Devoted educators raise up kids in need


Eng (centre) providing his charges eggs and hot drinks for breakfast.

Schoolgoers in Pulau Ketam and Klang, Selangor improving in language, Maths thanks to caring teachers

TEACHERS are more than just educators; they are pivotal figures in shaping the character and well-being of their students.

Some go the extra mile to fulfil roles beyond the classroom.

One such exemplary teacher is Denslee Eng of SJK (C) Sin Bin in Sungai Lima, Pulau Ketam, who has taken on numerous roles, including that of a barber, chef and even parent, to support his primary school pupils.

Most of Eng’s students live with their grandparents or other elderly relatives in this tiny fishing village of about 350 people on an island off the coast of Port Klang in Selangor.

Many of the children’s parents work and reside on the mainland, which is a half-hour boat ride away.

“As most of the school’s 40 students live with elderly folk, we teachers are like parents to them. We also look into some of their needs and guide them to do well in their studies,” said Eng, who has a Master’s in Education.

“Pulau Ketam is a Chinese fishing village and all my students are Chinese.

Students focusing on their Maths work during Mohd Faiz’s weekend class.Students focusing on their Maths work during Mohd Faiz’s weekend class.

“They can speak in Hokkien and Mandarin, and they learn English by watching shows on YouTube.

“However, their interest and opportunity to learn, speak and practise Malay are limited,” he explained.

Eng, who is from Telupid, a district in Sandakan, Sabah, was better able to converse in the national language when he first arrived in Pulau Ketam.

So he had to find another way besides language to gain his pupils’ trust.

“I noticed that my students loved art. Hence I invited them to join me in making art after school.

“We created murals with help from the school’s headmaster and parent-teacher association.

“During the Chinese New Year period, we made a 15m-long dragon replica. That prompted some of the parents to take leave from work to visit the school and see the replica for themselves,” said Eng.

Art helping bridge the language gap between Eng and his pupils as they work on a replica dragon for Chinese New Year.Art helping bridge the language gap between Eng and his pupils as they work on a replica dragon for Chinese New Year.

“Once trust was built, I started free after-school Bahasa Melayu tuition, which the pupils would attend after lunch.

“They are now able to greet in Malay and their seniors did well in Bahasa Melayu during their Year Six final exam.

“From the previous batch, eight out of nine students managed to go on to Form One without having to attend the transition class in secondary school.

“This was encouraging to me and everyone was happy with the outcome,” said Eng, adding that these achievements were the result of the hard work of all of the school’s teachers, who are mostly from Sabah and Sarawak.

Eng also helps the pupils by giving them haircuts to spare them a boat ride off the island.

On another occasion, Eng and some teachers went to Klang to buy a student a new uniform after his old one was blown away into the sea when it was left to dry outside.

Mohd Faiz (front) enjoys teaching Mathematics for free, especially to struggling Form Four and Five students.Mohd Faiz (front) enjoys teaching Mathematics for free, especially to struggling Form Four and Five students.

Eng cherishes moments when children rope in their teachers during play time, to make up for not having parents with them.

“They come back after fishing, show us their catch and ask me to fry the fish for them.

“I will gladly do this at the school canteen and we eat together,” he said.

Eng also provides boiled eggs and chocolate beverages for some Year Six pupils who would otherwise not have breakfast before lessons.

Over on the mainland, teacher Mohd Faiz Nazmi, 37, from SMK Shahbandaraya in Klang, conducts free Mathematics tuition after school hours.

Thanks to his tutoring, some of his students who had previously struggled with numeracy skills obtained ‘A’ grades for Mathematics in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination.

“Some of the Form Five students whom I taught did not pass their Form Three Mathematics but went on to get an ‘A’ for SPM Mathematics,” said Mohd Faiz.

“Based on my experience, even struggling students can be helped, as I have a record of an entire class of struggling students who went on to score ‘A’s and ‘B’s.

Eng turns barber for pupils unable to travel off the island for a haircut.Eng turns barber for pupils unable to travel off the island for a haircut.

“When students like a teacher and we are approachable, they listen and learn better,” he shared, adding that he believed no student was unteachable.

Indeed, many students approach him for extra lessons.

“Their seniors tell them to approach me when they are doing badly in class. When their seniors score well, other students become motivated to learn from me.

“I teach almost daily, including weekends, as I am single and have the time to dedicate to the students.

“I enjoy teaching and I loved Mathematics even as a student,” said Mohd Faiz, who has been a Mathematics teacher for 15 years.

He said some 30 to 40 students attended extra lessons on weekdays, and about 100 students on weekends.

Mohd Faiz conducts his lessons in community halls, mosque halls or any suitable public space that is available.

On weekends, he also prepares nasi lemak for students so that they feel motivated to attend.

“My lessons are free. So some of the students’ parents pay for or help me prepare the food, as they want to help in any way they can,” said Mohd Faiz.

His wish is for all educators to do their job wholeheartedly and treat all students equally.

“There are many teachers, but we need to be educators who are dedicated,” said Mohd Faiz.

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