SK TUMUNDA SALIMANDUT (2017)

Day 8: Ng Jie Yi

Sunday rolled around, and we roused early in preparation to leave for a half-day trip to the nearest town – Kota Marudu. Many were excited at the prospect of visiting the local market there (TAMU) as well as meeting up with the Teringai team. The 14 of us were packed into three cars and off we went.

The journey took about half an hour. Once we arrived, we split into small groups so that everyone gets a chance to wander around and buy the things that they needed. These include plenty of food for both us and the kids to help us tide through the second week. After about an hour of individual wandering, we met up again and attacked a bookshop together. Many bought reference books for their own kids, as well as stationary etc. as a parting gift. After that, the teachers brought us to the local supermarket. And being the foodies that we are, we bought MORE food. (I still can’t believe we managed to finish all those food within a week) And then it was time to go back to the kampung.

In the afternoon, we began our practice for the upcoming Hari Raya celebration. The kids were split into groups according to their own preference, which resulted in the formation of five groups - acting, choir singing, beatboxing, dance and the cup song.

I oversaw the acting group along with Amir and Pheng Chew. We started off with asking the kids what they wished to do. A barrage of ideas was given, ranging from love, comedy, epic fights, cat fights, evil stepparents etc. Some wished to be the main protagonist, while others wished only to play a small part in the act. After some discussions, we settled with the story of “Beauty and the Beast” (with some minor changes).

With the main story decided, it was time to pick the roles of each actor. I was impressed by the courtesy they showed towards each other when choosing their roles. After that, Amir, who had experience with acting and directing, took the reins. The dialog was constructed right there and then, and I busied myself with scribbling down the words spoken. The kids surprised me with their enthusiasm, and they responded to Amir’s corrections well. They also memorised the dialog quickly, despite having it repeated only once or twice to them.

The day finished with a night class. It has been almost a day and a half since the kids had classes. However, the kids learned quickly that night (I was teaching them how to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers) and I ended the day happy and satisfied.

All in all, this project has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. It reminded me of a simpler life, and the innocence that only a child can have. Perhaps what we have done in these two weeks would not change their lives much, but perhaps that is not the true value of this project. Perhaps the true worth of this project lies in changing the volunteers, such that we will act to improve education in rural areas when we become leaders in the future. Perhaps. In any case, I truly wish, from the bottom of my heart, all the best to these kids. Thank you for the memories.

Day 9: Anas

Today marked the beginning of the second week we volunteers ‘berkampung’ at SK Tumunda Salimandut. We woke up early for the 6.20am class feeling tired and sleepy after not having it during the weekend. Despite that, we all went to our respective classrooms with a renewed motivation knowing that we only have less than one week left to make an impact in our kids’ lives.

After the morning class, we joined the school’s weekly assembly with all the kids and the teachers as well. We felt a bit awkward when the teachers invited us to the front and offered their seats for us. We really felt honoured and appreciated by the teachers especially, because of the way they treated us with care and always making sure that our needs were fulfilled. That morning, I got to hear the Sabahans’ state anthem as well as the school’s anthem which I found to be quite lovely. Then, all of the charismen were invited to introduce ourselves one by one in front of the whole assembly. After the assembly which took about half an hour, we went to the dining hall for breakfast.

That morning, the 6 Pintar volunteers had to teach English to 4 Bijak and 5 Bijak classes. For both classes, we taught the kids how to ask simple questions in English and how to response to them as well. We felt that it was relevant to train them on this topic because they have to form/answer questions based on pictures in the UPSR English paper 1. At first we showed them examples on the whiteboard and then we asked the kids to ask questions among themselves one by one. I found that the standard 5 students were more confident and more able to talk in English (most probably because they have learned and matured more than the standard 4s) thus making the class livelier and more fun as well. One of the 5 Bijak boys even took the opportunity to ask a girl sitting next to him to play badminton with him that evening! Smooth weyh that boy. Our group did not have any other classes until afternoon that day so we all went back to shane’s house and spent the precious free time to nap.

After lunch, all of the volunteers went to our respective group of kids for the afternoon extra class. During the extra class, I helped my kids to do their English and Math homework until 3.30pm. We finished the class a bit early than usual to conduct the Health Workshop with the standard 6 students as well as those staying at the hostel. After the kids had gathered in the dining hall, we started the workshop with a PowerPoint presentation in which we explored the components of a healthy lifestyle one at a time. As I explained the slides to the kids, I found that some of them started to feel bored and sleepy so I tried to crack a few jokes to lighten the atmosphere. Although my fellow volunteers were able to get the jokes, I found the kids to be a bit confused on how to react during the situation. On that day, I learned that with kids you have to give more hints and you must not make a straight face so the kids know that it is okay to laugh at that moment☺. After the presentation, we organised an eating contest with the kids in which the person who ate the last bowl will lose using 100% healthy food! We felt sorry watching our kids ate raw vegetables and sour fruits. But at least they are good for the kids and the kids seemed to have a good time playing the game.

