A teacher’s first-hand account
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.
Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar’s primary school opened in September last year.