Devoted teachers go extra mile to educate children in rural areas

Petronas officer Janette Boniface Barau (right) presents Dadra with a souvenir.

By Ashley Sim

MUKAH, Sept 8: Teachers serving in rural areas, particularly in the Matu district, deserve high praise for their dedication to their jobs, as many of the schools there are in a dilapidated state.

Some are even willing to go the extra mile by travelling to the hinterlands and braving bad weather to impart knowledge to the children.

Dadra James, 37, has devoted her life to teaching for the past 11 years at Taman Bimbingan Kanak-kanak (Tabika) Jabatan Kemajuan Masyarakat (Kemas) Rumah Muring, which is situated in Rumah Panjang Jarit, Telok Delo, Igan, a remote location accessible only by river.

Dadra tells reporters about her experiences as a teacher in a rural area.
Tabika Kemas Rumah Muring, situated in Rumah Panjang Jarit, Telok Delo, Igan.

The zealous teacher is willing to catch the 15-minute boat ride across the Batang Igan River every day to Tabika Kemas Rumah Muring in order to take on the responsibility of educating the children.

One must travel by boat to get to Rumah Panjang Jarit, Telok Delo, Igan.
Rumah Panjang Jarit’s welcome sign.

According to Dadra, it is undeniable that using river transportation presents a number of obstacles, and there have been instances that almost caused her to give up.

“I’ll never forget the time I was on a boat and a strong wind caused a large wave to rock it. It was the most unpleasant experience I had during my years as a teacher here.

“At the time, I felt in my heart that I’d had enough of coming here. But it is my responsibility as a teacher to educate the children of the longhouse, so I have bravely taught even to this day,” she explained to reporters on Monday (Sept 5) during a media visit to a Petronas-sponsored Tabika Kemas in Matu district here.

She explained that she would leave her car on the other side where the jetty was and take a boat to Tabika Kemas Rumah Muring.

“The boat fare costs RM3 both ways, so it costs RM6 a day.

“I’ll commute from Monday to Friday and pay the fare every day. This can benefit the residents here (income) as well,” she added.

In addition to transportation issues, Dadra explained that prior to the construction of the new Tabika Kemas by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas), they only had the “ruai” (a long communal space) of the longhouse to use as a place to teach.

Dadra showing reporters the “ruai” of the longhouse, which was used as a classroom.

“I taught in the ‘ruai’ from 2011 to 2019. It was not very convenient, and finding places to store teaching materials was difficult,” she noted.

She acknowledged that one of the difficulties in teaching her students there was that the environment was not conducive enough, causing many of her students to drop out of early childhood education.

“It was difficult to teach in the ‘ruai’, as it is where many longhouse residents go about their business, causing the students to be unable to fully concentrate on the learning session that was delivered.

“Furthermore, we have limited storage space for learning materials such as stationery, blackboards, chairs, and tables.

“As a result, I had to borrow a room to store the items,” the 37-year-old teacher said.

Dadra goes on to say that the close proximity of the ‘ruai’ to the classroom made it difficult for her to control her students’ antics and presence.

“Because this longhouse has 47 doors, there are students who do not want to come to class and others who take advantage of the opportunity to be naughty and play instead without attending the learning session,” she said.

She added that parents were extremely helpful in monitoring and supervising their children during school hours.

Meanwhile, Carol Ormi, the kindergarten teacher’s assistant who has been working with Dadra, stated that they both needed to collect funds from parents based on their respective abilities in order to organise various types of programmes for children.

Carol Ormi

“We sometimes give parents a gift because they are completely committed to ensuring that their children receive an early childhood education. The goal is to reduce truancy among students,” Carol said.

She also remarked that the fundraising effort will continue in the new Tabika Kemas.

Moreover, Tuai Rumah Jarit Mering stated that when Dadra taught in the longhouse, he sympathised with her situation, noting that this was one of the challenges faced prior to Petronas’ construction of the new Tabika Kemas.

Jarit Mering

As for Dadra, after Petronas completed the new Tabika Kemas Rumah Muring at the end of 2019, she was ready and eager to move to a new classroom.

“We started operating in 2020 and so far I only have seven students aged from four to five-years-old.

“As a result, I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Petronas for constructing a new classroom building for us.

“This has been the most meaningful gift to the residents of Rumah Panjang Jarit in my 11 years of teaching,” she said.

Petronas officers Nabil Basaruddin (standing, fourth right), Janette Boniface Barau (standing, third right), and Johannes Ridu (second right) in a group photo with the teachers, parents, and children of Tabika Kemas Rumah Muring.

The tenacious teacher also hopes that by providing a safe and conducive classroom, she will be able to improve the morale and early education of children in the longhouse.

Carol observes two children colouring.

“Because even though it is only the first stage of education, it is essential because it serves as the foundation for children’s preparation for first grade or primary school,” she emphasised. — DayakDaily