PULAU Redang with its pristine natural beauty is a tropical paradise and popular holiday destination. But for students of SK Pulau Redang, the island is simply – home.
A mere 40-minute boat ride from the Marang Jetty (outside Kuala Terengganu), it is easy to forget that life for the islanders is not just idyllic, but full of day-to-day realities. Every morning, fishermen head out to sea, while children go to school.
While it is like any other rural school, SK Pulau Redang is also home to the Redang Educational Development for Higher Achievement (Redha) – a project launched in 2000 in collaboration with the Terengganu State Education Resource Centre (TSERC) and Kuala Terengganu District Education Department.
Funded by the Education Ministry together with ExxonMobil, Redha was an effort to arrest the declining passing rate of English in the UPSR examinations and the overall UPSR results among students in the school.
One of the first steps taken was relocating the school to another part of the island. The new school, which opened earlier this year, is closer to the village settlement, so school children need not walk a kilometre to school.
Other steps to improve scholastic grades include having additional classes, holiday classes, and Parent-Teacher Association meetings.
With 247 students and 18 teachers, the new school comes equipped with a computer and audio-visual room and library cum exhibition hall; a far cry from the old school which closely resembled a chicken farm.
In 1999, passes in English for the UPSR were down to 25%. This figure shot up to 79.5% in 2001. Similarly, overall passes for the UPSR exams in 1999 was a mere 17.5%, but rose to almost 60% within two years of the Redha project.
Next to the school is a four-storey teachers quarters, set to open soon.
“One of our problems before Redha was to convince our teachers to stay. Most of them tend not to last long because of the lack of facilities and infrastructure at the school and on the island,” says headmaster Joni Mohamad.
One teacher who almost quit is English teacher Shah Rizal Mohd Akip.
“I was fresh from a teacher training college in Johor when I got the posting to teach here. It was quite tough at first because there was no public transport.
“I had to find my own accommodation and it was really a remote place,” recalls Shah Rizal, who has since learnt to love the place and the people.
“Sometimes I still can't believe that I've been here for almost five years,” says the 25-year-old, adding that the Redha project has contributed a lot to the community.
However, not everything is sunny for the students and their parents in the island. Despite the new programmes and facilities, the island does not have a secondary school.
At present, students who finish primary school have to move to the mainland and enrol in either SMK Padang Midin or SMK Ibrahim Fikri in Kuala Trengganu, both of which have dormitory facilities for students.
With many students coming from a poor background, financial constraints is the biggest hurdle.
Joni adds that the school's isolation and distance from the mainland is a disadvantage as the lack of interaction and integration results in the school missing out on many state-run activities.
Redha attempts to address some of these limitations by conducting a week-long orientation, called Redha Ria, for all Year Six students to stay on the mainland and visit cultural and educational sites to get a feel of city life.
“Thanks to the Redha project I scored an A for my English paper for the UPSR exam.
“Redha Ria also gave me valuable exposure and allowed me to interact with other students before I started secondary school on the mainland,” says Form Two student Mohd Yusop Mohammad of SMK Padang Madin who aspires to be a judge.
SK Pulau Redang also boasts the Sea Turtle Outreach Programme or STOP. During egg-laying season, eggs are incubated in the school and the students take care of the hatchlings until they are ready to be released into the sea.
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