Ashaari Amin (now Tuan Haji) was instrumental in getting me back to stay in the school hostel.
Prior to that I was staying with my foster mother on the fringe of Pasir Mas town. We were in form 4 then. Reading story books was my main priority then compared to studying for my exam. Since School Certificate of Examination ws only due in 1968, I thought studying for the exam can be done during the year itself.
During a discussion on Biology, Ashaari asked me to describe the alimentary system. He was horrified to know that I couldnt describe it. The alimentary system was elementary to students of a science class who was due to sit for the School Certificate of Examination in slightly more than a year's time.
He immediately asked me to move in to the hostel and promised to talk to the hostel master for a place for me. I definitely qualify to stay in the hostel with my home being located 10 miles away. Compare that to Ashaari's home which was just 1 mile away from the gate of the school.
A short letter addressed to the Hostel Master Mr. G. Thanda and handing the letter personally to him was all it took to enable me to join the hostel life for the second time.
I cant recall the exact date of my return to the hostel nor could I recall how I carried my beddings and few belongings to the hostel. Being a school prefect I was automatically appointed as the hostel prefect. Life changed for the better for me since now I will be going to class without an empty stomach. Meals will be regular. There will be at least 5 meals a day including mid morning tea break and afternoon tea. There will also be games in the evenings and prep class after dinner till 11 pm for the seniors. Those who were in form 5 will continue studying till the wee hours. The regular study among peers helped me with my grades.
Mr G Thanda demonstrated how to be an effective Hostel Master. As a hostel master we rarely see him around the hostel except during the occassional walk around the dorm. One day during prep class, one of us by the name of Abdul Rahman Hasan Koya (now deceased) fooled around by going out of the class and made silly dance movement. The next minute we saw Mr. Thanda walked over to him and in the sight of everyone he gave him several tight slaps on both cheeks. He felled down and Mr Thanda helped to bring him up on his feet then the slapping was continued . That was the one and only time that we saw Mr. Thanda punished any one of us and the impact was long lasting. Though we don't see him around, he could be somewhere in the darkness watching us.
One of the most memorable incident in my hostel life that year was when I got drenched with a small bucket of water while in deep slumber one night. I must have been boastful after prep class and somebody thought that I needed to be taught a lesson for that. The way they usually did it was to place a container full of water on your mosquito net while you were sound asleep. The weight of the container full of water will gradually lower the container until it finally reached a certain level whereby any body movement will make the container spill its content on you. It was more like a time bomb that will drench your body and not only your blanket but also the matress. I got mine on on a night when Pasir Mas was at the height of the monsoon season and flood water was nearing the level of overflowing the Kelantan river bank.
I was so frustrated that I took my revenge on the most innocent of persons who happened to sleep on the bunk above me. The victim cursed aloud and the dormitory light was switched on. With lots of guilt, I pretended to be asleep. The person who slept above me was none other than my best friend Ghani Senik (now Tuan Haji). So Tuan Haji, as I have confessed today in my email reply to you, I was the one who caused your cold discomfort that night. I believed many knew that I was the one who did it but they just didnt point me out.
There was not really much to recall for the year of 1967. More so when the teachers boycotted all extra curricular activities and we were left on our own to do any activites.
Part 3 will describe my final year of stay in the hostel of Sultan Ibrahim Secondary School Pasir Mas. It constituted the most memorable part of my hostel life.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Ashaari Amin (now Tuan Haji) was instrumental in getting me back to stay in the school hostel.
Monday, August 27, 2007
As luck would have it, one of the three angels responded. The one who responded was Miss Teo Tang Ghee. This wholesome astute, sensitive, mature and caring lady had taken the trouble to write more detailed description of her experience and feelings about their experience there. To ensure that readers get it straight from the horse's mouth I reproduce verbatim what she wrote to me in her email. This should correct any mistake or perception made by me in the earlier posting about them.
On her first first day experience in Gua Musang.
When I got my posting in the mail, my heart sank and I almost cried. How could I possibly end up in one of the two most dreaded postings on the peninsular (Ulu Tembeling & Gua Musang were college jokes)? Don't they give any recognition to a 'Cemerlang' teacher training college graduate? Perhaps you could understand my feelings if you were born and bred in a city and the 2 1/2 -year stint at Maktab Perguruan Mohd.Khalid in JB were the only time I had lived away from home. I couldn't even find Renok Baru on the map!
