A Rural Teacher’s Story: Alvin Wong (SK Batang Lassa)

Tabi basa and greetings Tukang Rantek’s family! I hope these days has been great to all of you and your family. Just like all of you are familiar with, being a Tukang Rantek, I love to write stories about peoples that I have met, especially people that I think inspires others. For this edition, this Tukang Rantek has a story about a teacher who study and teaches at a remote area (pedalaman).

Alvin’s Story

The person that I want to talk about today is Cikgu Alvin Wong. He is a 27 years old teacher from Sarikei, Sarawak. Born on 1st Aug 1993, he is born to an Iban mother and Chinese father. He is currently registered as an Iban ethnic in JPN. Previously he was registered as Chinese. Being half-Iban, that gave him right to change to his maternal etchnicity, which is Iban.

Cikgu Alvin Wong
Look how big Batang Lassa Is
Aerial View of SK Batang Lassa

Alvin’s Family Story

Alvin and his family

Cikgu Alvin is the the eldest son of three siblings. Currently, he is teaching in SK Batang Lassa, Daro, a “Pedalaman 2” (P2) school. He has been teaching since 23 January 2017, which almost 4 years of service.

Alvin and his siblings

As for his his siblings, he has a younger sister, Shereen Wong (25 years old), who followed his footstep as a teacher, currently teaching English at SK Nanga Jambu, Julau, which falls under “Pedalaman 3”.

His youngest brother, Johnny Wong (22 years old), currently is a student-teacher at Institut Pendidikan Guru (IPG) Kampus Batu Lintang, Kuching. He will be graduated soon in 2021, majoring in English language as well just like his two other elder siblings.

Late grandfather (left-most), an ex-teacher at SK Engkamop, Pakan. Grandmother (alive) right-most.

His late grandfather, Mr. Wong Hieng Yiu (father’s side) was an ex-teacher at SK Engkamop, Pakan. His mother, Mdm. Lim Kee Kee (54 years old), is a also a teacher, currently teaching in SK St. Anne, Sarikei.

He and his siblings are inspired to be educators by following the footsteps of their late grandfather and mother. For them, teaching more than just a profession to earn good income, but it is a noble job, where teachers impart not only knowledge, but also giving life to younger generations (especially their pupils) with life values (nilai murni kehidupan) to be holistic & well-mannered individuals.

Education Background

Alvin sat for his SPM back in 2010, at SMK St Anthony, where he earned 10As (7A+, 1A, 2A-), making him one of the top 10As achiever for Year 2010. After that, he went for his Bachelor’s Degree at Institut Pendidikan Guru (IPG) Kampus Batu Lintang, Kuching for 5.5 years from 2011 to 2016. He trained as an educator majoring in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL / English Language). There, he achieved Best Academic Award (Anugerah Kecemerlangan Akademik) for Year 2016, was awarded with Bachelor of Teaching (HONS) (Sarjana Muda Perguruan dengan Kepujian) and graduated with a First Class Degree (CGPA: 3.87).

Alvin and IPG Classmates final year Annual Dinner 2016 (Bachelor Degree)
Bachelor’s Degree Convocation
Alvin’s Family During His Bachelor Degree Convocation

After he completed his Bachelor’s Degree, he pursue his Master Degree for two years from March 2018 to March 2020, at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi (UKM Bangi), pursuing Master Degree at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi (UKM, Bangi), pursuing TESL (English Language). He was awarded with Master of Education (Sarjana Pendidikan). He was supposed to have his convocation on October 2020, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic. For his Master, he achieved First Class Degree (CGPA: 3.90).

Alvin and classmates (Master Degree UKM Bangi)
Alvin and classmates (Master Degree UKM Bangi)
Alvin and classmates (Master Degree UKM Bangi)

Challenges In Teaching In A Rural School

Teaching at rural school poses its own set of challenges, unimaginable for those at urban areas. This is the thing that I would like to highlight today, where I want show all of you the among many challenges that Alvin and his fellow colleagues has to face.

1. Access To School

Being a school in a rural area, one of the challenge is acces, where in this case, the access to SK Batang Lassa is via River.

1.1 River

fznor

River access is available via Express Boats from Sibu to Daro & vice versa (stop directly at school jetty). Express Boats is a more popular option for teachers in SK Batang Lassa, Daro.

