Etania schools Sabah was established in 2009 and registered in 2010. The society is a non-profit organisation supporting 11 schools and about 1000 children in Sabah. These schools are located in districts of Beluran, Telupid, Kalabakan, Keningau, Tenom, Beaufort, Papar and Kota Kinabalu. Etania is a name meaning the Greatness of God.
Etania focuses on the education of marginalised and disadvantaged children many of whom have undocumented status, meaning they have no access to education in Sabah. Schools in Sabah are only for children with citizenship. There are tens of thousands of children in Sabah who have no access to a school or learning centre due to political and historical reasons. The cycle of illiteracy, poverty and vulnerability continues generation after generation. Etania wishes to break this cycle to ensure a better future for all children and their families in Sabah.
The Etania schools provide a safe haven for our children where they can learn in a secure environment. Apart from a solid academic curriculum Etania also includes aspects of living and life skills. Skill development is a major concern as this will enable the child to get a job one day. A skill will help sustainable communities and better livelihoods in the future. These skills include computer literacy, farming, sewing, financial management, home and family management, cooking skills, communication and literacy skills.
We strive for: the child’s right to access to a school and to a quality education, a voice for all marginalised children, skill preparation for all children so that they can have a better future, better health and access to health facilities, counselling to help our families cope with issues they face, better trained teachers through our Coalition of Learning Centres Sabah training programmes every three months, partnerships with other NGO’s for workshops, partnerships with other learning centres, and building better community relationships so that locals understand the need for these children to be educated.
In the short term Etania is solving the immediate needs of the children who have no access to education. I think the greatest result in the short term is the change in the child. They come to us as invisible children and they quickly become a person who has self-esteem, self-confidence and who knows their worth in society.
In long term it is a totally fantastic feeling to see a child graduate from the school. How exciting it is when our ex-students come back after having graduated and are now studying at a college or university in their
home country or have a job or are even married with children. These children have been given the power through Etania to take control of their own life, to make decisions and to become a contributing community member – no more an invisible child. Not only the child benefits from a quality education directed at their needs but their entire family benefits.
The family income naturally improves taking the family from poverty to a comfortable life style. We have begun an extensive model farm project for our families. The parents came and learnt from our agricultural consultant and the speakers for health, financial literacy etc and they too became educated in an area that can benefit them. A positive result of the Etania schools and of education, families can be better off due to our numerous projects.
WHAT IMPACT HAS THIS PROJECT CREATED IN THE COMMUNITY/ NATION?
Firstly, hundreds of children who have passed through our learning centres over the years now can contribute to their communities and country because they have the skills necessary for work. They have become good people.
Not only that but I think the biggest impact is on the person him or herself. These children grow up to be persons of worth with dignity contributing to make our society a better place. Education especially in values, gives them a sense of right and wrong, of justice, and of themselves bringing up children in a better society. Children who come from vulnerable backgrounds now are people of worth.
HOW WAS THIS PROJECT HELP TO ADVANCE THE CHOSEN SDG?
The Etania schools are an example of what the UN SDG 4 is trying to achieve. In 2009 when we first began our schools we had as our goal to provide quality learning programmes in learning centres for the undocumented and marginalised communities in Sabah. We wanted our communities, through an education to be able to improve their livelihood so that they could lead a comfortable and productive life. We also wanted the children to have their right as a child of the world to get access to education, to health facilities, to a happy childhood free from discriminations and inequalities.
All children are equal and therefore we must create a situation to ensure that they have equity in education and in life.
One interesting story was when we were designing one of our schools (the one that won top 10 in the world for design in 2018). The designer and I were discussing the building design as functional for children and a green building as well. He said to me “Just because we are designing a building for the poor and marginalised doesn’t mean the building has to be poor.”
THE TAGLINE FOR UNITED NATIONS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (UNSDGs) IS “LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND.” PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW YOUR PROJECT HELPS TO REALIZE THE COMMITMENT OF UNSDGS FOR THE FUTURE. HIGHLIGHT ANY OTHER SDG(s) THAT YOUR PROJECT HAS DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY CREATED POSITIVE IMPACT TO PEOPLE AND SOCIETY
Other SDGs that this project has directly or indirectly created positive impact to people and society:
Way back in 2009 our founders decided that no child was to be excluded from education. That is why we began our Etania schools.
Although SDG 4 is our most important focus we also are strongly supportive of our other SDG’s and they are: SDG 1, an end to poverty; SDG 3, good health because without good health education is difficult; SDG 10, no inequality and equity in all we do; SDG 11, we must help to build sustainable communities were all are equal and respected; and SDG 16, where there is justice for all and our marginalised communities have a voice and have the respect of all. When this inclusive society happens there will be peace.