26 April 2014

End of the tunnel (Pt 24) - Serving the community

My 'little' girl no more

Five months ago I posted my Part 23 of this series, my favourite series where I sketch out briefly the passage travelled by a selected number of those who studied at Almanar. Their ability to free themselves from the life of hardship, through education, has been the source of my inspiration to move on against some very frustrating moments.  Writing about these children, how once they were, gives me a chance to reminisce with satisfaction, and convince my aged self that money does not buy what love and caring can. 

A week ago the ‘little’ girl showed up. Sweet ‘little’ girl she still is as she was when she joined Almanar tuition class nearly 20 years ago. She belongs to that very first group of twelve Form One children. “Little’ she may still be but Nadirah has a man and two children of her own.

My 'little' girl no more

Nadirah’s family house is about six kilometers from us. I remember those days when together with half a dozen friends living around the same area cycled, rain or shine, all the way to Almanar after school, and during holidays. Those were the days when Almanar helped to provide bicycles to children in need. It is mystifying why, today, children are reluctant to come even with free school bus service provided. But I sympathise with them. The new 2013 Malaysian Education Development Plan (or is it the Blueprint?) has succeeded in holding them back at school, attending extra classes, co-curricular activities; some reaching home at three, exhausted. In those years we were able to start afternoon classes as early as 2.30. 

Pak Ghani, Nadirah’s father, was a vegetable seller at a market Makcik and Pakcik regularly frequented. He practically had a small area reserved, where he laid a sheet of canvas to display what he had to sell. As he insisted on giving us things for free or at below-cost price in return for helping his daughter, I had to make a special effort to skirt away from his post. I remember an occasion when he caught sight of me walking in a distance. Knowing that I would not visit his site, he rushed to pack in a large plastic beg a items he expected us to need, and ran after me. I had to accept it. It was his pleasure. That was Pak Ghani. About ten years ago he fell ill and had to stop selling vegetables. Whenever he was well he would follow his friends going out fishing. It was a sad day when the good Pak Ghani passed away (yarhamuhullah). On the day of the funeral I looked at the old wooden house and wished that his big family would go through life with success. On this point I am happy to note that nine of his ELEVEN children, (two of whom died young) are doing well. There is a university lecturer in the family. Out of curiosity the two of us drove to the old Pak Ghani’s house a week ago. The moment Nadirah’s mother opened the door and saw me she carved a broad smile of instant recognition, exclaiming, Oh,Pakcik, lama tak jumpa! Mana Makcik?( Pakcik, I’ve not seen you so long! Where’s Makcik). She rushed down the wooden steps to meet Makcik in our car.

Nadirah did very well at school and was selected for a one-year programme in preparation for medical course overseas. It was most unfortunate for her that the downturn in the economy of the country resulted in disbanding of the special scheme for the talented. I remember it too well how bitter I felt for her and her friends. Her dream to be a doctor was shattered; but life had to go on. She turned her interest to the field of education. Four years later I had every reason to marvel at my special little girl. She earned herself the rare distinction of a first-class honours degree from the University of Canterbury in primary science education.

Since the start of her teaching career she has been posted to work right in the middle of Pahang jungle. One hears of the well known Lake Bera (Tasek Bera) and, not far from there, she is a teacher at a school of about 200 Semelai (orang asli) children of mixed religions. She is proud to be teaching Bahasa Melayu, English and Science. She is looking forwards to be teaching Mathematics as well, making her a rare teacher doing all the core subjects. I could sense her eagerness to be doing something for the poor children of the aborigines. Every week she spends time teaching English to some parents of her pupils, hoping these parents would help to motivate their children.

Nadirah and family have gone through the tunnel. It is sad to realise the one person who worked his life, as vegetable seller-cum-fisherman to support them all, is not here to enjoy the fruit of his labour.   (AlFatihah for him)

I have promised Nadirah that the two of us will be visiting her one day. I wonder if Tasek Bera has its own ‘Loch Ness’ monster of the Scottish Highlands. Perhaps that mysterious lake is shaded by magic weeping willow trees under which we could take a shower to rejuvenate ourselves! Then, we may even think of an off-campus Almanar by Tasek Bera!

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


Ismail aka Pak Mail said...

'Little' girl with strong will and sincere deeds for the parents of Semelai. Not to mention to the children as well....

kaykuala said...

Not entirely surprised at reading this. Alhamdulliah! There will be gems that shine out of the numbers that passed through al-Manar. Well done to both Nadirah and Pakcik! This certainly will be great motivation to those that come after her. Keep the good flag flying, Sir!


suka suka said...

Alhamdulillah...saya tumpang seronok bila sesama kita berjaya..

Al-Manar said...


Salaam to you. To be honest Semelai tribe is new to me. Semang and Sakai are often talked about. So I am curious to meet them.

sintaicharles said...

What a touching story of success. Now that there is a direct flight from Miri(my hometown) to Terengganu, how I wish to visit Al-Manar one of these days.

Al-Manar said...

Hank, my friend.

I posted this soon after midnight. PakMail responded at 1.36 a.m and your goodself at 4.26 a.m. Do we, the Golden generation, never go to bed? No, I am sure it is all the 'sembahyang sunat'. At the same time I think the stillness of these hours contribute to your flourashing idea for haiku.

Al-Manar said...

