Chair of the trust visits the three Assunta Schools

On 23 April, Martin Jacques, the chair of the Harinder Veriah Trust, spent a day with Puan Tan, the Head of Assunta Primary School 2, and her colleagues, the Head of Assunta Secondary School and her team, and representatives from Assunta Primary School 1. The result was exciting new perspectives for the work of the Trust. He writes:


Meeting with Puan Rita, the Head Teacher, her Deputy, Shanti, Shariza Noordin from the Trust and myself.

There are presently 19 students (Years 1-3) receiving the Basic Programme and the Food Programme. The school has five years in all, i.e. Years 1-5.

A Tutorial Programme is just starting. The school has found two volunteers to teach English and Maths. Tutorials initially will be held every Friday 1-2pm. The school are adding 11 academically weak students of their own, making 30 students altogether. Shariza and I both felt that it would be better if the HVT pupils were tutored separately. The present teachers are Teresa Chan, who is a retired teacher and presently teaches refugees. She does the English. And Dina Rozario, who does the Maths and who has successfully tutored her own children. Need to find additional teachers, perhaps from Alumni and also possibly senior students.

Hoping to extend the tutoring to two sessions a week, one on Wed and the present one on Frid. The students stay on after school for the tutoring, and the same would happen on Wed.

It is hoped to extend the tutoring to Bahasa Malaysia. BM, together with Maths and English, are the three subjects that all students must achieve a pass in. There are, in all, five core subjects: these plus Science and History.

The tutoring is co-ordinated by Shanti.

It was noted that the cost of the Food Programme per head at ASS is somewhat higher than at Primary School 2.

It was suggested that it would be very good if the Trust could help pay for the HVT girls to go on the School Camps. Normally they don’t go because they can’t afford to. The Camps are usually for two nights somewhere in Malaysia, for example Penang. For the current 19 HVT students, it would cost the Trust approximately £800.

If any of our HVT girls are appointed prefects they would need to have the appropriate uniform; likewise if they become a Librarian, or are involved in various activities such as the Interect Club, Community Club and Girls Brigade. It was reckoned that each of our girls would be involved in one of these and therefore would require one (appropriate) uniform.

Finally, it should be noted that the girls leave the school at the end of Year 5 when they are 17.

There are then three main options:

  1. Sixth Form – Malaysia
  2. A levels – UK
  3. Matriculation – Canada/Australia

Our interest would be those going into the Sixth Form (the other two options would be for the better-off).

The school gives Book Prizes for the best kids. It would be good if the Trust could offer a book prize for the best performing HVT student in each year.

Finally, you might note the shifting ethnic composition of the Secondary School as with the Primary Schools. When Hari attended them, there were plenty of Chinese students. There are now only 28 Chinese in PS2 (out of 700) and the same trend is evident in the Secondary School. Bear in mind here that the Chinese account for around 25% of the population. The Chinese are also comfortably on average the most prosperous ethnic group. Instead of sending their daughters to the local government school (e.g. the Assunta schools) they have increasingly been sending them to Chinese schools or, if they can afford to, international schools. Given that on average the Chinese students tend to be the best performing ethnic group academically, this obviously has a negative effect on the academic performance of the three Assunta schools.


Shariza and I had a meeting with Puan Tan, the Head Teacher, Puan Anant, the teacher in charge of welfare, and Mrs Harvinder, who will take over responsibility for welfare in 2016 when Puan Anant retires.  Completely unexpectedly, and with touching thoughtfulness, they presented me with a framed Certificate of Appreciation. They pointed out that 2015 marked the 10th anniversary of the HVT Programme (i.e. the Basic Programme, which was subsequently followed by the Food Programme and then the Tutoring Programme, which was introduced in 2008).

We are presently supporting 45 students at PS2. In excess of 30 attend the tutorial sessions on a regular basis. The main reasons for non-attendance are transport problems or, in the case of Muslim students, if it clashes with after-school religious classes.

The tutoring continues to be organised and supervised with great commitment and competence by Zulita Ghaus. I was struck that since my last visit a couple of years ago there has been a marked turnover of tutors who, of course, are all volunteers. It is to the credit of the team that they have succeeded in finding replacement tutors.


In the wave of interest that was sparked in Malaysia by the launch of our website, we received an email from Rema Menon, a teacher at PS1, pleading with us to provide the HVT scheme at PS1 as well as PS2. Shariza and I met with Rema Menon and the Assistant Head for Student Affairs. Rema Menon is hugely determined and committed to the idea. They will start with the Basic Programme [uniform, stationery etc] and the Food Programme, and later a Tutorial Programme (with a new and different team of tutors). Shariza will liaise with them on the development of the HVT scheme at the school. The intention is to start in January 2016.


I have been discussing for some time with Shariza the idea of establishing a Steering Group which could develop a strategic view of our work in Malaysia and which would consist of people drawn from the three schools plus others. In some ways the Group would resemble the UK Trustees. A group of five later met to discuss what might be done. The meeting was extremely positive and enthusiastic. We discussed lots of issues including our legal status and fund-raising in Malaysia. It was agreed that we should aim for an event in Kuala Lumpur in the autumn to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the HVT Scheme. The aim would be late October/early November. They thought they could get over 100 people to attend. This is a highly competent and well-connected group of people: the potential is very considerable.

The following people are being canvassed to participate in the Group:

  1. Shariza – agreed
  2. Dhiren (old lawyer friend of Hari’s – and me too) – agreed
  3. Jeannie Choke (responsible for the Malaysian feed for our website) – agreed
  4. Debbie Steiner – agreed
  5. Shanti (who attended the above meeting) – agreed
  6. Murali (first recipient of the Harinder Veriah Trust Lovells Award) – agreed
  7. Loh Ping Kit (second recipient of the Harinder Veriah Trust Lovells Award) – agreed
  8. Shanti (Secondary School) – to be approached
  9. Puan Lee (former Head of PS2) – to be approached

I will attend the event and hopefully one or two other UK trustees will also be able to go.


Together these developments represent a huge step forward in our work and perspectives, by far the biggest since we started on this path a decade ago. For me it was wonderfully encouraging. The numbers of girls we support is likely to grow to perhaps around 120 over the next five years and the steering group could open up quite new possibilities in terms of profile, support and fund-raising.

Finally I would like to thank Shariza for all the work and effort she did to make these meetings a success. Ever since I started on this journey in 2001, she has been my alter ego in Malaysia. Without her none of this would have been possible. And even after all this time her energy and commitment is undiminished. She is a tower of strength who took the lead role in all the meetings that we had. And she does all this notwithstanding the fact that she is a partner in one of KL’s largest law firms, a very hands-on mother of two teenagers, as well as being heavily involved in her extended family and in the care of her invalided mother.

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“When I came to Assunta I could not even read a word. After attending HVT tuition I can read millions and millions of books! God bless them. I am given a school bag, stationery and meals. I am taught English, Mathematics and Science. God bless HVT!!”

Esther Std 5