Thursday, April 30

No Water & No Electricity At A Remote School

Imagine this is your life.
Imagine spending so many years getting a degree, only to leave your home, take flights & ride boats to go to a remote school in the middle of nowhere to accept the challenge of educating rural children without knowing when you'll get to return. All because you want to materialise a dream of making a difference & changing lives.

Imagine going to school knowing that you'll have no electricity. No electricity = the pump will not function = no water. Imagine carrying your clothes, toiletries & dirty dishes in pails & walking 10 minutes through rough terrain to the nearby river to wash up. Furthermore, you'll have to carry one or two pails of water back to your living quarters for toilet use & general cleaning.

Imagine having to clear all the food in your fridge lest it rots. Imagine having to cook your meals with murky river water. Imagine the hot afternoons without even a fan. Imagine teaching in classrooms with full formal attire without a fan. Imagine nights of complete darkness. Living by star, moon & candle light. No TV. No laptop. No Internet.

This is the life that we live every day as teachers of a rural school when the generator breaks down. We do what we can to survive & thrive. Modelling the grit that we desire in our students. Do read on, because we need your help.

The last functioning generator broke down last Friday plunging the entire school into darkness.
Many years ago, we had an effective administrator. He made sure that all the generators had preventive maintenance. He was also at the necks of the contractors any time they were down. He understood that electricity was the most basic need & his ageing generators were cranky & needed constant attention. The generators were installed almost a decade ago during the tenure of Pak Lah.

Then, he was called to another school & another person replaced him. This person inherited 4 functioning generators. However, every year he was in-charge, a generator would break down & be used as spare parts. In his fourth & final year, there was only 1 generator left & it was constantly breaking down. We had a cumulative 2 weeks of complete darkness during that horrible year.

This year, there was yet another person at the helm. Sadly, this man had the misfortune of inheriting a barely functioning generator. Within just a few months of his incumbency, the generator broke down beyond any hope of an on-site repair. It had to be lifted onto a boat, shipped to Sibu, overhaulled, & shipped back to school.

They lifted the generator onto a boat last Wednesday. This means that it'll take at least a few weeks before a generator would be running at school again. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to spending those few weeks at school but I will still return. Not because it's my duty. Nope. I'm not as noble & selfless as you think. I'm returning because of my Malay, Iban, & Chinese brothers. They are suffering & I'm going back to endure with them through this tough time just like we've always done the years before.

We stick together & adapt.
I really admire the teachers of SMK Katibas. Despite their dire situation, they still showed up for school without fail. They also banded together & did what they could to make the situation more comfortable.

Students were not as diligent; only 50 or so turned up last Monday. Their numbers dwindled as the days went by. Can't blame them. They stay at the hostels &, without electricity or water, the hostels can be a hazardous place to stay in.

View the pictures of our experience here, here, & here.

We're not going to ask for your money... Just some simple things...
#1 PRAY FOR KATIBAS
We need lots of prayer. Pray that everyone will be protected. Pray that we will have electricity soon.

#2 SPREAD THE WORD
You may not be able to do anything to help the school but perhaps someone who knows someone who knows someone you know can. All you have to do is share this blog post or this photo album on social media & encourage your followers to do the same.

#3 REACH OUT TO US
Please share an encouraging message here on this blog, in the photo albums shared previously, or on our school's Facebook page for the leaders, teachers, & students at my school. Even though they may not be able to read your message at school, they'll be re-energised & blessed when they have their weekend respites.

#4 BUG SOMEONE BIG
Do you know somebody influential? Talk to him/her/them about this.
I have no place to turn to so in hopes of support from our elected government, I've shared the situation on the Facebook pages of our PM, DPMDeputy Education Minister 1Deputy Education Minister 2, CEO of PEMANDUCM of Sarawak, Sarawak Education EXCO Representative, & MP of Kapit.
I accept responsibility for writing this blog post, initiating a share campaign & posting messages on the Facebook pages of politicians. I have done this according to my freewill without the knowledge of my colleagues or my administrators. I'm not one to sit helplessly & watch as my colleagues & students suffer.

We've been having generator problems for more than 3 years already. Despite our dire circumstances, we are still able to out-perform many town schools in Sarawak both academically & in athletics. We have even got state athletes. Imagine what we can do when we have a steady source of electricity. We need a more long-term solution than just the current fix-when-broken method. The relevant departments already know of our situation.

The time for talk is over. We need action & we need it now!

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UPDATE: 10 May 2015
Thanks to you, this blog post went viral! Influential people are aware of our situation now. I hope that swift action is taken to restore electricity & water. I wrote an update on the situation here. Our share campaign ends for now.
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