Anne Frank once said, no one has ever become poor by giving.

This saying rings true in the heart of Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

Idris, who is Besut’s Member of Parliament (Terengganu), took on an ambitious project upon noticing the plight of his people.

A firm believer in allowing his actions speak louder than words, Idris set out to alleviate the living conditions of the poor in Besut by embarking on a project called Rumah Komuniti, back in January 2016.

As of Nov 28 this year, a total of 186 homes have been built, of which 179 have been handed over.

Having a roof over one’s head is a basic necessity in life, Idris said. “There are many who do not have a proper place to live in as their current homes are dilapidated. At the same time, building technology is becoming better and more affordable,” said Idris.

The minister places significant importance on educating varsity students beyond the four walls of their classroom, and on integrating the theoretical aspects of their knowledge into real life situations.

And that is the unique aspect of this project as the homes are built by students and lecturers from polytechnics and community colleges across the country.

“These institutions focus on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes. The Rumah Komuniti initiative is an opportunity for students to apply what they have learnt in the classroom,” Idris added.

Professional engineers and local contractors supervise, monitor and guide the building process to ensure safety requirements are met.

Members of the local village or area assist, too, by providing support to the students such as food, manpower and accommodation, Idris said.

An example of the home a PolyHome recipient lived in prior to moving into their new and comfortable house built by lecturers and students from Polytechnics across the country under Higher Education Minister and Besut MP Datuk Seri Idris Jusohs Rumah Komuniti initiative.

The ministry said, the students and lecturers are involved in every aspect, from preparing the foundation to fixing the walls, to installing the roofs and placing the electrical wiring.

They also do 3D modelling for the homes before building them, he added.

The challenge was in building homes which were sturdy yet cost-effective and comfortable yet practical for a family. They are built using Industrial Built Systems (IBS) construction methods which have evolved and been refined throughout the course of building the 100 homes.

While earlier versions of the homes took just under one month to build, future versions of the home can be completed within nine days.

Each house is 600 sq feet, has three bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen.

An example of newly built PolyHome, built by lecturers and students from Polytechnics across the country under Higher Education Minister and Besut MP Datuk Seri Idris Jusohs Rumah Komuniti initiative. Picture credit: Dr Mohammad Naim Yaakub.

“The project began in my parliamentary constituency as I had a team on the ground to assist with the coordination and implementation.

“Rumah Komuniti has extended to Tawau in Sabah, and recently the federal government adopted the innovation for the My Brand New Homes initiative in Manjung, Perak,” he said.

It has been a humbling and rewarding journey of providing for the needy for Idris, 62.

Many of the recipients have never had their own room, much less a proper home. Some, who have more than five members in a family, stayed in houses with just a single room, Idris shared.

“I am immensely happy that many are now able to focus on their livelihood, while the recipients’ children are able to focus on their education. I believe education is empowering and has the ability to make lives better in the long run.

“In some ways, I am glad Rumah Komuniti has been able to make this possible and that we have been able to find innovative ways to build low cost houses that are simple, and are able to meet the needs of the people,” he added.

Idris said witnessing a sense of pride flow through each student who are part of this project is proof that the ministry is able to produce TVET students who are of quality, in line with the fourth shift of the Higher Education Blueprint.

“This project also aims to foster a sense of responsibility, love and care among those involved, and I am glad a sense of camaraderie has been formed between the local community, students and the industry,” Idris expressed.

Idris (second from left) handing over a mock key to a family for their new home. Building affordable homes for the poor in Besut, Terengganu is a project by Idris under his Rumah Komuniti initiative.

A learning experience

“Within a short period of time, Rumah Komuniti is able to help the needy overcome some of their problems,” said Dr Mohammad Naim Yaakub, Higher Education Ministry Department of Polytechnic Education deputy director general (Operation).

Politeknik Sultan Idris Shah student Mohd Hasif Saad Shamsudin said it has been a fun learning experience.

“It has been exciting as I got to learn the new skills of IBS technology and it has trained me in terms of the challenges faced in a real life work situation – helping those in difficulty has been a valuable experience,” said Hasif, 26.

Deputy director general (Operation) special officer Mohd Mubarak Shamsuddin said the approach applied during the course of the project for polytechnic students is a work-based learning approach.

“The approach is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life work experiences where they apply academic and technical skills to develop their marketability.

“Students are deployed at construction sites and in the given time period, they will be trained to construct the whole unit of a house from the start till its completion,” said Mubarak.

Dr Mohammad Naim said the project not only reduces the poverty gap but enhances the students and lecturers’ skills, subsequently creating a holistic and skilled human capital.

“This project has instilled a great sense of responsibility and awareness for the welfare of the local community among students and lecturers,” said Dr Mohammad Naim.

Kolej Komuniti Kuala Terengganu lecturer Che Mukhtar Bakar echoed Dr Mohammad Naim, saying the Rumah Komuniti initiative is commendable as it boosts students’ knowledge and skills.

“When it’s time for them to seek employment, professionals from the industry will be more confident of the colleges’ product,” he added.