Growing up Asian, our parents expect us to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, or whatever conventional job worthy of showing off to aunties and uncles. Even the Malaysian education system pressures students to be grade A factories. So, what happens to the kids who FAIL conventional education?
They become criminals, of course!
Ok ok don’t flame us yet. The sad truth is, it is correct to some extent. CILISOS highlighted in a previous article that 4 in 10 Indian youths from underprivileged backgrounds drop out of school because they cannot cope with their studies. After dropping out, they will almost certainly end up doing street crime or joining gangs. Once that happens, there is little chance of turning back.
Usually, people have no hope for these kids, so the kids also give up on themselves. Who else would accept them? Where else can they feel like they belong, but in a gang? BUUUT there is help for these kids….
These 3 Malaysians believe clapping and stomping can help them
HUHHH, clapping and stomping?!?
CILISOS spoke to Koggelavani Muniandy, co-founder of GoodKids, a social enterprise that teaches performing arts for free to build self confidence in secondary school students at risk of falling into social vices.
GoodKids was founded in 2014 by Kogge, her cousin Naaraayini Balasubramaniam and her uncle Balasubramaniam Somasundaram. Now Kogge (who was previously an engineer with Motorola, then moved into entrepreneurship with Cradle fund) is working on GoodKids full-time. Naaraa is also a full-timer, while Bala is still working as a counselor alongside counselling the students under GoodKids.
They started as a volunteer project with an NGO called Education Welfare and Research Foundation (EWRF). EWRF already had access to schools because their program is approved by the Ministry.
“We realised they needed something more than counselling, so we began experimenting with performing arts.” – Kogge told CILISOS on the phone
They organised a play called ‘MyStory’ in their first year, where they trained 30 students to act out the story of their life – from the time they were kids, to dropping out of school, to getting into drugs and gangsterism.
‘MyStory’ was performed at the MPAJ Auditorium (Ampang Jaya) with 200 guests attending. It was featured in The Star and TV2 news. In short, it was a rousing success, which gave Kogge, Naaraa and Bala affirmation that they should continue their program.
Here’s where the clapping and stomping comes in….the second batch of students they had in 2015 didn’t take to acting so well. So, Kogge, Naaraa and Bala came up with the idea for the kids make music using recycled items, clapping and stomping (aka body percussion). Kinda like STOMP if you guys remember them.
“We used pails, buckets and any tong that we couild find and started drumming. It’s very easy for them to pick up a stick and start hitting it.” – Kogge
And for one kid, it was the first time he’s ever won a prize for anything!
Sometimes it takes just one small achievement to change a person’s life. For most GoodKids students, being on stage changed their whole outlook on themselves. They never knew they had it in them!
“We have programs and they (the students) are given prizes. We had a kid who was 16 years old, running up to us and saying, ‘Thank you very much’, with tears in his eyes, ‘This is the first time I’m receiving a prize’.” – Bala, GoodKids Co-founder (and Kogge’s uncle)
Acting in plays and performing music has helped students to build SELF CONFIDENCE where they used to feel that they were hopeless. In an environment where academic achievement is highly prized, joining GoodKids has given them a feeling of self worth.
“Teachers and some parents gave feedback that the behaviour of the students have changed. Those who had anxiety became more confident. There’s one particular student who was under medication for depression. He stopped medication after going for our program.” – Kogge
To be fair, this method is not 100% effective, coz some students have dropped out of the program. Kogge says the overseeing school teacher will try to convince the student to complete the program, but sad as it is, if the student really wants to leave, they cannot stop them. Out of 100 students, they have had 30 drop out of the program.
On top of that, as most of their students come from broken families (eg. abusive parents), or underprivileged backgrounds, the volunteers would counsel them: ‘If you see your father being abusive to your mom, would you do the same thing when you get married?’ They will talk about social vices together too, for example, act out scenarios like if they are approached by gangsters, how will they respond.
(And in reality these kids do get asked to join gangs – gangsters threaten to beat them up or trash their home if they refuse. In some instances, the students themselves have played the role of gangster and threatened younger kids in school.)
Some of the kids who’ve finished school continue keeping in touch with volunteers. At times they call to ask for counselling or just to talk. It’s heartwarming to hear how GoodKids are getting through to these kids, some of whom are hardened and have built walls around them.
Also, remember our previous article on MySkills Foundation? (They are an NGO that offers free skills training for youths who drop out of school). Well, GoodKids partners with MySkills. Kogge tells us there are some kids who even drop out of skills training, perhaps because they don’t feel confident they can make it. Here’s where GoodKids comes in… they break ground by build self confidence first, then the youths on to finish the race at MySkills, which will ultimately equip them for better jobs in the workforce.
Because GoodKids is a social enterprise it needs to make its own money, instead of relying on government aid or donations. But to be fair, people are still sponsoring them since they’re quite new. However, sponsorship will eventually dry up and of course GoodKids will want to stand on its own feet.
So who are the kind souls who have been funding GoodKids?
YOU GUYS! By buying their t-shirts
Or buying tickets to their shows. Tickets are RM50 for public and RM30 for parents. Last year, they raised RM12,000 from ticket sales. If you would like to watch their show, email Kogge at [email protected].