Teaching is not any mere profession, but instead is a profession that demands heart and soul, sincerity and sacrifice.
TWO significant events in my life take place on May 16. First, it was on this date exactly a year ago that I was entrusted by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to be part of his Cabinet and serve as the Second Education Minister.
Secondly, and more significantly, today is the day we celebrate Teachers Day. It is a day for us to cherish our educators and convey our gratitude to them.
One of the most vital elements in education is the role played by the teachers themselves. Because of this, the yearly Teachers Day celebration holds a sentimental place in my heart.
In Islam, there are many hadith (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) which emphasise the nobility of those declared as educators.
Imam al-Tirmidzi once narrated that Abu ‘Umamah al-Bahalili had said that he heard the Prophet Muhammad state: “The superiority of the learned over the devout worshipper is like my superiority over the most inferior amongst you (in good deeds).”
He went on to say: “Allah, His angels, the dwellers of the heaven and the earth, and even the ant in its hole and the fish (in water) supplicate in favour of those who teach people knowledge.’’
This hadith is so beautiful in that it illustrates the majesty that is the teaching profession.
Teachers Day reminds me of the late Cikgu Fatimah, a former headmistress at SM Tengku Mahmud, in my hometown of Besut, Terengganu. During her life, she’d always visit her students and their parents at their homes and would help them solve issues faced not just by the students but the family as a whole.
She’d provide guidance, support and motivation to them even after school hours, going well beyond the call of duty.
When Cikgu Fatimah fell sick, her students took care of her until she passed away. Such is the reciprocal love and care of students to their teacher who led by example.
I will never forget the contributions and kindness of my teachers who taught me during my school days.
I attended primary school at SK Pusat Jerteh, Besut, Terengganu. I still remember the patience shown by Cikgu Masnah, Cikgu Mariam, Cikgu Ali Yusof, Mr Wong, Cikgu Rahim and Cikgu Tengku Norizan in dealing with us kampung (village) children.
Oh, how committed they were in ensuring that we understood all that they taught.
From time to time, I still visit Cikgu Ali Yacoob, the headmaster of the school.
As students, we’d fondly call him “Ali Uban” because his head was full of grey hair.
With the blessings and patience of my teachers at SK Pusat Jerteh, I achieved good academic results which qualified me for a place at Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman (STAR) – a top all-boys residential school in Ipoh.
My experience in STAR enabled me to mature and develop. The teachers were truly dedicated.
There was Cikgu Lau Hut Yee, who was highly passionate and excited when teaching us science, and Cikgu Sarjit Singh, our burly Green House warden whom I respected tremendously despite his strict personality.
Then there was Cikgu Ong Bee Jeng, Ustaz Mohamad and Cikgu Ali who are all firmly etched in my memory.
All of them educated me to become a thinker, sportsman and leader, without regard to race or religion.
I deeply care for all of them.
They shaped within me the perception that teaching is not any mere profession, but instead is a profession that demands heart and soul, sincerity and sacrifice.
It is a profession that requires a teacher’s soul or jiwa guru.
Perhaps, this is why I was attracted and fated to marry a teacher. Up close, I’ve been able to witness how my wife, full of passion and patience, performs her duties as a teacher in school and at the same time as a mother at home who has raised and nurtured our five children.
All of our children were educated locally at school level. Some entered local universities whereas some had the opportunity to study abroad.
My wife and I are grateful for our children are our pride and they have blessed us with three adorable grandchildren whom we really love. Alhamdulillah.
Once in a while, I’ll have discussions with my wife on contemporary challenges faced by teachers.
Her thoughts and ideas provide me a different perspective, and enable me to carry out my duties effectively.
At the Education Ministry, efforts to empower the teaching profession are ongoing and never-ending.
Through the National Education Blueprint (2013-2015), the ministry is committed to making teaching the profession of choice by choosing only the best graduates who excel academically and in their co-curricular activities.
The stigma that the teaching profession is the last choice amongst graduates needs to be addressed as those are not the type of teachers we want to nurture and educate our children.
I am aware that the challenges in educating the current generation differ from the time when I was in school.
In light of the pace at which technology is developing, students nowadays, or Generation Y as we call them, are constantly exposed to influences beyond the classroom.
It’s not longer about competition within school, but on social media and the likes.
The foregoing scenarios illustrate the demands placed on the shoulders of our teachers today.
Rest assured the ministry is working hand in hand with the teachers to meet the said demands. The ministry is consistently innovating and has strategies in place for the benefit of our teachers and students.
Finally, to the teachers, you have always risen to the occasion, and I have no doubt that you will mould today’s generation to become our nation’s leaders of tomorrow. You are an invaluable part of this nation, and I am humbled by you.
Happy Teachers Day.
Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh is Malaysia’s Second Education Minister. He tweets at @idrisjusoh. He oversees the Trust Schools programme and is a strong believer in the School Based Assessment initiative. The views expressed are entirely his own.