Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Three Angels - Part 1

During my addiction days to Internet Relay Chat (IRC) my standard reply whenever I was asked to name my location was 'The Siberia of Malaysia'. It has never failed to elicite further inquiry as to where is this place that I referred to as The Siberia of Malaysia. I was referring to Gua Musang, Kelantan. Gua Musang didn't seem to ring a bell to many ears and the mention of Tengku Razaleigh as the Member of Parliament still failed to strike any semblance of knowledge about Gua Musang on the uninitiated.

It was the Siberia of Malaysia that The Three Angels were first posted to in 1984 after completing their teacher training course in various Teachers Training Colleges. Gua Musang was by then accessible by road. Two years earlier it was only accessible by train. The few cars running around the few short roads there had to come by train. Dr. Rajoo was the only private medical paracticioner at that time in Gua Musang and his car too came by train.

In 1984 Gua Musang, the southernmost town in Kelantan bordering Pahang was the dead end by road. Only some years later that the connection to Merapoh in Pahang was opened up and thus Gua Musang was linked to Kuala Lumpur. Road travellers from the north need not go via the coastal road in Terengganu since the distance to KL is shortened by a few hundred kilometers. Soon Terengganu will be connected to the West Coast via Gua Musang when the second East West road is completed. Curently Gua Musang is connected not only to KL buat also to Ipoh via the Gua Musang-Cameron road which is part of the second East West road.

The Three Angels were comprised of three teachers in their early twenties. Miss Teo Tang Ghee, Miss Lo Suni, Miss Yong Huey Ling made up The Three Angels. It is difficult to describe them but suffice to say that the sum total of the three make up a pretty sight. Individually I would say Miss Teo as motherly inspite of her young age and a natural leader. Miss Lo is more model like and Miss Yong as a petite lady. Miss Yong is the only Kelantanese among the group and she hailed from Kota Baru.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Renok Baru was the school where they were posted. The school was located about fifteen kilometers and about a kilometer from the Gua Musang Kota Bharu trunk road. It must be fate that brought them to this school because there was another school right smack in the middle of town where they could have been posted to. They would be very happy to serve at the school in town due to the convenience of just walking to school. Being from Penang and trained in Mohd Khalid teachers Training College in Johor Baru, Miss Teo's first reaction when she knew that she was to be posted to Gua Musang was one of shock, dismay and apprehension. Being always resourceful, she soon found out about people from Penang who were residing in Gua Musang. Her fears were more controlled then.

The first lodging they managed to find was a decrepit room over a video outlet. Later they found a better room with a family who operated a hardware store on the ground floor. The room was comfortable with a living area and furnished with a settee provided by the landlord. The room came with a toilet of their own seperate from the landlord. Over the years the landlord was like a family to these ladies.

Their next problem was how to commute from Gua musang as there was no regular bus service. Luckily an Ustaz who teaches at the same school was also commuting daily by car. It was convenient for them to pay the good ustaz for a ride to and from school. The only snag was that Ustaz was too meticulous with his car. When it rains, he will park his car by the main road and everone will have to walk the 1 kilometer to school and another kilometer back to the car after school. As you can guess the Ustaz's car was spotlessly clean come rain or shine.

Being the only non Malay teachers in te school, the Malay pupils who rarely get to be close to others not of their own race and who speak Bahasa Malaysia without any Kelantanese slang was an atraction by itself. Pupils were eager to be close to them.
The were so good with the students that some students in year one voiced their willingness to Miss Teo to make her their godmother. Just before she managed to say anything another pupil spoke that however much she herself wanted to be her god children, she cant do it because the teacher is an infidel. How would you feel if you were in Miss teo's shoes? She didnt blame the 7 year old child but the person who poisoned the child'd mind was the real culprit.
There was another female teacher in the school and she taught religious classes. As such she was known as an Ustazah. This Ustazah was so primitive in her thinking and mindset that when teaching physical education among year one pupils she told them to use sticks to avoid touching the hands of the opposite sex when making a circle. Do you do that for year one students? There were other instances when this ustazah did which is deemed detrimental to the mental development of these young minds. Based on these incidences she was quite sure that the person who poisoned the minds of the pupils was none other than the usatzah.

All the three of them were made to teach in English as well as physical education training. They set their heart and mind to their job and the improvement in the English subject shown by the yearly exam's result was so good that they were noticed by the Education office that was then located in Kuala Krai. A rural school doing so well in English. That's really something unheard off. These things only happened in the schools in towns but not in the village.

Being ever resourceful they managed to get donations from Dow Pacific Chemicals to establish the resource center for the school. Though the amount was only RM2500.00 they managed to get quite a substantial number of books on sale at a book fair in Kuala Lumpur. A small transistor radio was also purchased with several headphones included. That is no small feat for teachers teaching in such a rural environment.

There were some festivities at the school. Surprise of all surprises the three of them were put in charge of the dance performance. With much zeal they prepared the pupils to put up an enthusiastic performance.

It is such teachers that can make a difference to our society. They would serve anywhere in Malaysia and with as much enthusiasm even when the pupils are not of their own race or religion. Dedicated to their job is the best word to describe The Three Angels.

The Three Angels Part 2 will be about their lives after Gua Musang.


J.T. said...

So, you were into IRC? I was addicted to it sometime in 1996.

Anyway, your mention of Gua Musang brings back memories of my early days in Kelantan, in the 70s. My dad was with the police in KB, he used to go to Gua Musang for work often. Good to know that development has happened and one can drive through there to get to KL. I remember our annual trips to KL from KB - it was long and tiring. We would stop in KT for breakfast, Kuantan for lunch, Mentakab for tea (I think) and in KL for dinner.

Those three angels were resourceful, alright. So hard to find teachers like them these days. So dedicated and nurturing. Looking forward to Part 2.

Have a good week, Zawi. :)

Zawi said...

This is a big surprise to me that you have stayed in Kelantan! Definitely you still have friends in Kelantan. If you have the chance do come back and see a different Kelantan now.
IRC days always bring me back mixed memories to me. This is a habit that changed my life for the worse. From an active tennis player I degenerated into a flaccid, listless and irresponsible liar. I could write volumes on that voyage into a world of deceit. Since I am ashamed of it I'd rather not.

Zawi said...

I have a newer post below about hostel life but it came after my older post because they follow the date of the draft. Hope you will scroll down and see if you can enjoy it too.

Azura said...

I enjoy it too dad.....I don't have such a great experience to share with everybody. It is so different nowadays..........

Zawi said...

At last I have one of my own children reading my blog. I have already drafted a story about My Family. I will be writing about you and the rest soon. Infact we can write them together when you are home soon.

J.T. said...

Hi Zawi,

Oh dear.. I thought I mentioned before that I was in KB, Kelantan. I guess I must have left that out. Anyway, I was living in KB from 1970 to 1979. I was schooled at SRK Zainab (2). My brothers did just a a year or two in SMSI, KB. We moved to Klang in December 1979.

We still have friends in KB but not in touch anymore but I know if we meet them, it will be easy to pick up from where we left off. My brother still keeps in touch with his classmate.

I intended to visit KB the last time I was down in Malaysia but other matters got in the way that my trip had to be cancelled. Kelantan is still on my list to re-visit. I will do it someday.

Re IRC, we will not talk about it then.

I will return to read your newer post in a day or two. A little tied up here but I could not resist leaving a comment today. :)

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