Plight and sacrifice of the humble servants — A Teacher
MAY 28 — My friends and I have always joked that our Ministry of Education works in mysterious ways. Every year, there will be thousands of graduate teachers waiting eagerly and anticipating (some in fear) their posting letter.
I was one of them four years ago. I was hoping I will get my first choice, but deep down I knew I would be posted to either Sabah or Sarawak. And true enough, I got posted to a small town in Sabah’s east coast. My friends were scattered around the state. None of us posted to Sabah put Sabah as one of the three choices when filling in the posting form while those who wanted to come to Sabah were not sent here. Though utterly sad and disappointed that we would be leaving our family and loved ones behind, I got on the plane, flew all the way from Kedah to Sabah, reported for duty bravely with enthusiasm and hope. I was ready to face the challenge and practise what I had learnt in university.
I received one surprise after another from my first day in my new “home” and workplace. And it is ironic that I should have culture shock in my own country when I blended in with ease while studying in Wellington, New Zealand. But I braved it all, I tried to understand and adopt the culture of the locals and tried to make little changes that I felt should take place in the young souls that I have been entrusted with. Words such as “Kesiannya Si Amoi ni, guru rajin buat itu ini tapi pelajarnya gitu juga” (Poor lass, the teacher is hardworking but the students are still the same) accompanied with laughter from my colleagues did not put me down because I believe I was making a difference to at least a handful of these students.
I continued to teach but decided to apply for a transfer the year after for the sake of my family and my own professional development; my father’s health is deteriorating and I wanted to pursue my master’s degree. However, my applications were all rejected with the reason that my service was still needed. I was also always fed the same reason from my principal; I am the only English major teacher, which is not exactly accurate because the Penolong Kanan Petang is also a TESL graduate. I accepted the outcome and continued to teach wholeheartedly, thinking that perhaps my reasons were not strong enough; everyone has parents and it would be difficult for the ministry to entertain all teachers who use their parents’ health as an excuse to get a transfer.
I got married last year, 36 months into my service. My husband is also a fellow teacher teaching in Kota Kinabalu. So we decided that I should transfer to KK so that we can finally settle down, start a family and call this city thousands of miles away from our family “home”. I can also finally start my master’s.
With renewed hope, I applied for an inter-state transfer in April for the June transfer. We thought no one can deny us this application now, after all, we have a valid reason and I have been teaching in my current school long enough. Moreover, a new-grad TESL teacher was posted to my school end of last year. But I was in for another surprise. The first obstacle I faced was my principal who gave me the excuse that the new TESL teacher is handling the lower forms and since I have helped improve the school’s SPM English result, they need me to stay to continue helping them because they are aiming for the NKRA. He told me my husband should come here instead. When I went to the PPD to hand in my application form, the officer in charge of transfer just laughed and told me KK has an overflow of English teachers and that my husband should come here instead. My husband and I were told the same thing when we went to JPN Sabah. Don’t they realise that we would have done what they suggested if we’d wanted to?
My presence and sacrifice for the school also seems non-existent. I am merely an object to help the school but without acknowledgement or appreciation. All the awards go to the local teachers or teachers who did not even fulfil the basic responsibilities of a teacher (writing and handing in daily lesson plans, not completing school-based assessments). What is the rationale? Where is fairness?
The awaited day finally came. My application for a transfer to be with my husband has been rejected. Just like that. No appeal is allowed. The ministry really works in a mysterious way as I hear teachers who had only served for a year got their transfer even though their principal did not do “Pengesahan” for them, and teachers who only got posted last year with the reason of “ikut suami” got their transfer. And yet many others like me who's been here for years with the same or different reasons did not get ours. What is their decision based on? Is it right to say my service is needed in my school and district? What if they still need me 10 or 20 years on? Do I stay and retire here then?
And due to the government’s policy that only either the husband or wife gets the EPW even though they are living separately in districts miles apart (not by choice!!!), mine has been cancelled. My earnings are now significantly less but our expenditure has now increased due to the frequent travelling to see each other. Both my husband’s and my health is also affected due to other circumstances of being apart from each other and our family.
The big question is the basis of transfer. How are the decisions made? What are the decisions based on? Who? What? How long? It is true the ministry cannot accommodate everyone. But things would have been much easier if the ministry tries to follow as closely to what was on the posting application form. Do not send A to Penang if he wants to teach in Sabah and do not send B to Sabah if he wants to teach in Kedah since they both have the same qualification and degree. Why not just send A to Sabah and B to any state in northern peninsula? It would save everyone the trouble and headache of trying to get out of the place they don’t want to be in (whatever their reasons may be) and it would serve the purpose of filling in the posting form. Why were trees cut down and forms filled if it is not being used and considered?
This is the mysterious way our Ministry of Education works and we (I believe my words are true for other fellow teachers as well), the humble servants of our beloved country, are victims suffering in silence.
(I do not even want to go into the issue of the ministry posting inexperienced fresh graduate teachers as junior lecturers in teacher training institutes... yet.)
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.