Thursday, May 13, 2010

Those Years In Sarawak...

caption: Mr Migin(left), Mr Nicholas and the blogger.
It was more than 21 years ago, I was posted to a very interior place of Nyelitak in Sarawak, precisely 200 km from Kuching. It was only accessible by foot and on good days, when the narrow muddy path dried up, then a scrambler motorcycle would make a reliable transport.                      
The first school, Sek. Keb. Kerajaan Nyelitak accommodated 36 pupils of Year 1, 3 and 5 for the year, and Year 2,4 and 6 for the following year. Meaning, no intake of pupils for a year. We had four teachers, including the headmaster, Mr Migin Ruai anak Rugus. We had our hands full almost daily, including preparing breakfast for the pupils who had to walk for miles from their respective villages. Breakfast was a cup of Milo and a few pieces of biscuits as interior schools had no canteens. It was not easy to attract them to school as they were required to help out their parents in the farms or padi fields. The teachers had to ensure that although they were needed to assist their families, the pupils must also get basic education.
My years in the school were filled with memories as the teachers transformed a storeroom into a mini library, to make the pupils read a little and at least, to let them know how a library look like. We introduced many innovative methods in our teachings. We brought in new teaching aids and we organised trips to town.
Our efforts paid off as attendance soared. The school was now filled with some noise and laughter. Sports day was a grand affair as it was also a platform for parents to turn up in drove as we had also drawn up events for them - a tradition in Sarawak. Another activity they looked forward to was cock-fighting.
At night, at least once a month, villagers would come knocking on the door - to share their catch of wild boars, deer, ant-eaters and many more. These Iban folks were good hunters and to celebrate, they would never miss out the teachers.
The sign at the entrance to school- it took me two weeks to make.
The second posting was to SK Lepong Emplas, in Simunjan. It was a place popular for its sweet, juicy rambutans. It still is. I spent three years there. Unlike the three classes in the earlier school, we had six classes here. The number of staff, however, remained at four, including the headmaster, En Halip.
The location of the school was scenic but we had a problem- it frequently flooded. When it did, the teachers had to fold their long pants and helped the pupils with their school bags. It was encouraging to see that they came to school despite the situation. When nature called, it was not like the 5-star toilets in St Michael's. It was made of wood by the villagers. It looks dilapidated but it served us well.
We printed our own exams papers, we brought provisions from the nearby hamlet and we ensured that the pupils had their essentials. The pupils could be a bit weak in class but they were excellent in their drawings, skillful in jungle survival and swift when it came to tree-climbing. I had savoured the local rambutans, highland durians and myriad of catch from the river, items which parents freely shared.
Yes, those years in Sarawak. They were many others which made my years in Sarawak memorable. The experience had made me stronger, more courageous and more importantly, I have cared for the last, the lost and the least!       


harrneak said...

Mr Peter,
This are the "unseen" pictures of sacrifices made by men and women which is not known to many people. We appreciate this men and women who we call "Teacher" or "Cikgu", who has long ago praticed "Rakyat Didahului" concept.
We owe what we are to all of you. Wishing all teachers, in service or retired, a very Happy Teachers DAy.

Harneak Singh

Henry Yew said...

These are indeed memorable moments that I'm sure you will treasure till the very end of days. I can understand how satisfying it can be for you to see your students changing to be citizens who can contribute so much to society.

A hearty cheers and a big thank you to all teachers, past and present, who have made us who we are today - doctors, accountants, teachers, lawyers, engineers, nurses, musicians, etc. etc.

Happy Teacher's Day!

Henry G.Z. Yew
Class of 2005

Tom said...

My respect for you sir, is now overflowing. Thank you sir, for your dedication and hard work. Thank you for everything.

Thomas Yip

ah^kam_koko' said...

It's hard to find people who are willing to contribute to interior communities & their schools.
Thanks for helping out with Sarawak's underprivileged.