With horror stories about goings on in government schools, many parents have reason to be apprehensive about sending their kindergarten ‘graduates’ to primary school next month.
EXERCISE books: check. Work books: check. Stationery: check. Uniforms: check. Pink-coloured school bag: check.
Last week, Vera, my wife, and I shopped for school essentials for my six-year-old daughter, Apsara.
This month she graduated from kindergarten and will be in primary school next year.
When I took photographs of her wearing a blue pinafore over a white shirt and white baju kurung over a blue skirt, I realised that my baby is now a big girl.
I’m excited that Apsara will be studying in primary school. However, I’m anxious as she’s going to a government school.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a product of government school. I studied in Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Stella Maris and in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan La Salle. Both in Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu.
I am what I am partly because my government school education has shaped me to be a “mainstream” individual.
In Stella Maris and La Salle, the students were from diverse economic backgrounds (children of Sabah ministers to government clerks) from the main races in Kota Kinabalu (Bajau, Chinese and Kadazan).
Studying in government schools, I didn’t grow up in a “bubble” or a “silo”. I, however, have heard of horror stories about government schools, especially in peninsular Malaysia.
Will my daughter be called by her teacher “lembu” (cow) and told to eat grass and wear a bell around her neck if she didn’t complete her homework?
Will my daughter be hit with a chair by a replacement teacher, who felt she was “showing off” to her classmates, as she didn’t obey his order to stand at the back of the class?
Will the toilets in my daughter’s school be installed with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to prevent vandalism?
Will my daughter be eating during recess in a “narrow and smelly” changing room?
Will my daughter be told by her teacher to quit school and become a prostitute?
Will my daughter suffer bruises on her right cheek after she is slapped by her teacher, who claims that he only pulled her ear?
Will my daughter be punched in the face by her teacher after he became angry after she accidentally poured water on his clothes? Will the enraged teacher then punch her three classmates as they’ve forgotten their notebooks?
Will my daughter be afraid of going back to school because her teacher threw his shoe at her for playing in the classroom? Will the shoe-throwing teacher continue with his lesson even if his student’s head is bleeding?
I didn’t make up the above possibilities. These are cases (in government and vernacular schools) reported in the media.
I also read a news report that a parent discovered a male teacher had sexually abused her son.
The school conducted an investigation and found that other schoolboys were also abused by the teacher in the same manner.
Hopefully, these are isolated cases. I pray these kinds of things wouldn’t happen to Apsara.
I’ve also heard stories about the atrocious teaching standards in government schools. It seems there are English teachers who can’t even speak English, or a geography teacher who doesn’t know where Sabah is on a map.
My other worry is Apsara is a dan lain-lain (others). She’s a Kadazan (for those who are geographically-challenged, her ethnic community is based in Sabah).
I’ve heard horror stories that schoolchildren in government schools are divided by race.
I hope that she would not be an outsider just because she’s not Malay, Chinese or Indian.
Interestingly, I asked several ethnic Sabahans who studied in peninsular Malaysia, which race they hung out with in school. And the answer is .... (I’ll tweet the answer if you are curious to know.)
Perhaps I’m getting worried over nothing as Apsara is enrolled in arguably one of the best primary schools in Subang Jaya (and Selangor) – Sekolah Kebangsaan USJ12. It is less than 2km from my home.
I’m told (by my colleague who covers the education beat) that it is supposed to be a good school.
“I know of parents who will ask friends, family members or strangers, living in USJ 12, to use their house address so that their kid can enrol in SK USJ 12,” she told me.
“What’s so great about that school?” I said.
“It is a cluster school. And it has a good headmaster,” she said, adding, “How good a school is depends on the headmaster.”
Last week, my family visited SK USJ 12 to buy Apsara’s kerperluan sekolah(school essentials).
The first thing I did was check out its canteen as at the back of my mind was the news report about non-Muslim students forced to eat in the changing room. From gut feeling, I don’t think that incident will happen in Apsara’s school.
“Wah, you punya anak banyak comel (your kid is very cute),” said a makcikwearing tudung, referring to my one-year-old baby. The makcik was in charge of the stationery shop.
“You dari Sabah kah? (Are you from Sabah?)” she said.
“Ya, macam mana you tahu? (Yes, how do you know?),” I said, impressed that the makcik (aunty) was not geographically-challenged unlike some Malaysians from the peninsula.
“Cara you cakap (the way you speak),” she said.
“Apa macam ini sekolah? Bagus kah? (How’s this school? Is it good?),” I said.
“Ini sekolah bagus. Ramai yang nak masuk sekolah ini (This is a good school. Many parents want to enrol their child in this school),” she said.
The makcik also said we were very lucky that Apsara managed to enrol in SK USJ 12.
I pray that Apsara’s primary school experience will not be negative as those isolated incidents reported in the media.