The nation’s unsung heroes
WHEN he found out that he would be teaching in his hometown of Kluang for his first posting, Che Azizan Che Razali was understandably overjoyed.
However, when he was told that he would be teaching at SK Punan, he was more than a little perplexed.
“Being from Kluang, I never knew that the school existed. I was a little shocked when I was posted to the school,” said Che Azizan, 28, who graduated from the Kota Baru Teachers’ Education Institute.
Located in Ulu Endau near the Endau Rompin National Park, SK Punan mostly serves the children from the nearby Orang Asli village of Kampung Punan. The school is only accessible by four wheel drive through a muddy logging trail and the nearest town is Kahang, which is 50 kilometres away.
Despite the initial shock, Che Azizan strengthened his resolve and began teaching at the school.
“I said to myself that this could be the platform for me to gain as much knowledge as possible. At least I could learn a bit more about the customs and way of life of the Orang Asli.
“When I first got here, I was surprised to see a modern school with all the necessary amenities and infrastructure. I was expecting an old, wooden school,” said Che Azizan, who lives in the school’s teachers’ quarters with the other teachers.
Five years on, Che Azizan, who is now the school’s senior assistant, said all the sacrifices of being away from his family, the possibility of running across wild animals whenever he travels to school and the bone crunching journeys on the logging trail has been all worth it.
SK Punan, which was established in 1984 and currently has 24 pupils and 12 teachers, has always been consistently ranked as the best Orang Asli school in Johor. It was also given an award for having the best attendance record among the 11 Orang Asli schools in the state.
“The Jakun people of Kampung Punan is different from other Orang Asli tribes because they realise the importance of education. The parents encourage their children to go to school and the children themselves are interested in learning, so we never had any problems with attendance.
“The parents are always supportive of the school’s programmes, so whenever we organise any programmes, whether motivational talks or tuition classes, they also encourage their children to take part,” said Che Azizan, whose wife and daughter live in Penang.
He said the school also has a good relationship with the community and would always involve them in their activities.
For Mohd Zulhelmi Zainuddin, a practical training stint at SK Spinang in Betong, Sarawak while studying at Kota Samarahan Teachers’ Education Institute proved to be good training before he was posted to SK Punan.
“Back then, I had to travel for five hours by land and water to get to the school. By comparison, travelling one and a half hours in a four wheel drive is easy.
“The only drawback is that I have to send my car for repairs and service every three months or so because the trail is so bad that it takes a toll on the car,” said Zulhelmi, 29, who teaches Islamic Education at the school.
He said being posted to a school in the interior has not dampened his passion for teaching.
“The communication system might be limited and we may have to go to town once a week to get essentials or teaching supplies, but it is a small price to pay foe being able to teach the children,” said Zulhelmi, who is also from Kluang.
These teachers are the unsung heroes of the country’s education system because of the sacrifices and hardships that they have to suffer just so that the children of the country can get an education.
Despite all this, they never complain or shirk from their responsibilities. They always carry out their duties diligently and, most of the time, with a smile on their faces.
For that, they deserve our admiration and respect.
Che Azizan Che Ramli