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Providing An Academic Pillar of Support For Children Amidst the Pandemic

The suspension of face-to-face classes during this COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected one of our service-learning groups, Learn Love Live (LLL), who provides academic mentoring to students from welfare beneficiaries of Pertapis. 

However, this did not dampen the spirit of LLL member Ahmad Idris Bin Omar, a full-time Year 2 Accountancy student, to continue doing good and provide academic pillars of support for the beneficiaries through technology.

Find out how Ahmad Idris leveraged technology and converted the academic mentoring sessions online, in the interview below.

What inspired you to volunteer your time conducting the online mentoring sessions for the Pertapis beneficiaries during the pandemic?

One of my life’s principles is to do good to the best of my ability. As I had been mentoring the Pertapis beneficiaries for more than a year, I felt that the pandemic was an obstacle that we would gradually overcome. 

With the wealth of options in technology, we could leverage them to continue providing mentorship for the beneficiaries. 

Most crucially, this happened at a time when some of our beneficiaries are undergoing an important phase of their education – national examinations. We knew that stopping the sessions completely due to the pandemic would dampen their hopes and motivation to do well, given that the mentoring sessions provide a form of support where they seek a constant source of guidance and education. 

What was the most memorable encounter you had with the beneficiaries when conducting the online mentoring session?

Recently, one of my mentees had her parents sit beside her to listen to how a question was solved, unbeknownst to me. When the session ended, the parents sent their regards and appreciation to me for giving their child guidance. We also exchanged Hari Raya wishes! 

The online mentoring sessions brought us closer to our beneficiaries in ways we did not initially foresee – we communicated with both the beneficiaries, together with their families.

What were the challenges you faced while conducting your online sessions? How did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges was the teaching methodologies. For mentors, it is not an easy switch to go online from our usual face-to-face sessions. We had to consider that our beneficiaries may find it troubling as they may not receive guidance as sharply via an online platform as compared to physical sessions. 

Prior to the start of our first online sessions, our mentors conducted an online meeting to brainstorm and collude ideas that could provide convenience and ease to both mentors and beneficiaries during the online sessions. 

This includes going through the technicalities of the Zoom application (share screen, whiteboard features etc.), the use of tablets and styluses for mentors who still prefer the “pen and paper” route, or simply sharing a Google Doc so that beneficiaries could type their questions and answers. As the mentors do not have access to teaching materials that are kept at the mentoring centre, we created an online repository for mentors to provide academic guidance for the beneficiaries. 

Another challenge was technical accessibility – the first half hour of each session is usually bogged down with solving technical issues. For example, beneficiaries could not hear us talking even though sound was not muted, video errors, connection problems, and more. However, the Google Doc provided a foundation for us to ensure that sessions between mentor and beneficiaries remained productive. 

How many online mentoring sessions have you conducted so far during the this period? How many beneficiaries benefited from these online sessions?

We conduct the online sessions on a weekly basis, which is no different from the physical sessions schedule. In terms of numbers, we have had approximately 6-8 online sessions so far. On average, 15-20 beneficiaries benefited from these sessions per week. 


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