Cover Story
Class Act
Evanna Ramly | 14 Jul 2017 00:30

Amid the afternoon noise of busy Pudu, a classroom of small children sits quietly as their colourful handiwork from a previous session is distributed. Everyone looks excited and eager to learn. Their teacher for the day is none other than Pearly Wong, creative director of her eponymous label. She holds up a particularly vibrant masterpiece, praising the creativity behind its myriad hues.

The young residents of this shophouse turned boarding school are all the children of refugees from Myanmar’s Mon ethnic group. Seeking sanctuary from discrimination back home, their parents have since found work across the country. Their new jobs range from industrial to agricultural and generally involve difficult, dangerous and dirty tasks. Separated, the families only reconnect once every couple of months.

However, the vibe here is one of hope. Evidenced by the sparkle in their eyes, the children clearly adore their mentor. “On Saturdays, she teaches them drawing and painting. She’s good at managing the students and they love her,” opines Nai Thy Wonna, principal of the school under the Mon Refuge Organisation.

According to Wonna, Malaysia does not recognise refugees and their stay here is only temporary. As such, he believes it is important for the children to learn as much as they can while they are here. “The refugees are largely uneducated and we need to change this if they are to have any hope of a bright future.”

Here, the students are taught English and Mathematics as well as arts and crafts, boosted with regular weekends at the library. Wong is one of a handful of volunteer teachers, too modest a number for the association’s 31,000 members.

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