as told by VANESSA YEO, SK Temuno Teringai volunteer
We rose early on Sunday morning as we had planned to take a trip to pekan Kota Marudu for the morning. It was pleasant getting a taste of civilisation again after one week’s worth of kampung life. We wanted to buy some necessities such as mosquito repellant and wet wipes as well as the presents that we intend to give some of our students. We left the school in a pick-up truck and a car to commence the one and a half hour’s bumpy and rocky journey to the nearest town. Some of us got the chance to experience sitting at the open air back of the truck, squealing in a mixture of delight and horror whenever the rocky parts of the road tossed the passengers mid air. The luckier ones like me got to sit in the enclosed part of the car and enjoy the comfort and security. Abigail, Wei Yi and Yi Fen chose to stay back in the school to prepare for the Life Game event that we had planned for the asrama students as part of one of the weekend’s activity.
The 12 of us arrived safely in the small town at about 8am where we had a hearty breakfast in a local chinese breakfast restaurant. We stuffed ourselves and then proceeded to wander around the nearby shops. We bought plenty of drinking water, so as to prevent the unwanted event where clean water (to drink or to wash our faces) were scarce we would have to resort to other sources of water with questionable hygiene and cleanliness. We roamed about the shops, thinking carefully about what we wanted to get our students and then proceeded to test our bargaining skills to get the items at a reasonably affordable price. It was difficult choosing what to get for the children, as we wanted our gifts to be fair to all. We did not want to give an opportunity for some to boast to other friends about a better and more worthy gift from the kakak or abang. We mostly spent on jerseys and caps for the boys, and dainty pins and hair accessories for the girls. I gave two of my boys hair gels, knowing that stylish hair is a necessary element for boys who are at the tip of puberty, wanting to look good with certain hair construction. We even managed to briefly meet up with the Tumunda group, with whom we briefly discussed and exchanged our one week worth of experiences. We were nudged with a little jealousy as we realised the luxurious environment they had with bedside lamps and real beds and toilets with doors and shower heads while we had our rain water and our river and our mattresses and sleeping bags in classrooms. We left the town at 11.30am and we headed back to the school and bid farewell to the connected world. During lunchtime, we had a brief discussion before we commenced Life Game which was due to start at about 2pm.
he Life Game idea was introduced by Yi Fen, where the game would give an opportunity to the boarding students to experience a lifetime of pretend education and work. Participants had the chance to ‘study’ primary, secondary and tertiary education. To achieve each level of education, one had to pass an ‘exam’ which varied from completing mazes, solving simple Mathematics questions to constructing sentences and having their spelling abilities tested. After each level of education, one gets to be upgraded from ‘no education work’ where the ‘work’ consisted of students having to separate green and red beans and count them as well as do origami. ‘Primary education work’ was being a gym instructor where students would throw crunched up papers to buckets and do some physical exercises for a ’salary’. ‘Secondary education work’ consisted of solving crossword puzzles whereas ’tertiary education work’ consist of typing on laptops. Students could only do each jobs based on their level of education. For example, to do a territory education work, the participant have to complete all three levels of education. In the modern world, as money is required for education, students had to pay for each level of education and the higher the level, the more ‘money’ it costs. Likewise, the higher the level of education job, the more income the students generate.
To instill a sense of responsibility and teamwork in the students, the gamesters decided to place students in groups of four, where each groups were given RM90 which was insufficient for all four students to attempt primary education in the first round. So, to overcome this problem, the gamesters advised the groups to send two students to study while the other two work. In subsequent rounds, the students would have the opportunity to exchange their roles and share the burden. There was also a leisure station where students would spend ‘money’ to watch videos and play games, inclusive of snack and food. This tests the ability of the students to make decisions and inculcate a sense of responsibility towards studying rather than play all the time. The winning groups of the game were decided based on the final amount of money each group reaped throughout the game. The objective of the game was to encourage the students to strive to get to the highest level of education and to make them aware that the higher the level of education, the ‘easier’ work gets and the more monetary benefit one reaps.
Growing up in a secular and competitive urban world, even at the tender age of 12, my parents would always encourage and push me to strive academically. I was equipped with necessary tuition classes with competent teachers and my mindset was groomed in such a way that there was a sense of believe in hard work in education as an avenue to a comfortable life. In other words, I work and study hard so that my future will be bright. At a young age of 12, I didn’t have the maturity to understand that studying is the necessary evil one had to endure for a bring future. My parents would be the ones encouraging, driving and even rewarding me whenever I do well in school – which was an incentive to keep me forward in academics. It was a privilege I was blessed with but the kampung children lacked. They are content with less because that is simply what they were exposed to all their lives. Their parents never drove them to study hard because their parents (who have never been to school) are not aware of the importance of education to escape the circle of poverty. To the children, school is hard, boring work which they find is useless and a waste of time.
Another issue we wanted to address in the game was the students’ confidence. We realised that there was a huge disparity in self confidence between the stronger and the weaker class of standard 6. We suspected that the students in the weaker class may have a sense of inferiority when they compare themselves to students of the stronger class. As a volunteer assigned to students in the weaker class, there were a couple of times when I would ask students questions and if they don’t know the answer, they would reply ‘Tidak tahu. Tak pandai.’ This broke my heart because at such a young age, it is not right to have such low self esteem. I believe this may be one of the reasons why the students in the weaker class may not have the drive or motivation to study – because they always feel like they are not good enough. To avoid this sense of superiority and inferiority, the gamemasters ensured that the standard sic students from each class are not put together. This was so to encourage students to make decisions for themselves in the game without heeding the orders of someone who is deemed superior. At the end of the game, there were some 6B students who won the game and we hope that managed to boost their confidence. Hopefully, the students enjoyed the taste of success in the game and proceed to strive for excellence in real life.
At the end of the event, most of us were exhausted, especially the gamesters. The usual extra class was started slightly later than usual on that day, but since we were exhausted we decided to show them some motivational videos we downloaded prior to the trip in the first half an hour of the session. Eddy, the project leader gave a small talk after the motivational session ended. The motivational videos focused on kindness and charity towards animals and people and the blessings we receive when giving. We hope the students emulate that character as we came not only to intend to improve them in terms of academic skills but build character as we believe the latter is more important of the two. We then proceeded to the actual extra class session where we resumed with our normal activity of teaching and preparing the students for UPSR in English and Mathematics.