Lighter Side of Life: The One-Pupil School
A few months back when a friend of mine who's a school teacher told me that there was a Mandarin-based primary school in upstate Malaysia with only one student -- I brushed it off as being a teacher's joke of a transfer nightmare. As surely it can't still be happening?
In fact (much to my repentance for brushing my friend off) the school, located in the town of Taiping, in the state of Kedah north of Peninsular Malaysia was in reality, factual news. An occurence that almost never happen anymore in Malaysia after the 1970's.
And the spotlight is making the only pupil, V, Sivasanthiran, a 12 years old Indian boy its front page star in the local news today.
So an apolgetic and curious call was made to my dear friend to fill in on this unique news. Seems that the school, called Padang Gajah which was opened in 1953 was in fact set to move or a better turn of phrase, to be relocated to a bigger town of Ipoh (the capital of Perak) by 2009.
This unique situation allows Sivasanthiran the privilege of being personally tutored by headmaster Ooi Ah Bee, 55, and teacher Lim Shu Miin, 28 -- the school's only teachers.
Unfortunate for the school, the drop in the enrolment it seems, has been going on since the 1980's as there have been a mass migration of people to the city.
And Sivasanthiran has been the sole student of the school of the school for nearly 2 years.
Man, talk about pressure to perform.
When interviewed on why he remained in the chinese school which is fully thought in Mandarin language, Sivasanthiran answered;
"My father wants me to learn Mandarin so that it will be easy for me to get a job in the future."
But of course,being the only student in the school with all work and no play can make Jack a bored boy.
"It can be quite lonely. I can't wait for the school term to end." the boy said in halting Mandarin.
And as a consolation for the lonely 2 years, it was reported that his father has enrolled him to the nearby Tat Beng High School for his secondary education.
So far it is the only reported school with the smallest number of students with the smallest number of teachers in Malaysia. With only 2 teachers around, Sivasanthiran gets the all around star attention. Wonder if that's considered as lucky or...
The headmaster, Ooi Ah Bee, 55 is also the school's English, Art, Physical Education teacher. And uh, oops, and I left out the Music class.
While Lim Shu Min, 28 shares with her the other courses such as Mathematics, Mandarin and Sciences. She told The New Straits Times newspaper;
"I was posted here two-and-a-half years ago. It is difficult to describe how I felt when I first reported for duty.
"It can be boring at times. I keep myself busy by doing office work as we do not have a clerk here," said Lim.
But for some sentimental good news for the school, the state government has assured that they wont be demolishing the school as the residents around have applied for the building to be converted into community hall once the school is relocated next year.
And the new building for the school in Ipoh?
Well, it's built to accomodate somewhere around 700 students -- let's just hope that much of students will be enrolling as well. At least...
(Link to news about the moving of the Padang Gajah school here)