In­struc­tor re­counts Batam ‘ad­ven­ture’

The Straits Times - - EDUCATION -

It was a sea of con­fu­sion – 64 young women were putting their kayaks into a mo­tor­boat and two speed­boats, in the mid­dle of the open sea near Batam.

That was in 1993 when Mr Sha­harudin Oth­man was lead­ing a group of fe­male of­fi­cer cadets on a six-day Out­ward Board Sin­ga­pore (OBS) sea ex­pe­di­tion and In­done­sian marine pa­trol of­fi­cers had stopped them.

“They told us we couldn’t be in the wa­ters... They claimed there was some­thing wrong with our per­mit,” he said.

An­other four in­struc­tors, a nurse and two oper­a­tions sup­port staff were also on the ex­pe­di­tion, which in­volved trav­el­ling from Sin­ga­pore to Batam and back.

It took the group of 72 about an hour to pack up all 32 kayaks. “Every­one had to squeeze into the mo­tor­boat, which was meant for 12 peo­ple, and the two speed­boats. We were packed like sar­dines, I can’t imag­ine how we did it but we did,” said Mr Sha­harudin, 53, an OBS in­struc­tor for nearly three decades.

The group then “moved very slowly to shore”, he added.

They were held overnight in a wooden hut in a coastal vil­lage south of Batam. “The vil­lagers were cu­ri­ous about us, es­pe­cially the women. I was wor­ried be­cause it was not our in­tended camp­site,” said Mr Sha­harudin.

In the evening, one of the in­struc­tors swam about 800m to nearby Pu­lau Bu­loh to call the OBS head­quar­ters for help. The group was re­leased the next morn­ing.

“There was some mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the In­done­sian agents and the au­thor­i­ties,” said Mr Sha­harudin. “It was an ad­ven­ture for us.”

This was one of the most mem­o­rable in­ci­dents for Mr Sha­harudin, who joined OBS as he liked be­ing out­doors. When he joined in 1987, OBS was still un­der the Min­istry of De­fence.

The fa­ther of two chil­dren was one of OBS’ long­est-serv­ing in­struc­tors un­til he switched to an oper­a­tions sup­port role in 2014.

“In the early days of OBS, things were very ba­sic. We didn’t have many fa­cil­i­ties, so we made use of nat­u­ral el­e­ments like ty­ing a rope be­tween trees,” he said. Later in the 1990s, safety equip­ment such as har­nesses and be­lays were used.

But no mat­ter which tools are used, or how well an in­struc­tor can fa­cil­i­tate a course, Mr Sha­harudin said it is more im­por­tant to let par­tic­i­pants learn from ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The teach­able mo­ments come from their ex­pe­ri­ences. We can teach them about team­work even through cook­ing,” he added.

“Every group of stu­dents can be dif­fer­ent. One group can have stu­dents from five schools. You have to size them up when they ar­rive.

“Dif­fer­ent schools have dif­fer­ent cul­tures. Some stu­dents are timid, some are more open; some don’t have ex­pe­ri­ence, some have more.

“The job of the in­struc­tor is to gel them to­gether with the ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences.”

OBS also paved the way for Mr Sha­harudin to explore other sports.

Be­sides sail­ing, he took up cour­ses to be­come a kayak­ing and div­ing in­struc­tor and a jump­mas­ter. He has logged more than 3,000 dives and done 600 jumps as a sky­diver.

“Run­ning pro­grammes can be­come quite rou­tine. So you need to im­prove your­self to be a bet­ter in­struc­tor,” said Mr Sha­harudin. “The sea has al­ways been my forte, I’m al­ways at ease in the wa­ters.”

Amelia Teng


Mr Sha­harudin Oth­man says join­ing Out­ward Bound Sin­ga­pore as an in­struc­tor paved the way for him to explore his in­ter­est in sports such as kayak­ing and div­ing.

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