When the heart is not where it should be


Moving away: A husband and his child helping his teacher wife pack her bags after she is given an outstation posting.

EXCLUSIVE:PETALING JAYA: Teachers who are separated from their spouses as a result of being posted to different states are not only suffering mentally and physically but also financially.

These teachers are called guru duka lara (sad teachers), a term coined by teachers themselves.

Those who could not get placement in the same districts and states as their spouses said they had to suffer miscarriages, divorce, depression and financial hardship.

Some have become suicidal and are on anti-depressants. Two teachers interviewed said they slit their wrists and one even tried to jump off a building.

The families, on the other hand, suffer much too, especially infants who have to be left behind with their grandparents or married couples who are forced to raise their children as single parents.

Some practise long-distance mothering via the handphone and some see their children only during the school holidays.

One couple with four children who have been separated for six years with one spouse in Kedah and the other in Kuala Lumpur said they did not know how long more they could cope.

The husband takes care of the four children, aged between seven months old and 10 years old, on his own in Kedah as living costs in Kuala Lumpur, where the wife is stationed, is too high.

Thousands of such teachers nationwide wait eagerly for the transfer website called egtukar to open so that they can apply ... once again.

For many, it is an annual affair and takes many years and begging through many different channels for their transfers to be approved.

Teachers said they knew of cases which never got approved and that those teachers retired or quit teaching altogether so as to be near their spouses and children.

As much as the Education Ministry (MOE) claimed it tried its best to post teachers to the same district or state, many a time spouses find themselves posted far away from each other due to the need for certain types of teachers in certain areas.

Teachers who speak cannot be identified for fear of repercussions from the MOE officials.

Officials speaking on anonymity said it was an unwritten but strict rule that teachers must never share their woes with the media.

It took much coaxing and persuasion to get 20 teachers nationwide to tell their sad stories for this article.

These cases highlighted are the more extreme ones but they are quite common.

Out of the 20, 12 have had to go through marital counselling, four divorced, three were suicidal and six were diagnosed for depression. Half of them have left their children with their parents in their home villages as they could not cope with taking care of their children on their own.

For now, as long as the system remains, teachers said that guru duka lara could only be patient and wait, or go to the extreme and retire or stop teaching altogether.

Related stories:

Teachers' families torn apart: Case studies

DG: We don’t separate spouses deliberately


   

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