Luckily I had a distant aunt working as a nurse for many years in Tanah Merah. She and her JKR engineering assistant husband kindly drove me to GM. Through some acquaintance of my uncle, I was shown a narrow room at the video rental shop. It didn't come cheap (I learned that accommodation was limited in Gua Musang) and I was to share the room with the owner's younger daughter. It was the sight of the bathroom that turned me off and I was praying that I wouldn't be made to accept it! On the way back to TM, my uncle made a stop at SK Renok Baru to see what it's like. Well, the bumpy ride some distance in from the highway past wooden houses on stilts and the sight of a single row of faded wooden building housing the classrooms that greeted me did little to lift my spirits! The school had no electricity nor piped water!
Sensing my dismay, my aunt thought I should go to JPN in Kota Bahru to appeal for a change of school. The next day I was put in a taxi and managed to find my way to JPN. The officer in charge was not helpful and would not entertain my requests. He said I could bathe in the river, etc (I didn't even know how to tie a sarong securely!). But there I met my first headmaster who was very nice and welcoming. He took me to his car where his wife and mentally-challenged son (he made strange noises that worried me when I was in the backseat with him!) were waiting, drove me to his house for tea then sent me to the terminal to catch a taxi back to my aunt's in Tanah Merah. He brushed aside all my fears, said not to worry, there's a teachers’ quarters and that he'd send a land rover to pick me up at the train station when I arrive in Gua Musang. I had no choice but to accept my fate. I can't remember exactly but I believe Suny came in the land rover when I arrived. My aunt gave me containers of boiled water and also suggested that I could carry water from the river into the house to bathe as the planks on the wooden floor had gaps (there was no bathroom). Can't remember anything about toilet facilities in the longhouse-style teachers’ quarters.
On problem with accommodation and transport.
Can’t recall the details but given a choice, we knew we wanted to stay in town and not in the teachers’ quarters. I remember the 3 of us walked around town looking for a room to rent. We were directed to a house with many tenants and were shown 2 rooms- one with no windows and a naked bulb hanging from the ceiling by a frugal and not-so-friendly old Chinawoman who listed out unattractive terms of tenancy. At first we decided on the one with a window thinking we had little choice, left our stuff and went down to bathe as we were hot and sweaty. Unsatisfied, we made further enquiries and as fate would have it we were brought to Chop Sing Hong, a hardware shop just relocated in a new 3-storey building. The owner and his wife were nice and there was a room to let. We quickly went back to the Chinawoman who showed her displeasure and said we had already taken our baths in her house! We paid her RM5 which she took!
Later in school, we managed to work out a car pool arrangement with Cikgu Yusof who I believe taught Maths & Science. Although he wore a white kopiah (skull cap), he was not an ustaz. He was from Pasir Puteh and had just been transferred to Renok Baru. He had his daughter, Ayu, with him and they rented a house in Gua Musang town.
On Relations with HM, fellow teachers, pupils, parents.
I remember serving under 3 Head Masters (HM) in my 5years in Renok Baru, The 1st was transferred shortly after we arrived the 2nd was nice and fatherly while we found the 3rd aloof and arrogant. The 2nd appreciated our contributions and valued us. We sometimes deliberately tried to make him panic by telling him about offers from other schools in town! He had a slipped disc operation and some time after got transferred nearer his home. He rang me one day to persuade me to join his school (he said he could arrange for my transfer), can’t recall which exactly, and cited a list of reasons to make his offer attractive. One was the distance. He said I could take a bus back to Penang directly even if I wanted to go home every weekend unlike GM. I didn’t take up his offer. I decided that when I leave GM it would be back to Penang , not another school in Kelantan. The same reason for turning down En.Sabri Salleh’s (the then District Education officer who was very impressed with the work I did with the students in Renok Baru) offer to teach in Kuala Krai where the district education office was based.
