Reach out to us!


Making Education Accessible for the Stateless in Sarawak


In Kampung Sion, no children go to secondary school, what more college? Once they turn 13, the children stop schooling and start working. A lot of parents are unable to support their children’s further education and the children have to work to support household expenses.

An hour and a half from Sarawak’s capital, Kuching, lies a settlement with a gravel dirt path riddled with potholes. Kampung Sion is characterised by houses built like patchwork; using brick, wood or other materials that could put a roof over the residents’ heads.

In one of those houses lives Paulina Sari, 35, affectionately known as Puan Aida, along with her husband Ricky and sons, Carlos, 13 and Raphael, 12. In addition to water scarcity, there is also no electricity in the village, and Paulina used to walk half an hour to the nearest town, Tapah, to charge her mobile phone at a rate of RM1 per hour.

In the past, I walked to Tapah to pump water but we don’t have to do that anymore. Now, we have a water filter. I also had to walk to a store in Tapah to charge my mobile phone, RM1 per hour but now everything is at home.
- Paulina Sari

Access to water and electricity are no longer on top of her list because Paulina and other villagers in Kampung Sion were assisted by the Communities Unite for Pure-water (CUP) programme - a project undertaken by Global Peace Foundation under Malaysia’s Social Outcome Fund. Funded by YTL Power, the programme provided solar panels to the residents of Kampung Sion.

Paulina is now able to concentrate on working and saving up for her children. As a mother, she dreams of seeing her boys wear a mortar board and graduating from university. She longs to one day display their graduation photos in her living room.

No Identification, No Access to Education

However, there’s more than meets the eye for this mother who currently works as a salesperson at a used clothing store shop in Tapah. When the weather is favourable and vegetables are harvested from their little garden, Paulina’s sons would trudge along muddy roads to help sell vegetables and kuih at the market. All this while other children from Kampung Sion attend school every day.

Neither Carlos nor Raphael possesses a Malaysian identification card (IC), essentially making them stateless in the country they were born in. This instantly removes their right to education, despite growing up as ‘Malaysians’. Her two boys share the same reality with at least 290,437 other stateless children in Malaysia, as of 2016.

I didn’t have any formal education, but I know learning and education are useful, meaningful and important. - Paulina Sari

Paulina, who missed her chance at formal education, understands the value of education and vows to shape a brighter future for her boys. 

Breaking A Family’s Cycle of Poverty with Access to Education

Statelessness has robbed Carlos and Raphael’s access to formal schooling, but there is another denominator in Kampung Sion, and it is poverty. The rural community composed of ethnic groups such as Iban and Bidayuh, believes that primary school is enough for their children as it is the only form of education that is compulsory in Malaysia.

An increase of RM1 in schooling expenses is enough to deter low-income households from sending their children to school. Adding to the poverty problem, Kampung Sion is also void of any secondary schools.

In Kampung Sion, no children go to secondary school, what more college? Once they turn 13, they [the children] stop schooling and start working. A lot of parents are unable to support their children’s further education and the children have to work to support household expenses. - Paulina Sari

However, Paulina knows there is a world beyond Kampung Sion. She has witnessed the transformative power of education.

Because I have seen my boss’s children become successful, one is a teacher and another is a doctor. If I could, I want the same thing for my boys. - Paulina Sari

After receiving a steady supply of water and electricity, Paulina also established a connection with Dr Teh Su Thye, CEO of the Global Peace Foundation. It was through this connection that Paulina learned about the Learn From Home initiative by YTL Foundation.

Through this initiative, Paulina and her boys received a smartphone, a YES hotspot and a YES sim card, which allowed her family to connect to the internet securely.

The only money that Paulina had to fork out was for some simple stationery which she excitedly exclaimed, “That [stationery] I can pay!” Paulina has been struggling to keep the household afloat with a monthly wage of only RM900.

I’m pleased with YTL Foundation’s assistance in helping my children’s learning. My burden lessened because we now have mobile data and a phone. I only have to provide my boys with exercise books and pencils.
- Paulina Sari

The Learn From Home initiative provided Paulina’s children the opportunity to attend online classes with the Foundation’s Leaps Academy.

Three years have passed since that monumental day yet the sight of her children learning online with their Leaps Academy classmates never fails to bring her joy. Her boys, who struggled at first to catch up in Mathematics, Bahasa Malaysia and English, now teach her.

Their knowledge supersedes mine these days. - Paulina Sari

Keeping Inspirations and Dreams Alive

However, there’s a wishful undertone when speaking with Paulina. The reality is that she has overstayed in Malaysia as an Indonesian immigrant, and her sons can’t venture out of their tiny world due to their stateless status despite her husband being Malaysian.

Although it hasn’t been easy to obtain citizenship for her children, Paulina remains hopeful that Carlos and Raphael will be recognised as Malaysians and be granted their right to education. If her dream comes to fruition, her sons will be a step closer to pursuing their dreams.

Carlos wants to be in the army. Raphael wants to work in immigration. They have high ambitions. It fills me with pride to see them harbour such dreams. - Paulina Sari

Paulina has ambitions too. She wants to become the next kampung chief and be a catalyst of change to further develop her village - the only village she has called home.

If I have an IC and become a citizen here, I would like to develop this kampung. I want to be the kampung chief and fix the road. I have a strong determination to see better days. - Paulina Sari

Paulina never imagined seeing her children speak English or count, years ago. In spite of their poverty and plight, her boys have made her prouder by the day, and a mother’s love can move mountains.

I pray and hope all my wishes for the boys will come true. - Paulina Sari

The Learn From Home initiative has given Carlos and Raphael the chance to take part in the learning and education that every Malaysian child is entitled to. To Paulina, since her encounter with YTL Foundation in 2018, her life has never been the same - and in her words, “it can only get better from here”. 

Making Education Accessible for the Stateless in Sarawak" written by Wiki Impact

1. Malaysiakini.(2016). ‘290,437 stateless children in Malaysia. Link.
2. United Nations Human Rights Office Of The High Commissioner (2019). Statement by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, on his visit to Malaysia, 13-23 August 2019. Link

Read More

Sign Up for Our
Touchpoints Newsletter

Find out about how we are impacting our communities. Sign up here for our quarterly newsletter!
YTL Foundation was founded in 1997 on the belief that education is the basis on which every society progresses. By improving education, empowering future generations and building tomorrow’s leaders, YTL Foundation aims to empower individuals and communities to be catalysts of change.

More Information

Helpful Links

Terms & Policies


Get In Touch

YTL Foundation
[199701006074 (421570-A)]
32nd, Menara YTL
205, Jalan Bukit Bintang,
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Follow Us
Copyright © 2022 YTL Foundation [199701006074 (421570-A)]. All rights reserved