Friday, July 22, 2005

A Time Bomb?

The raindrops can be heard loud and clear, from the zinc roof. It is raining today and it is another day of losses for Chans, as the latex from their small plot of land nearby flows onto the ground with the raindrops. The wooden home they live in damp, and cold. Old Chan is occupied with wood chopping while his wife fixes the hems of their youngest daughter's 3 year old pinafore.

Yin Yee is busy reading the pieces of newspaper with the kerosene lamp by her side, voraciously looking for worthy things to read. Pieces of newspaper her mother brought home, wrapping slabs of pork and other sundry items such as onions, ginger and spices from the sundry shop.

The papers may be old, and only in bits and pieces. But to Yin Yee, it is still a window to the world, no matter how small it may be. Newspaper is too pricey, at MYR 1.40 each day. It is a luxury she has to do without. No one reads at home except for her anyway. Her parents didn't attend school and her 3 siblings all eking a living in the big city.

She didn't go to school today. The dirt road leading out of her village would be too muddy to trudge on today, and the stream running underneath the creaking wooden bridge too volatile. And she wouldn't want to ruin one of her two pinafores, which she intends to use for another 2 years.

She can't go to the school library today and dive into the bookshelves as she does everyday after school. She would read the newspapers first before looking for a book she fancies. The reading materials are all in languages that are new to her, having come from a primary school that taught in her mother tongue. She struggles to understand the many idiosyncracies in the languages, but she knows she must master it. She wonders why there are no newspaper in her mother tongue in the library although one can easily purchase it from a shop.

With a book or magazine in hand, she would rush home to help her parents with the manual work of processing latex over fire stoke by wood to sheets of raw rubber.

She is not doing that today. When will the rain stop?

Post-script :
A far-fetched tale? My experience tells me it isn't. We may have come a long way as a nation. But we still have much to do, much to learn. Poverty does not discriminate by race or creed. It discriminates when given the opportunity to, when there are dishonest people taking resources not meant for them. Take some time, and look around you. How many of us drive past low cost flats daily and ponder about the lives of the people living in those squalid blocks? Do you stop and think why there are youngsters fooling around on motorbikes aimlessly when they should be in school or partaking in meaningful youthful activities? Are there facilities and commitment to undertake the education of our young, for all? The danger is, the marginalised ones become even more separated, a larger growing chasm is forming. Are we doing anything about it, really? But what can we do, when we need to eke out a living too?

When someone prominent said that the rural schools are not well-equipped to deal with a meritocratic (read competitive) environment, he hit bullseye. The crux of the matter is, urban or rural, our national schools are by large not up to mark, regardless of what we say about the growing number of straightAs students. He forgets however that these schools serve everyone's needs regardless of race, so he is kind of myopic in his 'analysis'. It's not merely building schools and having (underpaid)teachers in school, it's about spirit and motivation. There is little or no room for expression and creativity. Sweeping statements you say? Try asking the students. We seem to be getting our priorities all wrong, rushing to file reports and to finish the syllabus (if lucky) and not paying enough attention to personal development. What are the teachers to do with such poor student-teacher ratios and limited training/abilities?

Are we going to do something to stem the rot? I fear for us.


At July 28, 2005 12:48 pm, Blogger priya said...

I didn't find that far-fetched at all. There're probably more Yin Yee's in the country that we care to count. =/

And our school's really don't encourage creativity - it's only been 3 years since I've left school, and I don't think it's improved since then.

At August 18, 2005 9:42 am, Blogger qwyu75vmkm said...

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