The pupils were curious about us. I think that was the first close encounter they had with non-Malays / Chinese. I think they loved us as we loved them. They were poor but simple and affectionate. They aroused the ‘altruistic’ values in me, making me do more than just teach. I have a few stories about that but they are too time consuming to write here (I’m suppose to study for my PTK Test day after tomorrow).
The parents welcomed us. They respected us and were supportive as well as appreciative of our efforts in teaching their children. Relationship with the rest of the staff was good. We even stayed overnight with the ustaz and his family when we were making the ‘asyura’ as a community project. His wife was very warm and was keen to teach us their culture. I remember how annoyed I was on one occasion when all the ladies (female teachers and teachers’ wives) spent the whole morning slaving in the kitchen and when the meal was ready and laid out on a mat on the floor, all the men were invited to eat first. When I protested, I was told that the womenfolk would only eat after them. It was so unfair!
Except for some minor hiccups, I didn’t think they were any big issues in our cultural and religious differences. There was a lot of respect and acceptance both ways. I don’t remember that it was the ustazah who told the children to use the stick. I think it was the students’ own ingenuity that led them to solve the problem of holding hands to make a circle creatively during one of my physical education classes. Of course they must have been taught that it was sinful to come into any physical contact with members of the opposite sex no matter what. They were only 6 to 7 year olds!
The children liked me. One day, when they were crowding round me, one student said she ‘sayang teacher’ (love the teacher) and ‘nak jadi anak angkat teacher’ (Wish to be the teacher's foster children). Suddenly, all of them echoed the same thing except one. The class monitor, the youngest daughter of the canteen operator said, “Tak leh, teacher kafir.”!(We can't be, the teacher is a non believer)Well, you can see that the programming started very early in their education.
On their transfer out.
It was just a natural progression, also an unwritten rule that once you have served 5-years in the ulus, you are eligible for transfer. Actually I didn’t wait till my 5th year, I submitted my application for transfer in my 4th year as I was unhappy with the 3rd HM. I didn’t feel much appreciated and once he summoned me to his office to tell me I can’t wear a sleeveless dress in school. He told me to tell Suny & Huey Ling. Suny reacted by saying that she would wear a sleeveless dress and shorter skirts the next time! Well, he never submitted my application for transfer. Later he told me he forgot to submit and had missed the deadline! I knew it was deliberate and I took it that he really wanted me to stay!
I think Huey Ling left 1st. After 3 years, it was easier for a local to get back to her hometown since it was not an inter-state transfer. Then Suny got a place to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching B.Malaysia as a First Language in UPM. It was there that she met her Malay (of Java ancestry) husband-to-be. I was very unhappy and frustrated as I couldn’t get a place in the university. At that point I was determined I’ve had enough of Renok Baru. By then there were another 4 Chinese girls posted to SK Renok Baru.
On the children’s academic performance during their stint in Renok Baru.
I daresay having trained, qualified and competent English Language teachers made a difference. The UPSR results for English showed significant improvement every year. I thought the exposure to the ‘foreign’ language we gave them was invaluable. I believe many students benefited from our teaching. We manage to set up a Pusat Sumber (Resource Center) and DOW Chemicals’s aid (obtained through both your help and Hj.Hussein’s) of books and radio cassette recorders, etc was a great boost. In one year, we won (can’t remember whether it was 1st or 2nd or 3rd placing for our rural school category) in an annual competition among the schools in Kelantan. Later, just after I left, our Pusat Sumber was made the regional Pusat Sumber for the district.
On Miss Yong Huey Ling and her marriage.
His name is Oh Kim Leng. They were college sweethearts. I can’t remember his posting in Sarawak but it was in some remote part. I believe he injured his neck/spinal cord when he dived into the river when taking his bath. It was a tragedy as Kim Leng, I heard, was a very talented young man. It was a cruel twist of fate that ended a promising future for a bright young man. Huey Ling went against well-meaning advice and her family’s wish and married him instead. We re-established brief contact some years back and she said she was happy and contented with her life with Kim Leng despite his disability. At that time she was pursuing a degree privately. Her husband was doing well after medically boarded out, his Bahasa Malaysia tuition classes were well sought after. He even bought her a house and car (I have to buy them myself!).