During the night class, I asked my kids to try the Math workbooks that I bought for them during the weekend. I wanted to check whether they are able to do the exercises on their own because I wanted them to continue using those workbooks even after I left the school. From my observation, my kids can do most of the exercises even from the KBAT workbooks that I gave to the more advanced kids in my group. To be frank, my kids are all from 6 Pintar anyway so they are all good learners. I was very proud of each and every one of them and that added another reason for me to believe that my kids definitely have the potential to achieve academic success not just in UPSR but also in their future endeavours.

Day 10: Tan Yi Xin

The day kicked start with morning classes with the Year 6 students conducted by fellow volunteers with their respective groups. I tried to make morning classes interactive and engaging to make them motivated and energized for the day. I brought a globe to the class, showed them the different continents in the world and quizzed them on general knowledge about geography. I went on to ask them questions on time calculation and interpretation, with reference to the time zones in different regions of the world. It was challenging to explain a new concept to the students and this constantly reminded me of the need for simplicity, conciseness and accuracy in our communication with young children.

We went on to teach Mathematics to the Year 5 students. The Year 5 students I was assigned to were playful but jovial. I reinforced the “sifir” (multiplication times-table) with them and gave them simple mathematical operations to solve. These kids greeted me whenever we ran into each other at school, but our initial conversations were mostly about “sifir” questions, which I really enjoyed seeing them pause for a brief thought for the answers and their subsequent sparkling expressions when they got it right. I gave them a helicopter lego model as a souvenir. They were riveted to the lego and assembled it on the spot from scratch using the building blocks and instructions given. I would definitely miss this bunch of adorable kids, especially their excitement in learning which was always etched on their faces.

While afternoon might seem to be a comfy time for a nap, the Year 6 students never failed to attend the scheduled lessons. I made it compulsory for them to bring the dictionary to every English class. Why? Dictionary is always your best friend to learn a language! I found it onerous to teach English given the drastic change in UPSR syllabus. The reference book I bought from the local market (TAMU) proved to be my best companion as I found ease in my teaching efforts. We went through some example essays in the book together. The students took initiative to scribble down notes and new vocabularies in their notebooks. They were very supportive for one another in their studies and even joked around with me at times. I loved their gags in particular when one of my students read the story from “Cinderella” aloud with somehow comedian-like facial expressions. That really made my day.

After the afternoon classes, the students staying at the hostel joined the Year 6 students in a hygiene workshop with the aim to encourage the students to implement good personal hygiene practices daily, including bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth, wearing clean clothing and trimming nails. These simple acts of cleaning and caring for the body could help to keep germs from spreading, especially in crowded areas like hostels, and prevent the transmission of infectious diseases, which could be fatal to children with weak immune systems. The details of hygiene practices were reinforced as one could be easily complacent when they are healthy and will tend to be laid-back with their hygiene. The students were then separated into their respective age groups to have a go on various hygiene practices under the supervision of the volunteers. Sara and the team also demonstrated the correct use of sanitary pads to the Year 6 students.

The Standard 6 students had a one-hour practice session to prepare them for the performances on Thursday. It was a pleasure to oversee the choir team consisting of approximately 25 students with Sara and Cendy as the students blended their dulcet voices into a melodious resonance. It was undoubtable that Sabahan’s have one of the most amazing singing talents in Malaysia. On top of that, we must never forget the conductor, who was standing independently in front of the choir to direct the performance with passion, patience and enthusiasm. As a past choir alumni of my secondary school, it was indeed a trip down the memory lane recalling my days in the choir team.

The day ended with the night classes until 9 p.m. and the volunteers headed back to the house for a reflection session and discussed the preparations for the next day. Albeit a short 2 weeks at the school, I could feel the benevolence of the students in a small but friendly “kampung”, the enthusiasm they had for the programme and the joy they radiated from their smiles in learning. Each and every one of them has an inherent talent, from singing, dancing, beatboxing, drawing, solving rubik’s cube… any you could name of. My life has never been filled with so much love and cordiality. Thank you to everyone at SK Tumunda Salimandut for the warm reception, the valuable memories and for helping me to discover a newfound passion for teaching. We don’t meet people by accident, they are meant to cross our path for a reason. Sincerely with “Tepuk Terima Kasih”…

Day 11: Tan Pheng Chew

The morning was nothing but our usual teaching of ‘sifir’, basic grammar, addition, etc. Though it was the second last day in SK Tumunda Salimandut, the morning made me feel as though I had only been here for 5 days. In my inner most thoughts, I yearned to be back in Butterworth, lying on my oh-so-lovely bed; indulging in the well-equipped toilet of my home. Nevertheless, our consuming volunteering passion constantly drive us to bring the best out of the kids. Hence, we soldiered on.

