The classes have done a lot to them, lifting them up and helping to shape them to become better students,” she said. “If there is transport provided, the girls would love to stay back everyday after school for these classes,” she added. The School Outreach Programme which was done in parallel with the Maharani Programme has been successful in providing an early head start to children from disadvantaged backgrounds to have the right directions in their lives. The Maharani programme, initiated in Malaysia by RYTHM Foundation in 2010, has helped over 7,500 girls from poor and marginalised communities. It provides the girls, aged 13 to 16, with the skills and knowledge to enable them to achieve their full potential. Through the Maharani programme, girls learn about gender, sexual and reproductive health; ethnicity; culture, and the importance of physical and spiritual wellness. This gives them the tools to develop into confident, responsible and civic- minded women and members of society. The programme involves a camp conducted over three phases and a Learning Lab where a strong foundation is built for the girls to embrace their future in more positive ways. RYTHM Foundation hopes to introduce the Maharani Programme in Government schools as part of the curriculum and encourage more partnerships from the corporate sector.
Without the money, the girls would have to fork out RM10 each, which many of them could not afford to spend on a painting activity. A teacher with 24 years of experience, Azizah said the girls also look forward to the free tuition classes, offered every Saturday. “These girls never had anyone to speak to or share their thoughts. Sometimes they can be a little lost, without any support or guidance.
Every week, teacher Azizah Begum Mohd Ismail has to turn away young girls who come to see her, asking to be included in the School Outreach Programme. The School Outreach Programme is conducted in Primary Schools as a prelude to the RYTHM Foundation’s Maharani Programme. “Each class can only accommodate 30 students. Ever since the other students saw what the girls in the School Outreach Programme have been working on and producing at the end of their classes, they have expressed interest to join too,” she said when met at SJK (T) Mahathma Gandhi Kalasalai. Leaning forward, Azizah said the girls were mostly from lower-income families with some from broken homes, absent fathers and single parents. They told her how much the classes mean to them. “The girls often feel alone without any guidance from family. These activities keep the girls excited, happy and motivated to be better. I am so glad they have these programmes with girls like this in mind,” she said. The senior assistant student affairs (HEM) teacher said she was surprised by the level of creativity the girls displayed in their projects which are part of the Maharani programme. “Last year, the girls did flower bouquets which we helped to sell on Facebook for RM5 to RM10 each. It was just before Mother’s Day, the response was very good and the girls made RM350,” she said. The money was later used for batik painting, which Azizah said the girls thoroughly enjoyed. “The money they made was used for another activity for them.