Although the latest iteration of RYTHM Foundation’s Maharani Schools Programme (MSP) is only about midway through its two-year timeline, the results of the first phase of the holistic training and guidance project for disadvantaged teen girls have been overwhelmingly positive.
RYTHM relaunched the project in early 2022 in collaboration with its long-standing partner, PINTAR Foundation, in five national secondary schools in Selangor, Malaysia. The project started with the partnership identifying 20 trainers to implement the after-school programme.
The schools are SMK Gombak Setia in Gombak, SMK Bandar Rinching in Hulu Langat and SMK Batu Unjur, SMK Tengku Idris Shah, and SMK Tengku Ampuan Jemaah in Klang.
In January, five coaches who persevered with the programme received certificates of appreciation from the Head of RYTHM, Santhi Periasamy. The session also presented RYTHM with the opportunity to review the experiences and set the vision for future intakes.
RYTHM Programme Manager Latha Arweena Shoffieah said, “We thank you for your dedication to the MSP and the students. You went out of your way to guide them, and the closeness they developed toward you is a testament to that.”
The programme positively impacted 200 students, with the trainers racking up an impressive 1,600 hours for the students over eight sessions up to the end of last year.
“That is equivalent to 60 days or one-third of the required minimum of 190 school days per year that you selflessly dedicated to guiding the young, impressionable minds, and that deserves applause,” Latha added.
Although COVID-19’s intermittent lockdowns and remote learning challenges halted the programme for nearly two years, the pandemic presented RYTHM with the opportunity to take the MSP to the next level.
The Evolution of a Winning Programme
The MSP is a holistic training programme that empowers girls between the ages of 14 and 16 to achieve their full potential and contribute to the well-being of their community as agents of change. The Education Ministry-endorsed programme prioritises teens from the bottom 40% of income earners (B40 households).
RYTHM signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PINTAR in early 2022 to implement the programme in national secondary schools through well-rounded holistic education modules.
During last November’s train-the-trainer sessions, the participants acquired the knowledge and skills to execute the programme using RYTHM’s Maharani Trainer Kit (MTK), a reference module for trainers to manage the programme independently.
Since starting in 2010 in Sungai Siput, Perak, the award-winning MSP has touched the lives of more than 8,000 girls and young women. The programme initially comprised three phases: self-discovery, staying in harmony with nature and building leadership capacity.
The first phase encouraged participants to explore their identity and develop their confidence and self-esteem, followed by lessons in appreciating nature, acquiring basic survival skills, and becoming stronger physically. The final stage guided them to recognise their leadership potential and develop communication skills.
Also read: RYTHM, PINTAR Seal Deal to Implement Maharani School Programme in 5 Schools
“The Sungai Siput programme was a success, but the girls from these communities still lacked 21st-century skills,” Santhi said. “Hence, we have revised the curriculum and brought the learning lab to the Klang Valley.
“Our ultimate goal is for the Education Ministry to take over the MSP and implement it in the national curriculum. To achieve this, the Foundation has expanded the weekend programme to schools to help students develop their soft skills, leadership skills, education, and IT skills.”
The Foundation is ready to roll out the programme’s second phase in the five Selangor schools – and announced the next cohort in another five schools in Negri Sembilan.
“We look forward to conducting the training with you and a new batch of trainers as we work on improving the training sessions, including dealing with emotions, behaviour modification, and stress management for the students,” Santhi explained.
Santhi paid tribute to the trainers for affecting noticeable mindset changes in their students. “With the first batch of schools, the students appeared apprehensive about us and the programme. However, thanks to your involvement, they have become more confident, and we noticed an increase in attendance.”
An Inspirational Experience
The trainers found the coaching experience enriching and chimed in on how the programme allowed them to connect with the students in a way that traditional teaching methods may not always fulfil.
“The training kit was handy and helped create a sense of belonging between the students and me,” said final-year university student Siti Hajar Mohd Kamal (below left), “As a result, the girls were more open to communicating and became more confident in themselves.”
Umadevi Rajah Denram (below centre) also developed a special bond with the students over the year, singling out their more profound understanding of equality as a measure of the MSP’s success.
“I believe our sessions with the students left them with many essential values, among them the belief that their lives and opinions matter. In addition, I received feedback that they have become more participative and vocal in their regular school classes,” Umadevi said.
Another trainer, Wan Nurazra Marsya Wan Ahmad (above right), said the kit’s modules effectively covered the challenges of managing the participants.
“I encountered some initial challenges, like inconsistent attendance and lack of cooperation, from some participants. However, the modules we used helped them overcome their insecurities. They enjoyed the programme because it taught them to speak up and build their confidence,” Wan Nurazra explained.
“What we learned as trainers made a difference in letting us efficiently impart our lessons. My students had no problems understanding what we hoped to achieve with and for them,” she added.