A BRIGHTLY-PAINTED bus slowly navigated its way into the driveway of a primary school sited in the semi-urban area of Taman Putra Damai in Petaling Jaya, and not far from some blocks of public housing.
The splash of colour was a welcome sight amid the grey, almost spartan-like, landscape.
The bus had the words “Inspiring the next generation” running along its side, and that was its mission when it recently visited SK PPR Lembah Subang, a primary school with 900 pupils.
What these pupils were about to discover was that this was no ordinary bus, but a mobile learning unit with activity stations meant to delight as well as cultivate their young minds.
This visit was arranged by PINTAR Foundation, which runs these buses as one of its many projects aimed at giving a boost to schools located among the nation’s under-served communities.
When the programme started in 2009, there was only one bus. Now, there are two of these so-called mobile learning units, one for the northern states and the other for the south, and they have been visiting primary schools around Peninsular Malaysia, one school per day, during the school year.
The bus is custom-fitted with stations that feature various vocations that these young children may not be familiar with.
The two buses highlight different careers, including those of chef, photographer and sound engineer.
The culinary station highlights the cuisines of the world and displays some of the utensils used by chefs, the photography station features various types of cameras while that for sound engineering includes audio equipment for hands-on mixing.
The most popular station in one bus is a flight simulator for aspiring pilots, while the main attraction in the other is a stage with musical instruments such as a drum set and guitar for those keen on becoming musicians or singers.
Here at SK PPR Lembah Subang, the stations on science and IQ testing were especially popular with the girls, at least as far as Year Three pupil Puteri Intan Nur Zulaika and Year Six schoolmate Nurul Fadzliana were concerned.
“I enjoy quizzes and mental challenges, so that was good enough for me,” said Puteri Intan Nur Zulaika.
Nurul Fadzliana was fascinated by the science experiments, but also tried her hand at playing the guitar.
English teacher Ezmira Hamzah said experiencing the PINTAR Mobile Learning Unit was beneficial to everyone, as it not only gave the pupils but also the teachers ideas on fun learning.
Due to the size of the school and the limited time available, pupils from each class were only allocated half an hour on board the bus.
Once inside, some pupils would head towards what they were most interested in, while others preferred to survey the different stations.
Ezmira and Mathematics teacher Seah Lee Tin were contented to just observe the pupils displaying wide-eyed wonderment at would be new discoveries for many of them.
Seah noted that the bus provided the pupils with opportunities for hands-on activities and experiments, which help to open their eyes and minds to new worlds.
PINTAR Foundation executive Khairul Anas Shafei has been working as a facilitator since 2010.
He enjoys his work because he gets to interact with children with whom he is able to help expand their world of knowledge.
He finds the rural children to be especially curious when they come into the bus, as they tend to be less familiar with the items on display.
“These children don’t get much exposure, so it is a joy to be taking the knowledge to them,” he said.
“During school holidays, the bus will visit orphanages or take part in road shows instead.”
Although the 30-year-old recently got married, he has no plans for leaving his position of travelling with the bus for eight months a year — that is how fulfilling he finds his work.
PINTAR Foundation director Karimah Tan Abdullah said the PINTAR Programme served to open up possibilities for children from under-served communities to achieve more, academically as well as in the non-academic areas.
“Our buses bring knowledge to the students via fun, hands-on interactive activities that are novel and unique,” said Karimah.
PINTAR Foundation senior officer for marketing and communications Sakinah Ariffin said the idea of the mobile learning unit was to expose the children to a world beyond what they would only be aware of or familiar with.
“We want them to know that there are many possible career paths, and they can be a lot of things in this world from the many choices available,” she said.
“A significant number of children from predominantly under-served communities often located far away from towns and cities are still left behind in terms of educational performance and drive to succeed.”
PINTAR Foundation marketing and communications executive Mohamed Zamir Anuar Bashah said Pintar’s ongoing effort is to level the playing field between rural and urban students.
“Each school is adopted for a minimum of three years by corporate companies, and when a school shows an improvement in results, it becomes one of our alumni, and another needy school will be adopted by the company,” he said.
“Unfortunately, due to budget constraints and logistics limitations, there are no such buses running in East Malaysia. Even here in West Malaysia, these two buses are serving hundreds of schools each school year. We need more funds for more buses so that more pupils get the chance to be exposed and inspired.
“We hope more of Corporate Malaysia will come on board with their support and help make a huge difference in the lives of the children in the under-served communities.”
Adopt a school
PINTAR is an acronym for Promoting Intelligence, Nurturing Talent and Advocating Responsibility.
Set up in 2008, the PINTAR Foundation was established as a non-profit organisation to spearhead a school adoption programme.
The foundation collaborates with private and government-linked corporations to “adopt” schools and carry out its programmes.
This corporate social responsibility platform in education provides a meaningful opportunity for Corporate Malaysia to make a difference in the lives of children from under-served communities, and be part of developing quality human capital for our nation to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
To date, PINTAR has 37 members and partners who have adopted 367 under-served schools nationwide under the PINTAR programme, touching the lives of more than 660,000 students since its inception. There are about 4,000 under-served schools nationwide, and the aim is to get them adopted, thus providing equal opportunity in access to quality education to these underprivileged students.
For more information or to register support for PINTAR’s programmes, go to www.mypintar.com.my/