‘Kedai runcit’ that drives impactful learning

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Anne says her ‘kedai runcit’ project motivates her young charges to do better, and break out from their shell.

A REVOLUTIONARY concept brought forth by a teacher of a rural primary school in Lawas helps inspire her young charges to not only learn the aspects of basic economy, but also instil in them strong values of charity and togetherness.

Moreover, the ‘Kedai Runcit Cikgu Anne’ initiative by Kuching-born Anne Sophia Kho has resulted in Education officials and also teachers from various districts across Malaysia coming to SK Belipat to see for themselves the positive impact first-hand.

Her ‘kedai runcit’ (grocery shop) in class is run on a concept of ‘redemption of rewards’, similar to those carried out at many retail outlets where shoppers get to collect stamps or stickers from the purchases made, and upon reaching certain numbers, these stamps or stickers can be used to redeemed certain items.

The difference is instead of purchases, the stickers are given based on the work or assignments undertaken by the pupils.

“Now, the pupils under my ‘Kelas Pemulihan’ (Remedial Class) are excited to turn up in class every day, and back at home, they are proud to show to their parents the rewards that they have earned from their hard work,” says Anne, 28, whose husband Muhammad Nazmi Rosli is also a teacher.

“It is a wonderful project in that it motivates them to do better, and break out from their shell,” she smiles.

Anne and Muhammad Nazmi with their young daughters, two-year-old Hana Afea Kho, and one-month-old Leia Afwa Kho.

Addressing issue of attendance

Anne’s class houses 35 children, said to be the largest ‘Kelas Pemulihan’ among all primary schools in Lawas District.

As with many schools in the rural areas, SK Belipat faces a major issue in attendance.

“My school is among those facing this issue, and the major contributing factors are transport problems and the children coming from B40 (low-income) households.

“Many of the families just cannot afford many basic school supplies.

“This causes many children to be so far behind in their studies, which necessitates them undergoing ‘Kelas Pemulihan’ to catch up and be absorbed back into the regular classes,” she told thesundaypost in a WhatsApp chat yesterday.

The situation prompted Anne to set up the ‘kedai runcit’.

“The initial intention was to help make them more excited to come to school and thus, help improve the attendance and eventually, reduce the number of pupils being enrolled to the remedial class,” she said, adding that the age range of children in her remedial class is between eight and 12.

Under her ‘Kelas Pemulihan’, the pupils would be assessed every six months for improvements, in determining whether or not they could be placed back to the regular classes.

Following the setting up of her ‘kedai runcit’ in 2022, SK Belipat had exhibited a very encouraging outcome.

“There is still a lot to work on improving attendance at school, but the situation is more encouraging now.

“Last year, the enrolment to the ‘Kelas Pemulihan’ was 32 pupils.

“This year, the number has dropped to 19.

Impact beyond improved class turnout

In actuality, the ‘kedai runcit’ initiative started when she was posted to SK Long Sukang in the Lawas highlands in 2019.

“At the time, it was a small feat, where I simply placed the reward items on a rack. It was a slow start, with not many reward items back then. Plus, my class there was really small.”

It was after she was transferred to SK Belipat in February 2021 that the concept took fruition.

Anne packs the items, ready for display and be redeemed at the ‘kedai runcit’.

“It really started in 2022 because at the time, my class was still under renovation.

“I focused on renovating the class, the painting and tidying it up, those sorts of things.”

Every month, the stock at Kedai Runcit Cikgu Anne would be updated, so as to encourage the pupils to set their own target.

“As I have mentioned, my pupils are always excited to redeem the reward items.

“However, the impact is beyond that, and improved attendance.

“This project also motivates them to be more diligent in doing their assignments.

“There are add-on benefits too – they now have much-improved handwriting; they put in the efforts to speak English more often during my Mathematics class; they have more confidence to speak up, answer questions and express emotions; and they become more engaged in classroom activities, way better than previously.”

Anne said the stickers would be given whenever her pupils completed tasks such as solving problems presented in class, performing well in quizzes, reporting full weekly attendance, presenting neat handwriting, or simply speaking English regularly.

However, she said a story about how this project really changed one of her young charges as one that would, without fail, bring tears to her eyes.

