The na­tion’s un­sung heroes

New Straits Times - - News - RIZALMAN HAMMIM MERS­ING

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

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