KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — It takes a special kind of teacher to persevere in teaching outside favourable conditions.
Seven years ago, Rassidee Rasid, who could speak Temiar, was posted to Sekolah Kebangsaan Pos Perwor in Sungai Siput, Perak, to teach Orang Asli children.
Temiar is a language spoken by the larger group of Orang Asli people in Malaysia.
The 45-minute drive, on an untarred road frequented by timber lorries, was nerve-wracking for the then 25-year-old. The school was located in a forest reserve on the foot of the Titiwangsa Range.
“No teacher wants to be posted to a school so far away from the city and lacking in facilities. However, I took one look at the tiny, eager faces of the children who were so ready to learn and I could not help but change my mind,” Rassidee recounted to Bernama.
Today, the 32-year-old admits that even after all these time, teaching the Orang Asli children is still a challenging process.
“It is hard. The preschool children generally do not understand any Malay. Sometimes, it seems that even after a year, all they have seemed to learn is a single letter. But I’m not giving up,” he said.
He said another problem was that student attendance was a matter taken lightly by both students and parents.
“Attendance is low and the average attendance is only around 80 per cent, annually. The parents, generally, do not see attending school as a matter of serious importance,” he said.
He said the school was also lacking in facilities for the students as well as teaching aids.
Rassidee said there were times when he could not bring himself to ask his students to buy school supplies, as he understood how difficult and costly it was for them to travel to the city for the purpose. Often, he would get what they needed using his own money.
“The school equipments are poorly maintained. Some computer equipments, generators and physical education equipments are in such bad shape that they are simply not fit for use.
“Classes are cramped and the teachers’ room is akin to a storeroom,” he lamented.
The school, built in 1980, is staffed with 19 teachers and attended by 182 students.
Rassidee said even the teacher’s quarters that he rented along with several others was like “an abandoned house”, when they first moved in.
Despite the dire state of the school and the difficulties the students faced in learning, Rassidee said they were proud when, in 2012, four students passed all subjects in the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).
“I am determined to ensure a repeat of that success, and to give these children, who have been so deprived of the facilities and opportunities they deserve, the same chance given to the children in the big cities,” he said.