A teacher’s first-hand ac­count

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - EDUCATION GUIDE - By MATTHEW FURNISS

FROM the cold, dark, post-Christ­mas blue­lined streets of Lon­don, to re­lax­ing on sun­licked Bali beaches as Jan­uary reaches its end; my first month as an ex­pat has been an in­ter­est­ing one.

I am the new kid on the block: I teach Year 6 at the new pri­mary fa­cil­ity within the grounds of Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ), which is sit­u­ated 5km north of Mantin in the lush, green state of Negri Sem­bi­lan.

The pri­mary school, opened in Septem­ber 2013 and, as KTJ’s lit­tle brother, it’s got a fine rep­u­ta­tion to live up to. I have quickly taken my place among fel­low ex­pats and Malaysians – stu­dents, staff and other friendly lo­cals alike.

With a cur­rent stu­dent in­take of just over 100, KTJ’s pri­mary school sits nes­tled on a hill over­look­ing a sprawl­ing and im­pres­sive sec­ondary site; which has ex­panded markedly since it was founded in 1981 as Malaysia’s first, and now old­est, Bri­tish board­ing school.

A fit­ting lo­ca­tion, I think, as my stu­dents now al­ready be­gin to look down and daydream of the talent shows, sport­ing events, in­tel­lec­tual en­deav­ours and ev­ery­day life that their older sib­lings and friends are lucky enough to be leading – all just a three-minute stroll down the hill.

We are, of course, ac­tively pre­par­ing them for all of this and more, here in the pri­mary school. As ‘day’ stu­dents, they may not yet en­joy quite the same im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences of the board­ers down be­low. But with af­ter­school ac­tiv­i­ties rang­ing from squash and fenc­ing to cook­ery and pho­tog­ra­phy; and school ex­cur­sions and vis­its in­clud­ing DNA ex­trac­tion in a foren­sics work­shop to trips to FRIM, Pu­tra­jaya Mar­itime Cen­tre and PJ Live Arts, the chil­dren cer­tainly lead a rich and var­ied school life at KTJ’s pri­mary school.

With all this ex­cite­ment in the first four weeks of the new term, this new kid cer­tainly feels he’s landed on his feet!

My life out­side of school is fast be­com­ing as hec­tic as my life within. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of Mantin’s lo­cal del­i­ca­cies, (roti canai is a much-lauded plea­sure, de­voured daily dur­ing my two pre­vi­ous trips to Malaysia in 2005 and 2008), and work­ing them off again run­ning around KTJ’s beau­ti­ful grounds, swim­ming in its eight-lane 25m pool and be­ing de­mol­ished on the squash court by all and sundry (it’s early days yet!).

This new life­style is en­hanced, of course, by my liv­ing on cam­pus with fel­low teach­ers, be­ing greeted daily with a “Morn­ing Sir” by fresh-faced stu­dents on their way to the can­teen as I trudge, slightly more wearily, on my three-minute walk to work. This com­mute sure beats that Lon­don traf­fic.

So, as I sit beach­side, fin­ish­ing my freshly squeezed wa­ter­melon juice, the only thing left is to con­vince my fam­ily to move out here as well. I have a feel­ing it won’t be too dif­fi­cult.

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Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar’s pri­mary school opened in Septem­ber last year.

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