as logged by Venoshini
Every morning, I wake up with a renewed gusto to teach the classes I am in charge of. This morning was no different. After breakfast, all the volunteers headed to 6 Impian for math. 6 Impian was THAT class where the students seemed a tad volatile and argumentative. They were the weaker ones as compared to 6 Gemilang but personally, I adore them because though they were a challenge, they never failed to put a smile on my face when I think of their quirks.
The teaching concept for math was more personalised as compared to English for 6 Impian. Each volunteer was assigned two or more students. Fenty Retny and Jaita were my students. Both had very different personalities. Fenty was diligent whereas Jaita was slightly work-shy. It was difficult at first having to face two vastly different personalities. Jaita tends to lose her focus at times and hence, to keep both of them engaged I had to make learning mathematics fun. In order to fortify their understanding regarding perimeter, area and volume, I got them to walk around the class and explained the difference between the three concepts. Things did not go well at times as most of our students lacked the fundamentals of Mathematics so at times, I had to start teaching them simple multiplication and division, yet those were the small wins that made my day. These girls thought me something very important. They thought me humility and patience. So many times, we don’t realise that we all began the same; totally clueless and a void that required filling. I had the privilege of having a supportive family who put so much emphasis on learning. They held my hands when I was taking baby steps but for these kids, they might not have anybody to guide them. I hope, though I could not help them by leaps and bounds, they now know that learning is ubiquitous and ever present.
Later on during the day, I had drama practice with a few standard 4 and standard 5 kids namely Owen, Zizie, Alvin, Britney, Wecollant, and Esther. I wrote ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ for them and they were all excited about it from the get go. These kids were goofballs and they’ll always have a special place in my heart. At times, trying to control them seemed like a gargantuan task as they were always filled with energy. We went through the script together and managed to have three full practices. Who knew there were budding actors amongst these kids? Owen, who played the wolf, pulled off pretending to be the grandma with very little guidance. Though we had very few days to practice for it, these kids managed to adapt and put on an astounding play later that week. Drama practice was always filled with laughs as they never fail to crack me up with their antics. I vividly remember the look on Alvin’s face each time he said his line wrongly. To be honest he never managed to get it right till the very last day. Well, it’s better late than never.
Drama practice usually lasted for only an hour, thereafter I had to join my friends, Celina, Sean and Shafiq who were in the midst of teaching 6 Impian English. We stayed up the night before painting a large sized snake and ladder game for the kids on two conjoined mah-jong papers. But when I stepped into the class, I saw them playing aging charades. So I mouthed to Celina asking what happened to the snake and ladder game. Apparently, the kids got bored of it so they decided to change the game. The main obstacle we faced in teaching them English was capturing their attention. We had to come up with creative ways to hook them to our scope for the day. At times, it goes really well with the whole class engaged and geared to do more for class. But today, was not one of those days. Soon, they got bored of aging charades too so we switched to musical chairs thinking that they’d have more fun. Somehow, some of them got slightly carried away and began shoving other kids. The games session did not end well as Eryn hurt her neck and began crying. Celina, being the most angelic amongst all of us attended to her needs. Eryn was brought back to the dormitory so that Ibu (Puan Susan, the warden) could examine her condition. English class with 6 Impian resumed with a story telling session. I told them the story of ‘The Wild Swans’. Having very limited story telling experience, I just decided to take the plunge. By the end of that class, most of them were sitting around me, entranced by the story. When I finished telling the story, Ashikin cheekily asked me “Kakak, apa jadi dekat putera yang baju daun dia tak habis jahit?” Truth be told, I had no clue so I told her that the prince remained half a goose till the end. Towards the end, I realised that it was not the kids’ fault that they at times refuse to co-operate. As an educator, the duty of giving students the autonomy to choose what they learn was very important but we did not do that. By making an assumption, we lost sight or our mission of empowerment, but nonetheless it was a lesson learnt.
That evening, we had a ‘Getting to know the Volunteers’ session as we realised the kids lived in their own bubble not knowing what is in store for them in the future. Some of them did not even know West Malaysia existed even more so the United Kingdom. Due to this, they never really had dreams of going to high school and university was not even in the picture. The words of their Guru Penolong Kanan during Monday morning assembly rang in my ears like a constant harbinger, “ Gaji puluh sen sahaja. Kita seronok dapat duit tapi kalau kelapa dah habis, apa awak nak pungut”. This kids needed to know that there’s a whole other world out there, all they had to do was put in the effort and make use of all the resources around them. We began by showing them the Malaysian map and getting them to name a few states in Peninsular Malaysia. Most volunteers sang their state songs. I was genuinely impressed as they still remembered their state songs. Then, we continued by introducing ourselves, the courses we chose and yes, the most important question of all, “ Kakak dah ada boyfriend?”.
Sports with the kids was my favourite time as Jiale and I have managed to train a few kids namely Caldrym, Owen, Salfin, Relson and Sharizam to play Ultimate Frisbee. It was awe-inspiring to watch them learn and swiftly master a sport as though they have been playing it forever. These kids were truly talented as they managed to play against experienced players and score points. Playing with them made me realise how fun and well-balanced their live were as compared to city kids. They had no distractions, no gadgets to occupy their time and no idle time waste. They were very mindful of what they were doing hence able to focus on matters at hand.
That night, it rained really heavily and there was a blackout so we could not have any extra class for the kids. Xin Tian and Wei Teen got the boys to memorise their times table. As I was sitting at the table, Welfred came up to me and asked me if I could help him out with his Bahasa Malaysia homework. I was so touched at the fact that the darkness did not deter him from completing his homework. I immediately said yes and grabbed my phone. With the light from my phone, both of us slowly made complete sentences from the short sentence given by his teacher. I thought teaching Bahasa Malaysia was going to be easy as compared to teaching English yet again I was wrong. I was perplexed by this kid’s level of understanding of our national language. He could barely spell words that an 11 year old should have at his fingertips. This got me questioning a lot of things. He has been in our education system for a good 5 years and yet he can’t spell. What when wrong where? Should I blame him for not being able to understand his homework? When I asked him “Ayat apa awak nak bina?”, he was able to tell me amazing stories with his imagination. He just could not structure the sentences. As I skimmed through his work, I realised there were many incomplete homework. My heart sank as I am pretty sure he did not do it because he did not have the capability to do so. The one nagging question I had in my mind was that, “What do you do when you are so far behind?” Till today I keep asking myself that. How do we expect 11 year olds who are so left behind to buck up if there are no proper support systems in the school? Teachers are the solution. All they need is attention, plain simple undivided attention. I just wish I had more time to work with these kids individually. This experience, personally felt like a treasure trove of self-discovery and accepting the fact that education inequity exists. It is a problem, a major one that has to be addressed because if not, these kids will never escape the vicious cycle of poverty. SK Temuno Teringai Darat, mijumpa kitovagu.