Danish Schools for Borneo’s Garbage Kids

After almost 20 years of school promotion in the Sabah-province on Malaysian Borneo the Danish founded Borneo Child Aid Society (BCAS) is responsible for the primary education of more than 8400 students – mostly children of the immigrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines on the many palm oil plantations nearby, subsequently there an increasing amount of logistic to be taken care of from the head quarter of BCAS in Larad Datu.

Escalating popularity
The overwhelming success of the school project has also been quite a challenge for the small volunteer-based organisation.
“The rapid growth rate has been a pretty overwhelming, but we have had wide support from a various range of sponsors , ranging from Danish enterprises to the Finnish embassy, and good mutual understanding with numerous plantations,” says Torben Venning, the Danish manager of BCAS.
Torben Venning is a former schoolteacher from Sydhavnen in Copenhagen and has been the day-to-day head of Borneo Child Aid Society the last six years, the latest two years has been on a full-time basis as his Philippine-born wife Rosalin and their four sons Mark, Michael, Martin and Mathias have joined him in Sabah, making Thorben Venning’s residence on Borneo of a more permanent nature.
“When we started out back in 1991 we ran one tiny school with room for 73 students and now we have grown into being quite influential. This year we have registered almost 8450 pupils. And after so long time in the area we have earned a great amount of trust and  respect for our work from  the local authorities, so it has been a very rewarding venture,” he ads.

Even though Torben Venning loves his job, he is aware of the difficulties connected with being a foreign-run organisation.
“It is not sustainable if all the expertise and decision making lies in the hands of the Danes, so right now we are in the in the process of training the local staff and teachers to take on the responsibility and management  of BCAS,” he explains.
One discomforting experience last year has underlined the importance of this goal.
“Rosalin and I were both badly injured in a car accident, and while recovering in the hospital we couldn’t help realizing how problematic and precarious it is, that we are making all the decisions. Nobody should be indispensable in BCAS, we are all in this together”.

The non-existing kids
For the vast majority of the young students, the BCAS-controlled schools are their only option to escape illiteracy, as they are prohibited to attend the public schools of Sabah.
“Most children enrolled in the schools are of Indonesian of Philippine origins. This means that they do not share the same privileges – such as access to the public school-systems – as Malaysian children,,” he explains. This lack of national recognition has severe consequences for his students and their future opportunities.
“Many of our students are not to be found in any official register. Because they weren’t born in the home-country of their parents they are not regarded as Philippine or Indonesian citizens either. This is a big problem considering that an estimated number of around one million immigrant-descendants are in a legal sense without a native country. They literally do not exist in the eyes of the system and this makes it even more important that these children  are educated – so that they are better equipped for the struggles they most likely will face later on,” Torben Venning explains.

From garbage to children
According to the devoted school-supervisor the children of his schools achieves more than just the standard examination requirements by attending school.
“In the bigger cities of Sabah the immigrant children are commonly known as the ‘garbage-kids’ of no value. In BCAS we believe that the school can teach them not to accept these terrible prejudges and that they can achieve the same as the Malaysian children. A big part of our work is to change this devastating mindset of being inferior,” he says adding that creating a common sense of equality among the youngsters is a fundamental ambition for BCAS.
“This is also the reason why BCAS puts so much emphasis in having school-uniforms and graduating ceremonials. It is an important part of giving the kids an identity as being students, just like the other children in Malaysia,, instead of considering themselves as outcasts,” Torben Vemming adds.

Lot 37, MDLD 6057, Lorong Perdana 3, Sri Perdana
P. O. Box 61850, 91127 Lahad Datu,  Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: (+60) 089-862600   Fax: (+60) 03-21784113
[email protected]     http://www.borneochildaid.org/
Local reg. name: Humana Child Aid Society Sabah Reg. No. 123/96

We need additional funding to secure the expansion and continuation of a far reaching and unique child education program, which is now providing basic education for more than 8000 Children.
Sponsoring 50 Children’s education for a year: M$ 18000 = USD 5140  = Eur 3700
The cost of sponsorship per child is M$ 360 per year = 110 US$ = 71 Euro
Please send accompanying email to [email protected] or inform us in other way of your donation, so that we can be sure to identify it.  We will issue an official receipt for all donations.

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