relevant authorities on assisting the students and their families with housing, welfare and even identity card applications.

About 200 AAC students from almost 700 are classified by the school as "facing hardship", based on several factors and guidelines, including family income per head.

Along with its sister school Muhammad Alam Primary School, they have one of the highest ratios of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the country.

The Brunei Times