Suka Suka,

Saya pun tumpang menikmati penulisan tentang pokok pokok yang tak pernah ssaya dengar. Kayanya Pencipta dunia sayuran untuk di nikmati kita semua. Lain kali datang bawa benih, ya?

Al-Manar said...


SLY, your environments have more of those truly needy children. You have access to them officially through school and there is a lot you have done. I only have a diminishung handful of them, the crumbs, so to speak.

Keep writig your beautiful essays which I am sure have been model works to many.

Of course you have to visit Terengganu. My work carried me to
Miri, Niah and Sarekei in 1960's when Niah could only be reached by river.

KotaStar said...

Wow. Reading yr story at this time of the night awaken me more to what we can do and have not done. However reaching the double 7 soon, we can only reminisce and feel what others and friends especially have done and contributed to themselves, family and community.Here is hoping others and especially those that have crossed your threshold at Al Manar will take the game further exampling what that 'school' had done in the last 20 odd years. Al fatihah to Pak Chik and success to that Ist class honours student who should be in a school who could use her ability and wisdom. Nevertheless all the best to her and esp to both of you. Salam from us.

Al-Manar said...


What's done is done. What's left for us to do is never ending.
like you I take stock at this time of night and seek His blessing and that there is yet a bit more time. I have gone through the double digit and the next is coming soon. Pray that there will be a few more useful digits.

Salaam and all the best, Hank

Aziela said...

Pak Cik,

If I am at your position, I would surely feel so satisfied for seeing the fruits of my work ripe and sweet (Oh my, food again..). Alhamdulillah, seribu nikmat. But Pak Cik, I am very sure that the vegetables seller is far too happy over 'there'. The gems he receives and the happiness and lights that Nadirah and her family send is a definite satisfaction for him. Insya Allah.... Amiin.

Rosyada said...

what a heart-warming story :')

Al-Manar said...


When a good deed is acheived by a joint effort, I believe a number of parties will benefit from HIM. I know if I call on you the chances are some good foods are waiting!

All the best Aziela

Al-Manar said...


Thank you. I am pleased to see you,Rosyada, because I cannot help feeling that you are losing your earlier enthusiasm. There are not many blogs like Nice/Rotten, well written on down to earth issues related to children in school.

Witty Angel said...

alhamdulillah..she did very well and a tough lady indeed!

Al-Manar said...

Witty Angel,

She accepts what life has in store for her and family. You are a luckier person. We all can do our bit for the less fortunate, and you can a lot all the time - lucky you.

All the best Witty Angel

Malay Muslim said...

Assalamualaikum Sir,
In the coolness of a dawn, we can see diamonds sparkling on blades of grass. Millions of them. Stretching to the horizon. Humble dewdrops, most times incredible, ephemeral, yet true and they shine in the half light as beacons do in the gathering darkness. Guiding some village children in mathematics, language and other core subjects, I am pleasantly surprised at how intelligent most of them are, although from backgrounds lacking in many respects. Rough diamonds when polished will definitely glitter - fantastically! As you dear sir, found out from your successful students! Kindness, a job well done brings much happiness to you I am certain. Your good deeds will be such a legacy!

Al-Manar said...

Malay Muslim

Waalaikum Salaam,

Nice and very very flattering words you have chosen, making me question myself whether I desrve them. I seem to recall coming across 'Malay Muslim' aomewhere before (could be an earlier visit here). Would it be too much if ask you to email me ? Thank you my friend.

ninotaziz said...

Dear Pakcik and Makcik
I am so proud to hear of Nadirah's success and excited to hear that she is at Bera - a magical place full of legends! ‪

One has so many dreams and just so many places to see. By sharing your 'little ones' stories and future, you get to see the unfolding of their dreams - such a privilege and joy multiplied many times over...for we never knew, where it would lead.

Surely this is the sweetness that God reserved for those who were 'ikhlas', who walked the unknown path..,

Al-Manar said...

Dear Ninot,

If there is one who would know about places with traces of legends you are the one. Tell me what I can expect to find there and what I should avoid doing or saying.

You have somethng special whenever you appear. Thank you for the heart-warming words of encouragement. Pleae keep us updated on how the girls are doing - perhaps a posting on famiily update that I have not seen for some time in your blog.

naliahmad said...

Dear Pakchik, it has been so long. How have you been? I have missed you and Makchik.
Quite recently, I was at a crowded place and for no apparent reason started searching the crowd for you and Makchik.
Strange, isn't it?

Much love and affection,

Al-Manar said...

Dear Nali,
Waalaikum Salaam
It is strange indeed how blogging could bring closeness to strangers without fear of being frowned upon. Everything begins with 'niat'. When I do not see words from you, our professional 'traveller' and those who used to be around, I wonder how they are. Sometimes I drop them an email to ask - the like of one nicknamed 'little dot down south', who one took the trouble to fly to be our house guest.

Alhamdulillah, we both are well and so are our total of ten )of two generations) - noothing like the richer one (of larger number in one generation).

If you have another group picture please pass one on to Makcik and me.

With all the good wishes from us.

Anonymous said...

dear pakcik,
i'm really greatful that i had met you.you have help me a lot..you have made me what i'm today.thank you pak cik.
i believe that a lot of your students succeed in their life.i am very proud of you.you deserve to be called a GREAT teacher.thankyou SIR!

lots of love,
nadirah, bera.

*there is no loss ness legend here in bera..the naga tasik legend is for Tasik Chini not bera.