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Vernacular School With A Touch Of 1Malaysia

Last update: 25/04/2010
By Rudy Rukimin Rambli

BETONG, April 25 (Bernama) -- Located in Kampung Darat, a Malay fisheries village in Maludam district, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (SJK) (C) Chung Hua Maludam may not be a state-of-the-art school.

However, what grabs the attention of first-timers venturing into the wooden school is the chorus of its songkok and tudung-clad pupils learning to speak and write in Mandarin.

Using pictures, a teacher guides the children into understanding the dialect. But, this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Since the 1980s, more bumiputra students had enrolled at the school as compared to Chinese students, said school headmaster Lai Ngit Sin.

He said the school, estabilished in 1947, had 134 students comprising 13 Chinese, 64 Malays and 57 Ibans. There are 17 teachers, including one who teaches religious studies, and eight supporting staff.

Maludam has nine Malay villages. They are Kampung Triso, Kampung Semarang, Kampung Pinang, Kampung Seberang, Kampung Hulu, Kampung Hilir, Kampung Tengah, Kampung Belakang Pasar and Kampung Darat.

In addition, there are six Iban villages, namely Kampung Sungai Suak, Kampung Sungai Mulon, Kampung Meranti, Kampung Tanjung Baru, Kampung Sungai Daun and Kampung Sungai Pedada.

With most of them involved in the agricultural and fishery sectors, Maludam is noted for it fish products such as 'keropok' and salted fish.

It is a five-hour drive from Kuching to Pusa, followed by a 10-minute ferry ride to Maludam.

"Most of the Chinese here have migrated to other towns in Sarawak to seek better economic opportunities, and this caused the decrease in the enrolment of Chinese students in the school.

"The trend continues until today, and it will likely be in the near future, as well," noted the soft-spoken Lai who speaks excellent Bahasa Malaysia.

He said, the school managed to survive until today as many parents here felt their children were "more marketable" to fill vacancies in the lucrative private sectors due to their understanding of Mandarin.

"After completing tertiary education, some of the former students here managed to land jobs, either in other towns in the state or as far as in Johor, due to their language advantage," said the 46-year-old father of six.

However, Lai said, as Mandarin was not their mother tongue, especially for the Malay and Iban students here, the school, beginning this year, started pre-school classes to enable them to grasp the basic understanding of the Mandarin dialect.

"The demand for the pre-school has been tremendous as we have to conduct morning and afternoon sessions," he said, adding that families gave their fullest support by giving encouragement and sending their children to attend classes daily.

"Our relationship with families of the children is excellent as they treat us like their own...and in the long run, we believe the school will be able to survive due to their support," said Lai.