One may also charter (boleh juga catar) speedboat. However, it is very pricey, where one way trip is RM300. Speedboat is a rarer option and last used was on 2018.

Express Terus Singgah Di Jeti Sekolah

1.2 Off-Road Access Via Batang Lassa Palm Oil Plantation 

For road, it is preferred to use a 4 WHEEL DRIVE vehicle to access the path / gravel road / sandy road (tanah putih). Typical 2WD cars (Kancil, MyVi, Viva, Bezza, etc.) can still access the road without any problems though one has to be careful and cautious of the surface of the path / road to avoid any untoward incidents.

As for Alvin, his worst experience was his car (Honda HRV) got stuck on the sandy path, where soil mixed with sand became soft due to the heavy rain the day before. He was stuck for almost 2 hours.

Luckily there are other teachers (also from SK Batang Lassa) going through the same path. The other teachers (driving Isuzu DMAX 4WD) went to the nearest hardware store, outside of the plantation to get thick rope. Car was successfully pulled out. 

Lesson learned from this to always be prepared for anything. In his case, prepare with tools such as cangkul, tali kapal & always be grateful that there are people around you that will always be available to help you especially in need (kita jaga kita).

2. Telephone Reception

Telephone access is another big issue where he is teaching. There is no telephone reception at school. The residents there depended on WiFi Satellite (VSAT Maxis) for internet connection. This is no different from those used by those offshore, especially on barges.

However, when there’s a will, there’s a way. In order to boost the phone reception – they bought Signal Booster. Currently, they can use normal phone call and sometimes receive H or H+ connection, which is much better than nothing.

3. Water

He and his fellow friends there were also no stranger to water issue. For bath, they are fully-depending on Water Harvester, which is collected rain water.

The idea of using rainwater for bathwater is not really common in urban area, but thankfully the rain collected can be cleaned of sediments and dirt through filtration (using clothes) and water PH neutralizer, which is a type of pill or powder to neutralise the rain water. Again, this demonstrated that when there’s a will, there’s a way.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtered from underground water are also provided as alternatives for teachers to bath, cook and to perform other daily necessities.

Every year, the school also receive boxes of Drinking or Mineral Water. Each teacher and staf will receive up to 8 to 10 boxes of these Drinking or Mineral Water, so they will have clean water source to drink and cook.

4. Current Challenge: COVID-19

Since March 2020, Movement Control Order was enforced throughout Malaysia. Due to the rise of COVID-19 cases, all face to face class interaction are converted to home-based learning (HBL) or Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran di Rumah (PdPR).

Schools are given multiple alternatives to conduct the lesson based on locality of the school, the community around them and most importantly the location of the pupils.

Schools may perform PdPR secara dalam talian (Online), PdPR secara luar talian (Offline), or the combination of both.

For the case of rural school like SK Batang Lassa, all of the teachers opted for fully PdPR secara luar talian or the combination of both (using WhatsApp to update the pupils of the works they need to do).

In Alvin’s personal experience, he were facing difficulties to distribute work via WhatsApp as not all pupils have internet access. Therefore, in order to cater to this issues, the exercises was printed in a form of module to be distributed to the pupils.

Preparing The Modules
Preparing The Modules
Preparing The Modules

Most of the pupils staying at the longhouse are able to obtain the module because they can visit school and take the module from the Guardhouse or Staff Room. However, for other pupils that are out of the longhouse area, where they stay at Sibu or Balingian (Selangau), WOD (Worksheet on Delivery) was performed.

Without being asked by anyone, Alvin’s own initiative to drive and deliver the module to his students so that all of the pupils will be able to do their exercises and learn. He felt happy inside when his students can follow their the learning session without any hindrance at all.

Delivery Module
Delivery Module
Delivery Module

Personal Achievements Throughout Teaching Career

Despite those challenges, Alvin did not stop. Instead, fuelled by his will to succeed, and strong support from the communities around him, he managed to achieve these awards. Being a keen learner, throughout his teaching career, he has ventured out to learn and joined lots of competition, such as those listed below.

  1. INTERNATIONAL INVENTION & INNOVATIVE COMPETITION (InIIC) SERIES 2/2018
Alvin with Daisy Kunang and Yii Hung Ying
(from left): Yii, Alvin & Daisy

This competition was held on 20th October 2020 (At Resorts World Langkawi). He attended under UKM (representing SK Batang Lassa), where he presented – CollaboWrite with MindMeister (Improving Pupils’ Writing Skills with Mind Mapping). Among his team members are Daisy Kunang & Yii Hung Ying. They achieved SILVER AWARD. 

