How a Jobless Youth Became Cikgu Lan to Help More Than 8000 School Kids

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My name is Then Mugilan Ramasamy, better known as Cikgu Lan. Life has given me many twists and turns.

Whether it’s an experience or a lesson, each episode of life teaches you something fresh.

I Lost My Job In 2018

I used to be a happy-go-lucky young man who loved to grab Life by the horns. It was a promising career, one that was a source of stable income and I had a balanced life routine. Life was peachy.

That was until the change in Malaysian government. 

I received a notice from my office that my contract was ending. Suddenly, I was out of a job.

It sends a shiver down my spine when my mind recalls that dark day. That notice letter cast me out into a much darker phase of my life. It killed off the “happy child” in me, and a “lonely ranger” took its place. 

I was depressed, lonely and hopeless. Every morning, I would wake up without a sense of direction. I would start tearing up without a proper reason.

At the time, my wife Navineah and I were newly married, but we had to overcome huge financial burdens: 6 months of impending house rental, hospital fees for my mother’s leg operation. 

Navineah lent me her full support, taking full care of house expenses. She basically fed me every day. My parents Mr & Mrs Ramasamy Manonmany and my brothers Subash and Chelvam also lent their support financially.

Without them, I would not have had the opportunity to turn my life around.

I Met Three ‘Superheroes’ Who Turned My Life Around

The universe was really kind to me. It connected me to three important superheroes to revive my life journey. 

Vince Tan, my Mentor.

My first superhero was Vince Tan, my mentor. He was the person who inspired me to become a social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurship is about using start-ups to develop solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues, not just to make money.

At the time, I had a little dream: “To make sure every single socio-economically disadvantaged child has access to quality education.” But I was sure it was an unattainable dream, one that would fail even before it left the ground.

Vince told me: “Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your current reality. Just work your butt off to upgrade your conviction to fit your dream.” 

Just like that, his words enabled me to see my life from a new perspective. He made me believe that I had a story to tell the world. He motivated me to turn my passion and ideology into my new journey.

Through him, I had more opportunities to meet his successful apprentices. He guided me to build an impactful social enterprise. 

Mr Sivabarathy, my Motivator.

My second superhero was Mr Sivabarathy, my motivator and spirit lifter. He was like a big brother to me. I speak to him whenever I feel down emotionally. 

It is he who instills a fountain of positivity within me, teaching me to see the positivity in every situation. He coached me to maintain a highly-energetic personality .

He gave away many books on self improvement, life and purpose, from his personal library for me to read on. Some of the techniques he taught me were Zen philosophies, mind re-engineering techniques, meditation, and other ways to keep me composed during my depressive state.

He brought out a new version of myself. Most importantly, he helped me to overcome depression.  

Mr. L.K., my Patron.

My third superhero was Mr. L.K., my patron. When I shared my ideas with him about my social mission, how I planned to develop Edtech as a social enterprise, he was the first person to donate to my cause. 

Mr. L.K. shared these words of encouragement to me: “Nobody will go down by lifting others. You have the talent! Go empower the young generation!”

My Journey Towards Becoming A Social Entrepreneur

With Vince’s mentorship, Mr L.K.’s support, Mr. Siva’s motivation, and a few of my friends (Baskaran, Haziq, Zakaria, Nazrin, Seelan, Aaron, Nick, TRK, Jagathis and Rizduan), we started up Juara UPSR, an academic mentorship program  to help underprivileged students prepare for their UPSR final examinations. 

In 2018, about 136,000 Malaysian students were graded to have received “tidak mencapai tahap penguasaan minimum in UPSR 2018”. They did not meet the minimum requirements to pass their UPSR.

We held a strong conviction that these children needed academic assistance, so we took up the challenge and the social responsibility to help them pass their exams.

When I was young, my father never had extra money to send me to private tuition. I used to envy my friends that attended premium tuition centres back then. I’d collect their notes to revise myself. 

Juara UPSR’s social mission is to ensure that no child be denied the best educational opportunity and access due to his or her underprivileged socio-economic circumstances. 

We want to empower and inspire the hearts and minds of the younger generations through education. They are the seeds of the future.

Through our Seminar Juara UPSR PERCUMA, we’ve impacted 6000 families. 

We have live webinars conducted by subject experts, providing revision kits with elements of Socrates questioning methodology to enhance critical thinking.

We promote independent learning, higher-order thinking skills, soft skills, creativity and curiosity within the academic mentorship program. Though our webinar classes, we have reached over 8,300 students. 

We are sustained by publishing UPSR Books with more than 15,000 copies sold, and by donations as venue sponsorships and meals for students from well-wishers. Supported by EdTech-driven data, our digital platform tracks each students’ improvement index.    

The young team behind Juara UPSR became highly motivated with the  presence of Yang Berhormat Nurul Izzah Anwar and Yang Berhormat Datuk Anwar Ibrahim to launch the Seminar Juara UPSR PERCUMA Series.

In Conclusion

Within 7 months, I went from a jobless youth to ‘Cikgu Lan’ – someone who inspires more than 14,000 students from underprivileged families. 

I want to be a warrior rather than a mere worrier. I strongly believe that education is the agent of change. 

I believe no child should be denied the best educational access because of poverty. And now I have a way to make that dream a reality.

The Strong Pillars behind Juara UPSR: Abang Haziq & Cikgu Lan

Thank you for sparing your precious time reading my little journey. All the best in your own journey. Keep persevering. At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky. Stay humble, hustle hard. You could be a SUPERHERO in someone else’s life. 

Perjuangan masih belum selesai.

For more inspirational stories, read These Four Malaysian Teachers Went the Extra Mile for Their Students: Here Are Their Stories and Changing Lives with AIESEC’s Global Volunteering Program.

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