SMC – 25 years of guidance

May 30th, 2007 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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Divine guidance


Students are all ears during a lesson at one of the SMC centres in Klang Valley.
Students are all ears during a lesson at one of the SMC centres in Klang Valley.

A tuition centre set up to help Indian students from the lower income group uses religious terms to motivate and help them perform better academically. Today, it celebrates its 25th anniversary and is basking in its recognition within the community.


TWENTY-FIVE years ago, tuition centres were set up in four main towns in the country specifically to help Indian students from the lower income group who are poor in studies.
Today, the Sri Murugan Centre (SMC) can claim to have helped in educating about 250,000 students, some of whom have returned as tutors to repay the debt they owe to the centre.
Academically, socially and with deep essence of religion, the centre has produced not only graduates and professionals but also better human beings.
The centre’s director and founder, academician Datuk Dr M. Thambirajah, said he was compelled to provide a centre for the financially challenged Indian students to help them secure a better future in life.
"We wanted to bring back the divine relationship between teacher and student. Initially, our goal was to produce more middle-class Indians but that has now changed," said Thambirajah.
His words "An educated man without values is an intellectual savage living in spiritual ghetto" epitomises the importance of values and good character, apart from education.
Thambirajah said: "Every religion speaks of discipline and that is what I make them follow. We bring discipline and education together."
"If a student does not obtain all As in his examination, it is not his fault. It is because, along the way, someone failed to make the student listen." But it was not smooth sailing for Thambirajah when he and about 40 students of Universiti Malaya set up the SMC. Many people were sceptical about his motive and thought he was doing it to contest for a seat in parliament.
On SMC’s 25th anniversary, which will be celebrated at Universiti Malaya today, Thambirajah said he never thought his effort would come this far.
"I had no long-term plan then… we worked on a year-to-year basis. However, the 25 years had enabled the tutors to study student behaviour, how to produce results, achieve networking and liaising with financial institutions."
He said his target for the centre in the next 10 years is to produce a doctor in each Indian family.
SMC, which started with four centres ? Klang, Petaling Jaya, Seremban and Sentul (Kuala Lumpur) in 1982 ? has 103 centres nationwide today with more than 2,000 volunteers. Tutors and volunteers are each reimbursed RM200 a month for petrol.
Students at the centre pay a minimum fee for their subjects.
SMC boasts of having produced more than 10,000 graduates and what makes it different from other tuition centres is that the majority of its alumni return to the centre every year to teach.
Its co-director, K. Suraindran, said almost 90 per cent of the volunteers and tutors today are former students.
"Mobilising the tutors are never a problem for us, though initially it was difficult to find dedicated teachers," said Suraindran, who has been actively involved with SMC since 2000.
Co-director and former teacher L. Krishnan said using religious terms in tutoring the students had encouraged parent involvement in their children’s education.
Suraindran described SMC as a clean and ethical movement and that it had always enjoyed recognition and help from state governments.
Works Minister Datuk S. Samy Vellu, who is also MIC president, has been invited as guest of honour for the 25th anniversary celebration.

Back to settle debt of gratitude

FOR second-year Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia student S. Ganesan, going back to Sri Murugan Centre was not an option. He decided to return on the day he left, after his STPM examinations.
"SMC had helped me a lot. I think it is only fair that I give back what was given to me," said Ganesan.
The 23-year-old from Johor Baru acknowledged that he is in university because of SMC.
Ganesan teaches history for PMR and SPM students at the centre on weekends. He is also one of the STPM programme co-ordinators.
Unitar accounting student S. Tamil Selvam said he does not mind spending his holidays teaching at the centre as it was through guidance at the SMC that he furthered his studies.
"SMC is not like any tuition centre. They care about us and make us feel appreciated," he said, adding that the motivational talks and confidence-building sessions helped him.
Tamil Selvam said after being made to practise thousands of questions for each subject, he found answering questions during examinations relatively easy.
He admitted that he had always looked forward to SMC classes as they were given emotional and moral support there.
S. Jayaraj, 51, said his 15-year-old son has shown great improvement after he started attending SMC classes.
"He has not only shown positive results but also begun to have better understanding of the religion."

Owing all his success to SMC

PRAKASH Rao would not be where he is today if not for help from the Sri Murugan Centre.
Born to a family where his rubber-tapper father could barely make ends meet, Rao’s childhood and school years were anything but easy.
There were seven mouths to feed and his father’s RM200 monthly salary was barely enough to provide his six children with proper education.
Despite the dismal circumstances, Rao was determined to make his life a success..
"When I discovered there was a centre catering for the less privileged in Ipoh, I saw an opportunity to further myself. I left home, stayed in a hostel in Ipoh to study and have not looked back since," said the 41-year-old Rao, a lecturer with the Malay Language Institute in Kuala Lumpur.
Rao said it was the best decision he ever made and the sacrifice of leaving his family paid off. His Form Six results were testimony to the par excellence of SMC’s teaching methods.
"I would never have dreamt that someone with my background could have made it to university, but I was accepted into Universiti Malaya where I pursued a course in Malay literature," said Rao, now married with two children.


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