2. KOLOKIUM TS25 PERINGKAT DAERAH DARO TAHUN 2020 – CATEGORY TEACHER’S INNOVATION (INOVASI GURU)

This is a Division Level (Peringkat Daerah) competition organised by District Education Office (Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah (PPD) Daro). The result was announced on 17th September 2020, and he managed to achieve 1st Runner Up (Naib Johan) for his creative innovation called “Snadder It!”, which is an Innovation of English Language Board Game which aims to Improve Pupils’ English Language learning in a fun, meaningful and purposeful manner.

3. E-KOLOKIUM PENYELIDIKAN TINDAKAN DAN INOVASI TAHUN 2020 PERINGKAT NEGERI SARAWAK

This is a State Level (Peringkat Negeri Sarawak – Anjuran Pejabat Pendidikan Daerah (PPD) Dalat) and the result was announced on 2nd October 2020. He achieved SILVER AWARD (Anugerah Perak). Innovation – Snadder It! Language Board Game (extension to the innovation above – with similar aim).

Pupils’/ School’s Achievements (Alvin as Teacher-In-Charge/Guru Pengiring)

Throughout his teaching career also, Alvin has been leading his students towards excellence as well through various competitions as listed below.

Alvin’s Avengers

BEAVER COMPUTATIONAL THINKING COMPETITION (BCTC) YEAR 2018 

BEAVER COMPUTATIONAL THINKING COMPETITION is an effort from Bebras International to foster interest in the Information Technology and Communication as well as Computer Technology Skills. In 2017, 1.6 millions participants from 45 countries all around the world joined this international level online competition. 6000 of it are from Malaysia.

This competition is divided into 5 categories:

  1. Ecolier (Primary 1 to 4, age of 7~10 years old).
  2. Benjamin (Primary 5 to 6, age 11 to 12)
  3. Cadet (Form 1 to 2, age 13 to 14)
  4. Junior (Form 3 to 4, age 15 to 16)
  5. Student (Form 5 to 6, age 17 to 19)

Each participants was awarded with certificate of appreciation which was signed by Professor Valentina Dagiene, Founder and Chairman of Bebras Board. 10% of the highest mark participants will be awarded with Honourable Mention. 50% of the rest will be awarded with Certificate of Participation (Sijil Penyertaan)

Competition Date: 17 April 2018

Pupils Involved: 

  1. Donna Anak Ngerembang (Achieved Bronze Medal for Benjamin Category)
  2. Aiswarya Rai Simren Anak Stenley (Achieved Honourable Mention for Benjamin Category)
  3. Becham Robertson Anak Benett (Achieved Honourable Mention for Benjamin Category)
  4. Victor Anak Johnny (Achieved Honourable Mention for Benjamin Category)
  5. Danny Pagang Anak Ngadan (Achieved Bronze Medal for Ecolier Category)

ANUGERAH PEMBESTARIAN SEKOLAH PERINGKAT NEGERI SARAWAK 2018

KATEGORI – PENCAPAIAN MURID SEKOLAH RENDAH PERINGKAT ANTARABANGSA

This award was received on 25 October 2018, there achievement was Contributed by the Bronze Medal of Beaver Computational Thinking Competition Year 2018. The pupil who received this award was  Donna Anak Ngerembang

BEAVER COMPUTATIONAL THINKING COMPETITION (BCTC) YEAR 2019

Beaver 2019 (Jagstine Ampari – Gold Medal Award)

This competition was held on 16 April 2019, where the pupils involved are as follows:

  1. Jagstine Ampari Anak Uji (Achieved Gold Medal for Ecolier Category)
  2. Stephenie Juli Anak Daud (Achieved Silver Medal for Benjamin Category)
  3. Aiswarya Rai Simren Anak Stenley (Achieved Bronze Medal for Benjamin Category)
  4. Daniel Anak Ngerembang (Achieved Bronze Medal for Benjamin Category)
  5. Hendry Anak Tingaw (Achieved Honourable Mention for Benjamin Category)
Beaver 2019 (Jagstine Ampari – Gold Medal Award)
Beaver 2019 (Jagstine Ampari – Gold Medal Award)

Note: Jagstine attended BCTC Award Ceremony at Pusat GENIUS@Pintar Negara, UKM Bangi. The Gold Award was received on 24th August 2019).