All in all, the time in GM was an enriching experience for me though there wasn’t much opportunities for personal & professional development. You don’t even need to go abroad to get a culture shock, I had it in my own country.
On her reflection and regret in life.
Whenever I reflect upon those times we were in Gua Musang (GM), it brings a nostalgic feeling that is beyond comprehension.
Well, it was an important phase in our lives. We not only just embarked on our teaching career but entered the 'real world' outside. We were young and naive, and I was full of ideals. My one regret was not putting my 5 years there in good use. I could have pursued a law degree had I got the right motivation and support. Instead, life centered around school, and once the conditioning is set, I found myself trapped in a system that did me little justice because it is a system that does not give due recognition to talent or good work. It is a system that is demoralizing because it discriminates and it fails to help people like me charts my career path. I learn only too late that a system that treats unequal people equally is not necessarily fair. After 22 years in the service, you can say that I've no illusions left.
Most of my motivations are intrinsic. If I needed external rewards to stay motivated all these years, I would have been a dead wood a long time ago. However, the scholarship to UK was the best reward because it gave me an opportunity to realize my potentials and helped built my confidence. It was an experience of a lifetime to explore a world outside my little 'tempurung' and widen my horizons. But I did not get the scholarship because of my dedicated service, as far as the ministry was concerned I was only a name on the list, I got it because of my luck/destiny/karma.
Oh Kim Leng were later featured on National Televion as an example of teachers who contributed tremendously towards educating the youngs in Malacca despite of his being handicapped by paralysis from the waist down after the mishap. Their story brought tears to many who know either one of them and saw them on TV when it was aired.
There is nothing more that I can add at the moment. Suffice to say that these are examplary people (teachers) who sacrificed a part of their young lives to serve the pupils in the remote part of the country. How happy would they be if even a token of appreciation was accorded to them. To the three of them, this write up is to acknowledge their contibution to society.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Saturday, August 4, 2007
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.
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.
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.
Friday, August 3, 2007
It was 1964 and we had passed the Standard Six exam to enable us to join the Sultan Ibrahim Secondary School in form one. The unfortunate ones who failed the exam had either to drop out or join another school called Sekolah Lanjutan and pass the Lower Certificate of Examination whereby they can rejoin us in form four.
Our form teacher in form one was Mr. J.V.Moses. An Indian teacher who came from another state which we didnt get to find out. We remember him as a teacher who walked at a very fast pace. He seemed to be more or less like Mr. Philias Fogg in the book Around The World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. He commuted daily from Kota Bharu by taking the bus to Seberang Pasir Mas, take a ferry across the Pasir Mas River then walk the two kilometers to the school. Since our class was in the afternoon session, walking to school in the hot afternoon sun was a torture to him. For him it was a daily routine. We joked among us that like Mr. Philias Fogg, Mr. JV Moses must have counted his every steps that he walked to school. It was not really confirmed if he did count his steps as non of us dare ask him about it.
Mr. JV Moses encouraged us to read lots of story books. This was where the habit of reading was inculcated in many of us. We are indebted to him for this beautiful habit. He told us to read books by Enid Blyton which suited us because of the simple vocabulary that she used. The Famous Five became the rage of the class. Everytime we read her books, we imagined ourselves to be in England. Every recess hour would see some of us rushing to the library to grab any copies available on the shelves. Being a small library, the stocks were of course very limited. From the Famous Five by Enid blyton we progressed to The Hardy Boys and The Beagles.
Being a non Malay speaking teacher Mr. JV Moses helped us alot in our quest to learn English. Like our experience with Mr Vijaya in the primary school, English is the only language that we could communicate with Mr JV Moses. So like it or not we have to speak English with our teacher. The learning process was very fast.
Food was Mr. JV Moses greatest problem while in Pasir Mas. He couldnt get used to the food available here. Thats the reason he had to commute from Kota Bharu. The State Education officcer and the Headmaster must have taken pity on Mr. JV Moses because he was later tranferred to Sultan Ismail College in Kota bharu and thus saved him from his daily misery. Our loss of such a dedicated teacher was the gain for the student of Sultan Ismail College.
Sad to say we lost contact with Mr. JV Moses. How nice it would be if we could contact him again to say thank you for the knowledge we have gained from him.