Raising the standard of education and ensuring everyone has equal access to it is a long-term important agenda in Brunei.
While the government through the Ministry of Education continues to be the primary agency undertaking this responsibility, the private sector also steps in with their own initiatives to realise the country’s goal.
The country’s largest Islamic bank, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) is one organisation that plays an active role in helping the sultanate achieve its national vision of producing highly skilled and educated people by 2035.
Through its ALAF programme, the bank has inducted more than 150 students into a scheme that is carried out in close collaboration with the Department of Schools, the Education Ministry and the Islamic Studies Department under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Entering its fifth year, the ALAF programme, which stands for ‘Advocating Life-Long Learning for An Aspiring Future’ is an initiative introduced in 2013 to assist underprivileged students nationwide to excel in their studies.
Apart from providing select students with educational necessities including school uniform, stationeries and textbooks, the bank also arranges tuition and conducts counseling services where necessary.
Scholarships at prestigious private schools like the Jerudong International School (JIS) and International School Brunei (ISB) are also given to students who have demonstrated academic excellence.
Under the programme, students who continue to achieve good results will be eligible for ALAF assistance throughout their academic progress; from Primary School all the way to University level.
For this, students must consistently achieve at least an overall passing rate of 75 per cent in their examinations, and an attendance score of at least 95 per cent.
Eligibility into the ALAF programme, however, remains stringent and comprehensive.
The bank will usually have to conduct a thorough family background check and determine the income level before accepting any student into the programme.
If the students satisfy the criteria set by BIBD, they will immediately be shortlisted.
In 2016, BIBD established a board of trustee for its ALAF programme to manage donation money received from the public.
The bank also actively hosts fundraising events such as last year’s BIBD ALAF Run at the capital – and will continue to host similar events and look for other opportunities to ensure that the programme is sustainable in the long run.
BIBD continues to look for more ways to add value to the programme with several plans already in the pipelines.
In addition to existing assistance programmes, the banks also holds educational events for the ALAF students during school holidays.
The bank has also extended its coverage of ALAF assistance to special needs students since two years ago.
The ALAF programme is a true reaffirmation of the bank’s commitment to help the country achieve its vision of creating a society which has equal access to high-quality education.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN