“Special education teacher” isn’t just Cikgu Azam’s job title… it’s a testament to his passion for helping others.
Before discovering his calling, Cikgu earned a degree in forestry science from Universiti Putra Malaysia and worked in an IT department. At the same time, he had a side job where he prepared modules and activities for school children.
In 2007, this side job led him to creating activities for children with special needs. Because Cikgu wasn’t familiar with these students’ needs, he took time to educate himself through books and journals.
During the program, he was able to help a student with cerebral palsy who was having trouble collecting stones from a river like the other students. Cikgu recalled learning about water therapy and decided to have the child keep his hands in the water.
“After a few minutes, the stiffness on his hands started to loosen up and with me guiding his hands, he was able to collect some stones from the river,” he said. “While I was assisting him, I could hear the tears of joy coming from his parents who were there with us as well.”
That beautiful moment etched itself into Cikgu’s mind and heart. With the encouragement of his friends, he went back to school to get a degree in special education.
By 2009, he was ready to become a special education teacher! Trained to empower students with autism and hyperactive disorder, he was surprised to learn that he would also be teaching students who were visually impaired and blind. While that made his first year a challenge, just as he’d done before, Cikgu took the time he needed to educate himself on what would best help his students.
As he began to interact with them, he realized many of his kids didn’t recognize their potential.
“It is disappointing to see that they are smart kids, but they are so used to their closed environment up to the point they don’t want to get to know the outside world. Even though they’re visually impaired or blind, they deserve to explore the outside world,” he said. “So, the challenge for me is giving them their confidence back and by having outside activities and interactions, it can help in bringing back their confidence.”
He does this by helping his students run, simply putting his hands on their shoulders to guide them. One of his students, Nur Yusrina Alisya, not only loves to run, but also became an absolute star, winning several awards and trophies in sporting events.
Cikgu loves giving his students the freedom to run, but as he’s gotten older, it’s become difficult to keep up with them. Luckily, a student gave him the exact inspiration he needed!
“So, one day while training, I saw one of the students pushing a foldable trolley and the idea suddenly came to mind,” he said. “I asked Alisya to do a test run using the trolley and it works aside from the lack of flexibility of the trolley as it cannot turn.”
Ever since then, Cikgu has made it his mission to create an even better device. With some unused PVC pipes and joint connectors, he built the first prototype: Caballus RAFVI. The videos he’s shared of his students using it quickly went viral online.
“The reason why I choose to name it after a horse is because during the first world war, horses were the main method of transportation for the military,” he said. “However, most of the horses are blind or visually impaired as a result from the war but the military still uses these horses as they can still command and guide them even though they’re blind.”
While progression on the third version has slowed down because of the pandemic, Cikgu is doing everything he can to help his students thrive!
“All of my students are very special to me and some of them are also part of the school’s sports team. They need a device to help them so they can participate in sporting activities,” he said. “This device is able to fill that need, and it definitely helps with building my students’ confidence.”
Keep up the amazing work, Cikgu! The world needs more people like you! Share this incredible story to inspire your friends.
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