ANUGERAH PEMBESTARIAN SEKOLAH PERINGKAT NEGERI SARAWAK 2019

Anugerah Pembestarian Sekolah 2019
Anugerah Pembestarian Sekolah 2019
Anugerah Pembestarian Sekolah 2019

KATEGORI – PENCAPAIAN MURID SEKOLAH RENDAH PERINGKAT ANTARABANGSA

This award was received on 13 November 2019, where the achievement mentioned was Contributed by the Gold Medal of Beaver Computational Thinking Competition Year 2019. Pupil receiving award was Jagstine Ampari Anak Uji.

BEAVER COMPUTATIONAL THINKING COMPETITION (BCTC) YEAR 2020

Competition Date: 9 September 2020

Pupils Involved: 

  1. Jagstine Ampari Anak Uji (Achieved Bronze Medal for Ecolier Category)
  2. Stephenie Juli Anak Daud (Achieved Bronze Medal for Benjamin Category)
  3. Daniel Anak Ngerembang (Achieved Certificate of Participation for Benjamin Category)
  4. Leoneily Anak Uji (Achieved Bronze Medal for Ecolier Category)

KARNIVAL KO-KURIKULUM eMAS (e-Mansang Anak Sarawak) PERINGKAT NEGERI SARAWAK TAHUN 2020

KATEGORI: PERTANDINGAN PETA PEMIKIRAN i-THINK SCIENCE CONCEPT SEKOLAH RENDAH

  • Jagstine Ampari Anak Uji (Johan) – representing Sarawak ke National Level, with his I-Think Map Title: Planets in Our Solar System (Planet-Planet Di Sistem Suria). He was contacted by Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Sarawak on 2 September 2020 to proceed to National Level. The result was announced OFFICIALLY via LIVE Facebook on 6 November 2020.

PERTANDINGAN STEM (SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING & MATHEMATICS) ONLINE CHALLENGE KEBANGSAAN TAHUN 2020

KATEGORI: PERTANDINGAN PETA PEMIKIRAN i-THINK SCIENCE CONCEPT SEKOLAH RENDAH

Jagstine Ampari Anak Uji (Naib Johan) – Mewakili Negeri Sarawak di Peringkat Kebangsaan – National Level (1st Runner Up representing Sarawak from all the states in Malaysia). For this competition, he came up with I-Think Map entitled Planets in Our Solar System (Planet-Planet Di Sistem Suria). Result was announced via LIVE Facebook on 21 October 2020.

Hopes for The Future

For the last part of this article, Alvin has a main phrase of wisdom: When there’s a Will, there will always be a Way.

He believed that urban or rural school pupils can achieve great heights if they put efforts. His advise to them is “Do not be discouraged by your conditions/surroundings but instead put efforts to improve them. Be proactive and always be ready to learn new things”.

The stereotypical thoughts of “Sekolah Pedalaman” being labeled as underachieving schools must be changed. He believed that teachers must be proactive and put efforts in their work especially for the pupils. Teachers are the main role model to guide, assist and facilitate the rural pupils to success.

As for the rural pupils, his main advise to them is do not confine your thoughts within your comfort zone. Be prepared to face and embrace changes in a positive manner. My advice as well – do complete your studies until SPM, as SPM will allow you to embark into higher learning institutions. With education, you can change your life for the betterment of your future.

With this sharing, I hope the excellence that Alvin demonstrated with his fellow students inspires all of us to pursue excellence in our career path. We may not be treading the same career line, but in whatever we do, do it with all our heart so that we can be the branch that bears good fruit, for the good of our nation.

“Immortalising Memories!”/”Mengabadikan Kenangan!“

Tukang Rantek,
Claudius

Follow me at:Instagram: tukangrantekclaudius
LinkedIn: claudiusweson

Note: “Tukang Rantek” Claudius is a Portrait, Wedding & Event Photographer based in Miri, with a passion for writing.
[1] “TukangRantek” means photographer in Bidayuh Piching.
[2] Event covers Funeral, Birthday, Party etc.

All images here belongs to Cikgu Alvin Wong. No parts or pictures in this picture may be used without prior permission from “Tukang Rantek” Claudius Weson.