Familiarity breeds comfort, and sometimes we just have to step back and gain an insight into things outside our comfort zone. I’ve always considered myself to be a KL girl, and so I ignorantly assumed that everyone led a comfortable lifestyle the way most of us in KL do. Attending a college in the middle of a palm oil estate outside of KL and meeting people from different states in Malaysia made me realise that we were worlds apart. Never did I imagine that even top students from rural areas in Malaysia were still struggling to converse in English.
I also never imagined that topics of discussion that I used to consider normal were considered taboo amongst those same students. The sad part of it is that these were the fortunate students who despite their English illiteracy were the cream of the crop where they came from. But what happens to those who weren’t so lucky? Do they get casted aside to the sidelines? I recently went to a primary school where most of the students were the orang asli children and again I was shocked at the difference between it and my old primary school.
Each standard only had one class, and the school only consisted of one academic block.
Before a few of my friends and I started teaching, the teachers told us beforehand that the students didn’t understand English and so we were to give simple instructions in Malay.
I started to think. This is a primary school, and if the students are not trained to converse in English now, when would they start? Academic differences aside, I realised that children are the same no matter where they come from and I thought that was pretty amazing. They were the average mischievous rascals who grin whenever you caught them up to something, and they were filled with laughter.
Despite the background disparity, they acted the way my friends and I acted when we were their age. It made me realise that somewhere along the way, those children will eventually stop being children and that one day there will be a difference between those who were raised in the outskirts of the city and those who were raised in the city. Meeting the children from the orang asli primary school, I wish that no matter where the children came from, they’d all have equal opportunities. You’d have to be there to see the smiles on their faces to understand how I felt at that moment.
I wish I could take back every materialistic demand I made, and to be able to smile the way the children did. The way the children smiled, they thought they had everything they needed in their life, and I cannot remember the last time I felt that way. The children made me see that we often pursue bigger things and in the process we overlook the simple things we should be thankful for. This whole visit started out as a fortnightly activity under the CAS segment of my International , Baccalaurette curriculum, and at first it was just to finish off as many hours as we could.
Somewhere along the way, I stopped seeing the CAS segment as something so cumbersome and I realised that it was so much more than finishing the hours. It was about self-discovery and realisations, as corny as that sounds. I went to SK Bukit Tadom, Banting under a community service program to teach the students, but I ended up learning more than I taught. It was a modest school with only six classes, one for each standard, but it did the honor of opening the eyes of a few city raised teenagers.