Monday, June 15

A Brief Timeline of the Power Outage

Imagine using candles every night for 3 weeks.
We'll find a way to carry on despite our circumstances. Nonetheless, do continue to pray for us.


This is not the first time we've had electricity or water problems at school. We've had them since my first year here. Back then, outages rarely lasted more than a few days. Last year was when things started to get worse. We had 2 lengthy power outages for up to a cumulative 2 weeks. Long-term solutions should have been implemented then.

The best thing is, every time something happens to the water or electric supply, ALL the teachers, students & staff will band together to make things better & soldier through the extremely difficult circumstances instead of pointing fingers or merely complaining. We always have teachers who are willing to step up.

I'm eternally thankful to be part of this family so early in my teaching career. It is only in difficult times do we learn the true meaning of esprit de corps & berat sama dipikul ringan sama dijinjing. A bond forged in fire. This powerful bond which transcends race & religion is what I aspire to recreate in whatever organisations I lead in the future.

In this blog post, I want to share a brief timeline of the recent power outage that went viral. We have been waiting for 2 months now & the situation is still not fully resolved. As described by the most senior staff at school, this power outage is the worst in his entire career of 20+ years at this school!

Read the timeline below & you'll find out why.
Bear in mind that it is written from an eyewitness's fallible memory. I'm not sharing this to condemn anyone. I'm sharing so that we can all learn & improve. If you feel uncomfortable by what is shared here (as candid as I possibly could), then perhaps you should have done more for us.

**I will continue to update this post as the days go by until there is an adequate resolution.**

Imagine having canned food for breakfast, lunch & dinner every day for 3 weeks
because there was no electricity to power your fridge.


In 2011, 24 hours electricity & water supply. 4 generators running.
In 2012, 24 hours electricity & water supply. 3 generators running.
In 2013, 24 hours electricity & water supply. 2 generators running.
In 2014, 16 hours electricity & water supply. 1 generator running (barely).
In 2015, the last generator constantly & repeatedly broke down until it completely gave up.

WEEK 1 (24-30/4): No Water / No Electricity
- On Friday, 24 April, the generator broke down & technicians were unable to revive it.
- Very few students (>50) came to school.
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river. Lived in darkness. Teachers lived on a diet of mostly canned food.
- JPN allocated funds for the purchase of portable generators, a portable pump & petrol.
- Teachers set up water tanks for river water to be pumped into.
- On Wednesday, 29 April, all options failing, the generator was taken apart & carried onto a boat to be taken to Sibu for an overhaul.
- On Thursday, 30 April, I wrote a blog post about the incident which went viral over the weekend.

WEEK 2 (1-7/5): No Water / No Electricity
- Very few students (>30) came to school.
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river. Lived in darkness. Teachers lived on a diet of mostly canned food.
- On Tuesday, 5 May, small portable generators were used to provide limited power to the office during the day & light up corridors as well as the school hall during the night.
- On the same day, a small portable pump was set up at the river to pump water into water tanks the teachers set up the week before.
- JKR officers came to inspect the water treatment plant & are in talks with KPM on who will continue to run the plant.

WEEK 3 (8-14/5): No Water / No Electricity
- Most students (>300) returned this week for their semester exams.
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river or at water tanks (which were placed just before the ridge leading to the river). Lived in darkness. Teachers lived on a diet of mostly canned food.
- On Friday, 8 May, PPD Song officers paid a visit to the school.
- On Saturday, 9 May, the first newspaper article on the school situation was published in the Borneo Post.
- On Saturday, 9 May, overhauled generator returned to school.
- A mechanic came back every day to work on it but was unable to get it running for more than just a few hours this week. The generator was too old & was leaking smoke & diesel.
- Another generator (the twin of the returned generator) was taken to Sibu for overhaul.
- On Monday, 11 May, Sarawak state education acting director surveyed the actual situation & attended a dialogue. No promises were made.
- In the middle of the week, when the returned generator could not operate, an even older & more powerful generator was taken to Sibu for overhaul.

WEEK 4 (15-21/5): No Water / Beginning of 13 hours of Electricity
- Most students (>300) remained at school for their semester exams.
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river or at water tanks. Lived in darkness for 4 days. Teachers lived on a diet of mostly canned food.
- On Wednesday, 20 May 2015, 13 hours of electricity was restored when the mechanic did some rewiring & removed the wiring for the water pump because it was tripping the circuitry. Although there was electricity, no water could be pumped. The generator was too underpowered to run the water pump anyway.

WEEK 5 (22-28/5): No Water / 13 hours of Electricity
- Very few students (>30) came to school.
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river.

Imagine leaving your home to bathe at the river & finding yourself sweating after the walk back.
Every time there is rain, we rush outside to collect as much of it as possible. That water is for the kitchen, toilet & emergencies.
WEEK 6-7 (29/5-11/6): No Water / 13 hours of Electricity
- Semester break.
- Petrol supply for the portable pump & generators ran out before the semester break. No water will be pumped into the water tanks so everyone has to bathe & wash in the river from now on. If the generator breaks down again, we will have no power for the office during the day or for the corridor and school hall lights.

WEEK 8 (12-18/6): No Water / 13 hours of Electricity
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river.
- Most students (>300) came back for the new semester.

WEEK 9 (19-25/6): Water Pumped Twice Daily / 13 hours of Electricity
- Students, teachers & staff washed & bathed in the river for 5 days this week.
- Most students (>300) were at school.
- On Tuesday, 23 June 2015, the second overhauled generator (the twin of the current generator) was returned to the school but it remained idle while waiting for the mechanic from Sibu.
- On Tuesday, 23 June 2015, the water pump was reconnected to the power supply & used to pump river water to the treatment plant &, from there, into the hostels & quarters. Water is pumped twice a day: 5-9am & 3-5pm.

WEEK 10 (26/6-2/7): Water Pumped Twice Daily / 13 hours of Electricity
- Most students (>300) were at school.
- On Tuesday afternoon, the school reached a successful agreement with a local landowner for the use of a nearby stream (2-3km away) for a gravity-fed water supply.

WEEK 11 (3-9/7): Water Pumped Twice Daily / 13 hours of Electricity
- Recently returned-from-overhaul generator still idle pending a mechanic.
- Still waiting for 1 generator to return.
- Still waiting for the new generator promised last week.

WEEK 12 (10-15/7): Water Pumped Twice Daily / Beginning of 24 hours of Electricity
- On Friday, 10 July 2015, the new generator was dragged into the school via the road & hill behind the school.
- Beginning on Wednesday afternoon, 15 July 2015, the new generator started running. Since then, we have 2 generators to rotate during the day to provide us with 24 hours of electricity.
- Recently returned-from-overhaul generator still idle pending a new dynamo. The one that came back to it was too small.
- Still waiting for 1 generator to return.
- Rumours of road construction to school beginning at the end of the year.
- Connection to electricity grid requires road connection.

Now that there is 24 hours of electricity at school & the water pump is fully functional, I will stop updating this page.
A big thank you to everyone involved in restoring power & water to the school!
~~~~~~

At school, we are not complaining about our situation. Like frogs being heated in a pot, we have adapted to the hardship & we're doing our best to educate our students.

I don't know what they have planned in the ivory tower but I'm keeping my hopes up because, otherwise, I wouldn't be in the right frame of mind for leading a class of students who are wholly dependent on me for their future. It's hard enough for a teacher. Imagine what it's like for a good kid from an impoverished rural background. They deserve better.

No crazy share campaign this time. I'll allow due process & the relevant authorities to do what they're supposed to do. I'm still hoping for a long-term solution from high places.

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