Saturday, October 19

Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa: A Milestone For My Jungle School

The students of Form 4D (the weakest class) produced this beautiful banner. I believe in employing the strengths of usually overlooked students in such projects & boasting about their good work. Our visitors loved the banner.
Many Sarawakians have never heard of my school & while many express a desire to visit my school, very few actually put in the effort to travel to my school except these people & these people. For walking the talk, I salute them. So it is even harder to find foreigners who would be interested in visiting my obscure (but awesome) school in the middle of (a very romantic) nowhere.

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, God has a good plan for my school & I am only tapping into God's plan & His will for the people in this region. He set in motion the events that would lead to this: Program Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa. The first ever visit to my school by foreign education officers.

It started with a chance opportunity to be part of a Remedial Instructions Workshop during the June holidays co-organised by the School Management Division of MOE & the US Embassy KL. All of the other more 'qualified' teachers just happened to be occupied & I just happened to be free during that period. That was when I met Dr Kay, an English Language Specialist flown all the way from the US.

I was very impressed with her thoughts about education & her experiences teaching all around the world. She was very direct, composed & she was a woman of her words. I thought that she would make a perfect speaker for my students & my colleagues.

I approached her with a proposition. I would arrange for a unique experience into the mystical jungles of Borneo in exchange for a simple talk with my students & a simple sharing session with my colleagues. She jumped at the idea & brought her boss with her, Dr Dawn, the Regional English Language Officer from the US Embassy Manila who oversees US English programmes for Malaysia & other SEA countries.

Firstly, they travelled from KL to Sibu by plane (2 hours). Then, from Sibu to Song by express boat (2 hours). Finally, from town to school (1 hour). My students welcomed our visitors in traditional attire & a short Ngajat performance. The students were guided by Mr ShahrulnizanOur guests also received a garland made of flowers. 
It was a school tradition to have a barbecue with visitors. A Malaysian ice-breaking via food. After all, the way to a person's heart is through the stomach. This BBQ, however, was different from the others.
Why? Because Dr Dawn was a vegetarian, the BBQ team prepared a very special vegetarian BBQ.
The food was great & so was the merry making. Kudos to the chef, Mr Hayazi & his team.
The visit coincided with our Medeka Parade so our visitors joined the event & got to witness our students expressing their love for Malaysia. This awesome parade was organised by Mdm Lia.
Dr Dawn & Dr Kay conducted an in-house training for all the teachers at my school. They shared their teaching experiences, about the US, their opinions on education & gave a few tips for the classroom. Set up by Mr Andrin.
I wanted ALL of the students to benefit from our visitors so I organised a talk for all the 450 students at my school.
Dr Dawn & Dr Kay played games & sang songs with the students. They talked about various places of interest in the US & encouraged my students to work hard to learn & practice the English language. Students were clearly very excited & engaged.
I wanted to force my students to interact in the English language so I was delighted when Dr Kay agreed to do a Q&A with my students. Representatives from each class attended. They were instructed earlier on to prepare questions as a class and, after the Q&A, share the experience with the rest of the class.

Students got the chance to ask questions & shake hands with the visitors. It was a golden opportunity for them as many of them have never seen a native speaker in the flesh before; much less interacted with them. My brother chaired the Q&A. He handled it so well. I'm so proud. =)
We took Dr Dawn & Dr Kay to a longhouse, TR Pillai Ng Miau. They spoke to parents & took part in the Miring, played the Engkerumong & danced the Ngajat.
Tuai Rumah Pillai, who will be retiring soon, was especially overjoyed. He said that the visit was the best thing to happen since he became the TR many years ago. He had never had foreigners visit his longhouse before.
The last night of the programme coincided with our Katibas Idol competition so we doubled the competition as a closing event. The students & teachers put up an entertaining night for our guests. Organised by Ms Flo.

We also presented tokens of appreciation to Dr Dawn & Dr Kay for coming all the way to our school. The banner we gave to them had the signatures of all the teachers while my students presented key-chains handmade from beads. Ms Ifeane oversaw the production of souvenirs.

Here's what Susianna Jannet, one of the 8A PMR students I brought to Kuching in February, said about the programme: "The Jalinan Kasih Antarabangsa programme was the best programme organised at SMK Katibas. This was a very good programme because it gave us motivation to study hard. When we interviewed them, I knew some good tips to improve my studies. It made us interested to study hard and give us a new mission in our lives. From that day, I wanted to study overseas."

I have reason to believe that plenty of other students were similarly inspired & encouraged; their mental horizons broadened. After the talk, students started speaking English with me more & also amongst themselves. Many of them expressed a desire to visit the US & were inspired to study harder. In my classes, students were more eager to learn the language. Dr Kay & Dr Dawn's visit had produced its desired effect! The WOW effect with the intrinsic push. Something which I hope all ETAs in Malaysia are working hard to produce.

This programme was perhaps the biggest programme I have ever had to coordinate. I had to liaise with the US embassy, get permission from JPN, inform the local IPD, mobilise my great team of teachers (some of which have got their names mentioned here because I love them so much) & struggle with a little Napoleon (I might write about this little episode one day). I am privileged to be one of very few common teachers who have brought foreign officers into a jungle school. If I can do it, what is stopping you from doing something similar at your school?

Thank you, Kay & Dawn, for coming all the way to our humble school!
I wish you both all the best! Our school will always love you & remember you! You will live forever in our folklore!

Here are all the pictures from Merdeka Parade, Katibas Idol & Program Jalinan Kasih.

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