“There’s a Year 4 boy in my remedial class, named Lian. He was really struggling in his studies, but the ‘kedai runcit’ project really got him excited.

Schoolbags and toys are among the redeemable items at Kedai Runcit Cikgu Anne in SK Belipat.

“So on he went completing the tasks and collecting the stickers, to a point that he became a star performer.

“The teachers were all already proud of him, being so driven at such a tender age.

“But the heart-tugging truth was he did not do it solely for himself.

“All the hard work – completing the quizzes and answering everything correctly – was for him to get a tube of toothpaste for his friend Tabed and younger brother in Year 1.

“Even more astonishing was that Tabed was not even in the remedial class.

“Lian’s compassion drove him to help out the poor brothers, but as fate would have it, such noble feat also rewarded Lian.

“We all cried after finding out the story. I would have never expected this level of impact from this ‘kedai runcit’ initiative – seeing how these kids are ever so willing to help each other out.

“This is what we want – to instil such noble values in the children, and that is why I continue on with this initiative.”

Coming a long way

Kedai Runcit Cikgu Anne has certainly come a long way, with more items such as stationeries like erasers, glue, pencils, water colours, exercise books and storybooks, food containers and drink tumblers, daily essentials, as well as playthings ranging like toy cars and robots, and DIY bracelets.

“Each item has its own ‘price tag’: for example, five stickers for a pencil, 15 stickers for a set of colour pencils, and 20 for a toy car.

“It’s a joy seeing my pupils happy and excited every time they come to class.”

Anne also said other teachers and the school’s non-teaching staff also contributed to the restocking of the ‘kedai runcit’.

“Not only that, we have been getting sponsorships from outside as well.

“My fellow teachers and the school staff also help out with the cleaning, decorating and renovating the shop.”

Other teachers also help out in the restocking, packaging and decorating works. — Photo via Facebook/Anne Sophia

Muhammad Nazmi, 31, could not be more proud of his wife.

“She uses her own personal funds, regularly adding new supplies just so that her pupils get to redeem more rewards.

“Better still, her innovative approach has sparked excitement and anticipation among her charges, encouraging them to do better and even volunteer for school activities,” said Muhammad Nazmi, the grand winner of the Malaysia Teacher Prize 2023.

Anne’s project had clearly received attention not only from the education authorities, but also from the corporate sector.

Last year, she was among the top honourees of the ‘McDonald’s Inspiration Awards’, held in conjunction with the national-level Teacher’s Day celebration in Melaka.

For the award, Anne received RM5,000, and not only that, her school was also given another RM5,000 meant for upgrading works on the teachers’ block.

This year, the teacher has been shortlisted as among the Top 10 nominees for the ‘Rise Educator Award’, which honours the dedication of teachers who inspire impactful learning across Malaysia.

Organised by Taylor’s College, voting is open until May 5 via the institution’s website (https://college.taylors.edu.my/) to select the Top 5 award candidates, of which the result would be announced this June.

The winner of the RISE Educator Award will earn the school RM20,000, plus RM5,000 for the recipient.

Anne posing with the mock cheque for RM5,000 presented to her at the ‘McDonald’s Inspiration Awards’, held during the national-level Teacher’s Day celebration in Melaka last year. At right is SK Belipat’s senior assistant 1, Sahedin Ahmad. — Photo via Facebook/Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Sarawak

‘Just wanting them to learn’

Anne said it was already a great honour to be nominated, and she expressed hope that her project would be chosen to be among the Top 5.

Nevertheless, she said just like how ‘Kedai Runcit Cikgu Anne’ had impacted her pupils, she was driven by their enthusiasm and compassion.

“I just want them to learn.

“It’s hard seeing them get bullied because they cannot afford the basic essentials like toiletries; seeing them lose confidence because they wear old and dirty school uniforms or school-bags; seeing them too ashamed to even borrow a pencil from a friend.

“My ‘kedai runcit’ is really a small step for me to make sure that they are ready to learn, and for them to enjoy my class.

“Seeing the changes inspire me even more – how they are now able to mingle with the kids from the regular classes, how they are open and at ease when presenting in front of a crowd, and how they voluntarily join competitions to represent the school.

“Even seeing a pupil smile brightly after receiving a pack of soap for doing a great job in the class – is more than enough for me,” she enthused.