The gist of the day came at 3.30pm, together with massive, pouring rain. We had been preparing the  Standard 6 pupils for their ‘Persembahan’. This includes our ‘Beauty and the Beast drama’, choir, sort-of breakdancing, and Anne Kendrick’s cup song. The headmaster, and a village leader delivered their respective long, winding speeches, before Amir could show off his brilliant, charismatic ‘pidato’ skills, addressing the crowd in a straightforward yet motivating manner.

The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Drama followed on. Bonnie (as the Beast) and the Jasnita (as the Beauty) pulled off a wonderful show. The budding young actors acted and sang in an elegant manner, before Aerickly (as the orang jahat) pulled out his sword to battle. A spontaneous shooting from afar added to Aerickly’s macho-ness, though insufficient to match the fighting capability of ‘Beast squad’ which included the candle, wardrobe, teapot, and cup. ‘Semangat Perpaduan’. Beauty married the Beast. A witty master of ceremonies humorously teased ‘Bonnie’s manliness- inilah satu-satunya peluang yang boleh kita lihat kelelakian Bonnie’. Mean, but…

Then came the breakdance. The dancers were talented, and extremely passionate. Initially we thought of cancelling the dancing session, but the hype of ‘Despacito’ put our negative efforts in vain. We take out hats off to the salutable passion of the kids. Their dance was followed by a boisterous applause. Yea, super-proud of them. Cup song followed suit. Seeing a group of kampong kids performing cup song was a very unique experience, very memorable.

Beatbox is a hidden talent of many kids in Salimandut. When 4 kids went up stage to perform beatbox, the audience was utterly amazed by their extraordinary talent. One of them was literally making 3 voices at one time. Totally incredible. Then our lovely choir took place in a very systematic way.

After having our feast with delicious local food to celebrate our last dinner there, a local teacher (semi-professional artist) sang on stage. Chaos occurred, as our UK-clubbing spirit hit us on the spot (Yi Fen, and Cendy leading the way of course).

It was an emotional, unforgettable night. When classes took place at 7pm, some students shed their tears as they knew that we were departing tomorrow. It was a very touching moment for most of us because we know deep in our hearts, that they truly appreciate our presence.

Day 12: Sara Nadyana

As per usual, we were up at 6am to have our session with the Year 6 students. Only this time, it was going to be the last. As I climbed the steps to their classrooms for the very last time, a strange feeling crept inside me. We asked the kids to fill up the survey forms once more to see how effective the programme was for them. Since it was our last session with them, we decided to just let it be free and easy especially after the long and emotional night they had.

After the session, we headed back to Shane’s house to finish packing, return all the mattresses to the boarding school and tidy up all the mess we had made. At 8am, we were called to gather at the eating hall for our farewell ceremony with the Year 6 students. Cikgu Kaitirin kicked off the ceremony by giving her speech, thanking us for all that we have done. It was then my turn to say a few last words to the children, doing my best to convey whatever I wanted to say to them despite my not-so-fluent Malay speaking. After the speeches, we took a few group photos with all the students and teachers and then, we were given some time with the kids before our taxis arrived. We showed them a touching video which Yi Fen had put together for the kids. The hall quickly turned into a very melancholy scene filled with tears, volunteers handing gifts and letters to their group of students and many long hugs. Even the most “macho” boys of Year 6 could not hold back their tears as they sat in a corner trying to cover their faces with their exercise books to not make it obvious ahaha.

We grabbed our bags and bid farewell to the house all fourteen of us had squeezed in for the past two weeks then made our way to the open hall where the rest of the school was waiting for us. Amir (who we made do all the talking most times) gave some final words of advice and thanked the school once more on our behalf. The children then lined up in two lines as they did when we arrived and created a pathway leading us to the gate. It felt as if we were celebrities for a moment as we walked past getting high fives from both sides and receiving letters from some of them. The closer we approached the gate, the heavier my heart felt. I turned around to see all the innocent and pure souls waving while screaming our names until we entered the taxis. It was a sight I will never forget.

We stopped at a restaurant in Kota Marudu to wait for the rest of the volunteers from Teringai then made our way to Alexy’s Café, Kota Kinabalu where the Rotary Club had planned a buffet lunch for us. It was so good to catch up with the other team and share all our experiences with each other. At around 4pm, most of us headed to the airport while some stayed on in Kota Kinabalu. After checking in, we ate at McDonald’s together before parting ways with those who were on different flights. Before going through the gate, we managed to do our “dance” for the last time, shamelessly

Our two week journey had finally come to an end and it was bittersweet. Two weeks of having to take the speediest showers, barely getting enough sleep, speaking way more Malay than usual and losing our voices from teaching were over. Sadly, this also meant that we would no longer be spending every minute in each other’s company and our days of teaching the children of SK Tumunda Salimandut could only be replayed in our memories. I climbed into bed that night, exhausted and I smiled looking back at what an incredible and eye-opening two weeks it had been.

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