Monday, August 26

‘Iron ladies’ of SK Ulu Lubai


LIMBANG: One cannot help but feel awe and deep admiration for the six female teachers stationed at SK Ulu Lubai – Nor Liana Abdul Rahman, Nur Hafifah Johari, Stephanie Lim Leng, Mawas Seli, Penolong Kanan 1 Rita Rinai Maripa and Penolong Kanan Hal Ehwal Murid Marlina Zaini.

IRON LADIES: (Left to right) Teachers Stephanie Ak Lim Leng, Mawas Seli, Rita Rinai Maripa, Nur Hafifah Johari, Marlina Zaini and Nor Liana Abdul Rahman recently left an indelible mark in the nation’s education history. u Turn to Page 4 to take a peep at their contributions. — Photo by Chimon Upon

A SCHOOL IN THE RURAL: A combo shots of the compound and structures of SK Ulu Lubai.

HELLO, ANYONE THERE?: Teacher Mohd Fitri Bin Ismail leans over the verandah to answer a call on his cell phone. Teachers at SK Ulu Lubai have to place their handphones on a small platform outside the staffroom where it could receive signals.

SHINING LIKE STARS: Jalang Manggi (centre) of SK Ulu Lubai poses with two schoolmates outside their longhouse which lies next to the school. All the 40 students at this rural school are fluent in English.

TRAINING FOR SUCCESS: Teacher Mohd Zaki supervises students training in the school gym. The school emphasises a holistic education where students are actively encouraged to pursue sports and other extra-curricular activity.

What these ‘iron ladies’ accomplish everyday would put many of us to shame.

And yet, all six are refreshingly down-to-earth about what they do and spoke very frankly with the BAT team about the many challenges of working in this rural school which was recently announced as one of the nation’s ‘top performing schools’.

Being a teacher is no easy task by any means, but the responsibility of imparting knowledge to students becomes that much more difficult and complicated in a rural school setting, where resources are limited and life can be difficult for those used to the comforts of home and the conveniences of modern living surrounded by family and loved ones. SK Ulu Lubai is the first posting for all six women.

Rita has been here the longest with 10 years under her belt while Stephanie is the most junior, having joined the school in January this year.

“We have to be flexible and just tackle every job that comes our way,” said Mawas who joined the school in August last year.

“We must have a positive attitude towards learning and trying out new things.”

All six teachers – who are also single – admit to experiencing culture shock when they arrived at the school, regardless of which state or hometown they originally came from.

Ipoh-born Nor Liana who has taught at the school for just over two years said that they had to learn very quickly to deal with the limitations of their environment as a matter of fact, whether it’s getting out to push the boat through low water or celebrating someone’s birthday with ‘ulam’ (raw salad) instead of a birthday cake.

“We have to let go of certain things and learn to live with less. It has been a humbling experience for me,” she said.

She added, “We are lucky to have very good relationships with our seniors. They are very friendly and willing to share their experiences and knowledge [with the junior teachers].”

The challenges they face have only brought them closer as colleagues and friends.

It is obvious that they share a close rapport with each other as they joke about their experiences at the school.

Without hesitation, they unanimously agreed that this strong bond as well as the support and encouragement of the school’s headmaster Jaul Bunyau has helped them to adapt to life here and focus on their responsibilities as teachers.

Said Marlina, “It feels like family here.”