as told by ELAINE LEONG, SK Tumunda Salimandut volunteer
A sense of sadness struck me as I woke up at the usual time of around 5:45am when I realised that it was already the eighth day, and that we have stepped into the second week of our stay here in SK Tumunda Salimandut. It hit me how quickly time has flown, and how attached I have grown to the life here.
It was a Monday, so a morning school assembly was certain. The volunteers were sat in a line with the teachers, facing the students. The assembly kicked off with the singing of Negaraku, Sabah Tanah Airku, and the school song. I was whelmed with nostalgia as we stood chest up with our shoulders back as we sang those anthems. We were then called up singly to give a brief self-introduction to the school. As this was our first official introduction to the whole school, the students were all looking very excited to hear about our names, where we came from, as well as where and what we are currently studying. The assembly then resumed with the typical assembly procedures such as announcements and advices from the teachers.
After the assembly, we started our morning lesson which was English, to the primary six students. The lesson started with the teaching of informal letter writing, conducted by yours truly. I then gave them a question in which they answered under the guidance of their respective kakak/abang volunteers. Two hours later, it was time to move on to Mathematics. For Mathematics, we volunteers conducted the teaching personally in our own small groups of students in accordance to their paces in the subject. The students went for their recess an hour later, and we volunteers took the limited few minutes to rest before proceeding straight to teach other primary students.
Together with Kar Yan, Wan Li, Derek, Azeef and Kamraj, I went to primary 4 Bijak, where we taught the students to conduct the typical primary school science experiment: planting green beans. They were pretty ecstatic about it (and so were we).
Later, it was lunchtime followed by the students’ nap time. During their nap time, Kar Yan and I went to the “astaka” for our due “Dusun oral test” by our favourite group of primary five kids. Azeef tagged along, so there he was taught some Dusun words and phrases by the kids. Oh and, Kar Yan and I both passed the test!!
By 2:30pm, we returned to give English lesson to the primary six students, which was conducted in our own small groups.
Two hours later, it was time the students (and I) were always most hyped about, sports!! Some played captain ball, some volleyball. I joined to play a little of both. At 6pm when sports time was over, the volunteers spent some time playing amongst ourselves for a short while while the students showered.
At night right after dinner, we had night class. As always, night class meant Mathematics, and as per usual, we each taught our own students.
*about an hour and a half later*
Kamraj: “Volunteers, five more minutes!”
For the students, it was time for bed after a light supper. As for the volunteers, it was time for our quotidian night meeting session. After the meeting, we went to shower before heading back out to the dining hall for another “meeting”. These “meetings” I believe, were what truly brought all of us even closer, in which we hung out, and just talked and laughed about everything as if we have already known each other for ages. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that these “meetings” would normally last for about two hours, albeit being exhausted from the long day we had. Oh and there is always food too! As for tonight, we had “tarap”, a local fruit which we had bought during our visit to the Sunday market the day before! Eating it was a check off the bucket list for the volunteers from West Malaysia. Soon after, we went to bed, signing out of day 8.
Being part of this project has been a life-changing experience for me. I may have taught the students about the multiplication table, fractions and grammars, but they in return have given me new perspectives on life. Their determination to learn more and their curiosity about the universe have moved and inspired me. I started the first few days thinking teaching them was the hardest part of this project, only to end up slowly realising that leaving them was the hardest. As I walked out of the school gate for one last time, escorted by sobbing children, I secretly wished it was just a dream, and that I would wake up to find out that it was only the second day. I frankly wish the project could have been longer. Time spent with the adorable children, and the volunteers who all almost instantly became the best of friends with each other, was definitely not sufficient. Not forgetting the warmest hospitality demonstrated by the teachers and parents of the students which made our stay there so much more memorable.
The sweat and tears, they were all worth it. Project Tumunda 2016, my ‘kenangan terindah’ indeed.