Prior to the pandemic itself, the struggles of high-need communities weren’t unheard of: classism, financial straits, the lack of access to basic amenities and the yawning digital divide—all of which are factors that threaten to stunt the development of a community, especially its youths.
For them, the prospect of higher education is often a daunting one and often more than not, most turn their ambitions aside to either take care of their families or join the workforce immediately after graduating from secondary school.
Though many scholarships are present in Malaysia to help these individuals, Ida Thien, deputy CEO of Yayasan Tunku Abdul Rahman (YTAR) and co-founder of Closing The Gap, observes that there was a shortage of scholarship providers that helped “diamonds in the rough”, wherein high potential students that possess strong leadership capabilities as well as instances of outstanding conviction are often overlooked due to certain scholarship restrictions or requirements.
"Let's take, for instance, needs-based scholarships which are offered to students who are classified as B40 (RM 4,850 and below): these scholarships may be restrictive at times as students may be limited to certain pathways and courses compared to the more established merits-based scholarships.
On the other hand, merit-based scholarships typically prioritise academic excellence, extracurricular achievements and exposure to development opportunities or general knowledge. These criteria tend to place B40 students at a significant disadvantage as they are less likely to have the academic training, exposure or upbringing to compete fairly with their more privileged peers. Additionally, B40 students encounter many challenges in their lives due to their difficult circumstances—all of which have only been made worse due to the extended lockdown.”