“MB instructed for a thorough investigation into the alleged case of sixteen girls in a secondary school in this city found pregnant.” ran a line in a local newspaper.
“This state recorded the highest number of drug addiction” ran another bit of news.
“This state continues to top UPSR results”, was another sensational news.
“Two pupils beat and robbed another near a 24-hr outlet”, yet said another.
Bolehkah ini berlaku disebuah negeri yang berbangga dengan keputusan UPSR tahun demi tahun dan mempunyai ramai U l u l - A l b a b ??
Last week a lady rang up to ask if she could come over to talk about his son. He needed help badly. Of course she could.
Accordingly, just before noon on the following day a lady of about forty turned pillion riding behind a pleasant young boy, neither wearing a helmet and I can bet my bottom ringgit the boy had no license. She was holding a small plastic bag which she handed to Pakcik.
“Sedikit ketupat baru masak,’ she murmured on seeing the inquisitive look o my face. I learned later from her son that her mother and grand-mother cook ‘ketupat pulut’ for sale to supplement the earning brought home by the family bread winner, a gardener of18 years - beginning a year before the boy was born.
Ali (not his real name) is a Form Five pupil of a quite well known secondary school in the state. In his PMR exam he obtained a creditable number of 5 A’s , one B and 2C’s, the last two being in English and Maths. “His English is very poor and we have done everything, including attending ‘expensive’ tuition classes in the evening,” the mother lamented. SPM exam is less than six months away. Something drastic has to be done.
“Tolonglah Pakcik!” she practically begged, understandably of course. Ali is the eldest of her three children. She dreams of seeing him enjoying a better future than just being another school gardener in the family.
The mother's mention of 'tukang kebun' brought to mind the picture a man of about thirty who came to help mow the grounds surrounding Al-Manar, about an acre in all, . He was a bachelor, a pleasant one at that. Somehow one particular habit rather baffled me. Each time prior to begin his work he would ask some cash and disappeared for about thirty minutes. That went on for about two months until another youth I know well whispered, “Pakcik, be careful with him. He is one of ‘them’, requiring ‘that something’ to have energy to work.” – not unlike my lawn mower needing petrol before running!
What of the evening tuition classes attended by Ali? The mother quickly volunteered a simple answer. She could ill afford the twenty five ringgits per month when the boy benefited nothing from it. “It was all noise, in a class of about forty.” The boy added. (We were conversing in Malay all the while.)
I did not want brush off the request there and then as I was beginning to get curious how bad the boy's English really was. After all Ali attends a fairly respectable school whose principle has just been promoted to manage a prestigious boarding school, presumable after a series of proven good records. Having spent four-and-a-half years in a school run by such a capable principle Ali could not possibly be that bad; I was fairly sure. But I still wanted to know. So I asked him to return the following day.
At the appointed time Ali arrived at Al-Manar bringing along a close friend, the son of a fish-monger. The boy's PMR results were almost similar to his. These two boys could not be possibly be short of intelligence having obtained 5 A grades. When the initial getting-to-know-you conversation ended and they were fairly at ease, I gave them a list of about 150 Basic English words and asked them to identify those they did not know.
The outcome horrified me. I found it hard to believe my ears when both of them, two Form Five pupils, did not know the meaning of a large number of words such as :
Floor , etc. etc.
Following that I picked up two words, accident and pen, from the list, and made them translate into English these two Malay sentences :
a ) Kelmarin ada satu kemalangan
b) Dua pen ini saya punya.
It took them a while to produce:
a) Yesterday have accident .
b) Two pen is my.
Speechless, stunned, was I? No, I would only breathe a big sigh; What has the school done to these boys these boys? What has the alleged school not done to the girls bulging to the seam one after another? What is PENDIDIKAN? Where does the buck stop
I do not mind doing what I have been doing for sixteen years without a cent, but I would not want to be a gardener for eighteen years even for a living. No, if I have it my way, Ali will not be one like his father, insya Allah. This is one challnge which I relish.
` Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan
A class of 40 pupils X RM 25 per pupil per month = RM 1,000 per month
2 hours per evening X 4 evening per month = 8 working hours per month
That works out to RM 125 per hour.
If I work just for five evenings each week I would make RM 5,000 every month
If I were a teacher of such calibre I would work for 5 evenings each week, earn RM 5000 per months and sleep all day long. – just a hard day’s night!
Or if I still want be a teacher I will 'think smart', play the right game and get my promotion.
But I know many, many heroes, teachers who work their guts out, under unfavourable conditions and away from home and family, educating the young – many of whom go without so much as being noticed or appreciated by their superiors, let alone rewarded; and yet loving and enjoying in what they are doing for a mission they believe in.
To ex Al-Manar pupils who are serving as teachers away from, Sibu, Bintulu, Kapit, Tawau, Sandakan, Semporna and so on; to my engineer -cum-teacher at a school with 85 pupils in Kg Parit Makuangseng ( many would ask "Where on earth that is?" ), Pakcik would hope and pray that you all live up to the spirit of Almanar (the guiding light that comes from Him).
Such is life – what we make of it.