There have been mixed emotions. The nation rejoiced when two of the children were found alive after 46 days in the wild, while there was gloom and anger when the remains of the others were found. Who is to be blamed for the tragedy?
This will require a thorough investigation by the authorities and, until the truth is established, we should stop speculating. It is premature, sad and disheartening that some quarters are laying the blame squarely on teachers.
Teachers reprimand students to instil discipline in them. Teachers offer advice and stern warnings, and also provide counselling to educate the students on the importance of following the school rules.
Punishment is meted out only when necessary and as a last resort or to serve as a deterrent. Isn’t this something that parents do all the time and expect the same from the teachers?
Teachers are guardians of the students in schools and, more so, if they are wardens of the school hostel.
Teachers are the students’ guardians in schools, more so, if they are wardens of the school hostel.
There are rules to be followed at the school and hostel.
There are standard operating procedures to be adhered to when carrying out their professional duties.
Teachers will be held responsible and accountable if found negligent in executing their duties.
When I was a warden in a residential school in Teluk Intan, Perak, besides my teaching duties, I had to care for my students’ well-being and welfare.
I did my rounds, including night patrols, diligently around the hostel area to ensure their safety and compliance to hostel rules.
Sometimes, students with abdominal pains, severe headaches or high fever would knock on my door late at night or early in the morning. I had to drive them to the hospital, 16km away, for treatment.
Often, these were not serious cases and I was rebuked by the doctors who claimed these were not emergencies. But I am not a doctor. How would I know?
I was merely carrying out my responsibility towards my students. Imagine if I made a judgment that it was not a serious case and something bad happened to the student on that day, I would be judged as having failed to discharge my duties.
I could also end up being sued by parents for negligence!
Having served in a remote school in Sarawak in the early 1980s, in the absence of electricity, piped water and telecommunication services,
I truly understand the plight of teachers serving in remote areas. There are simply too many challenges and just as many expectations.
The teachers are teachers, plumbers, electricians, hospital assistants, clerks, typists, office boys, gardeners and security guards. Most importantly, they are also parents at school to these kids.
These unsung heroes carry out their duties diligently, far away from home and loved ones. They do it out of love for their noble profession and they take pride in executing their duties towards their students.
All teachers want the best out of their students, and to see them grow to be successful and useful citizens. The plight of the seven orang Asli children and their families will remain etched in our minds for a long time.
It is a tragedy that should never have happened and stringent measures must be taken to avert such tragedies in the future. I am sure that no one, least of all the teachers, wish for the tragedy to happen.
The teachers meant well. Attempts to point fingers at them will only demoralise and prevent them from discharging their duties professionally.
To all the teachers nationwide, always uphold the honour and dignity of the teaching profession. Carry out your duty with integrity and continue your good work. Your effort, struggle and sacrifice will never be in vain.