When most 20-year-olds travel to Australia either as a holiday getaway or to pursue their studies, one man decided to venture on a more honourable pathway.
Meet Reuben Au, a 24-year-old, DIKA alumni, currently studying his Bachelor in Inclusive Education and Disability Studies and working as a Disability Support Worker at Pivotal Leaders Pty Ltd in Sydney, Australia.
“What disability support workers do in general is to provide support to an individual with disabilities (mostly adults but sometimes children); varying from facilitating them in creating more meaningful friendships/relationships to providing help with self-care, transport, or even taking notes in their class,” Reuben explained.
“I am currently supporting two men with disabilities in their social and adult life, where I try to guide them in various aspects to achieve an independent and fulfilling life. For example, I helped them find jobs suitable for them, I teach them how to make friends and creating social circles. Even just checking in on them makes a huge difference. This job is valuable to me as it provides me the opportunity to work with adults with disabilities as well; as opposed to just children.”
This ethical job is not for those who are looking for a glamorous title, but it is hugely rewarding. It may not sound much, but making a difference in a person’s life – for the better, is the most humane act ever. Humbling yet the benefits are reaped differently.
Reuben realized he wanted to specialize in children’s wellbeing and development at the tender age of 14 years old when he volunteered as a camp facilitator for children with special needs camp. He even took a gap year after SPM and dedicated his time to help out at a special needs centre.
He thought of doing Early Childhood Education, but upon discovering DIKA offered a Diploma in Special Education (Early Years) that’s when he knew exactly what to do and that it’s suited more with his passion and plans.
“The special education industry especially when it comes to qualifications is extremely scarce and there aren’t many options out there. I chose DIKA as it has an array of courses that piqued my interest. I came to DIKA expecting (at the end of the day) to be equipped with the knowledge to provide functional and effective learning to children with disabilities – and I got that and more.”
“I made tons of friends, and met people from all walks of life in my classroom; my classmates were both experienced educators, non-experienced students like me, and even people from completely different backgrounds. It’s great for what it’s worth.”
Reuben also highlighted that the hands-on approach DIKA practices contributed to a better understanding of the course compared to just learning from theories.
“I loved how hands-on assignments were also sprinkled in during the whole course, I think that is extremely important in learning about special needs education because what you read in textbooks are often not what you see in practice. In fact, some assignments even required the students to simulate teaching like in a real classroom setting, create booths to promote our “kindergarten” and some classes, our lecturers even invited children for us to teach for the day. So, for many of us, it’s a real eye-opener to the realities of working with children and the realities of an educator.”
During one of his classes, Reuben was introduced to “inclusive education”. An area of which many attempted to create or accustom but only a few managed to create a truly “ALL MEANS ALL” environment.
Inclusive education is more than just accepting students from all walks of life, regardless of their disabilities, special needs, special care, or physical limitations. Zero Rejection Policy does not mean equal access to education. It simply means that no child in Malaysia will be restricted or rejected from being registered in school and classes.
According to UNICEF, “inclusive education means all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools. It means real learning opportunities for groups who have traditionally been excluded – not only children with disabilities but speakers of minority languages too. Inclusive systems value the unique contributions students of all backgrounds bring to the classroom and allow diverse groups to grow side by side, to the benefit of all.“
“This is why I spent so much money and came all this way to learn from Australia, how exactly it is they practice inclusiveness in a government school system. Inclusive education is rare in Malaysia and I do not use that term lightly, I’ve only seen one preschool in Malaysia that is on its way to true inclusiveness,” said Reuben.
With his incredible journey ahead of him and what he experienced in Sydney, we do wonder if he has any fond memories of DIKA?
“Of course I do! For community service, my group assisted an organization (a team member’s sister was lead the organization) in providing free education for the children in the streets of Kuala Lumpur. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience as it was a first for most of us to teach fully in Bahasa Malaysia and to meet face-to-face with underprivileged children.”
“And the connections I made, lecturers I’ve met (Ms. Venus, Mr. Mohan, Ms. Peggy, Ms. Fam Fui Yin, Ms. Kamala Udayan) who are highly established educators with years of experience in this industry. Making lifelong friends who will walk a similar path to mine is also something I cherish from DIKA.”
So, how does one man able to improve the future of our current education system, especially the special needs education in Malaysia?
“This is an extremely huge task and it will be a very bumpy road indeed,” quipped Reuben. “But, once I’ve gained enough experience and credibility here in Australia, I plan to return (to Malaysia) and hopefully start a new generation of special educators that can develop and teach in an inclusive environment. I have strong hope that this can come to fruition someday.”
We believe so too! So far, there’s nothing to stop this courageous student from going after his dreams and passions, and true to the nature of DIKA, we will surely support him all the way and be proud of what he has achieved.
This sharing of your experiences sounds remarkable; do you have any advice for aspiring students who wish to venture on the same path as you?
“Please only do this course if you are interested in the special education industry. If you have a burning passion, GO FOR IT. This is not an easy diploma to add to your CV, and not many people can stomach the challenges this course will throw your way, but it will be worth it.”
As a quote by Scott Adams “Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”