Lately there has been lots of talk about the quality of our Malaysian education system. While our ministers proudly boast of our world-class education standards, the people have a different view.
Many parents whom I have spoken to claim that these ministers themselves send their kids to private and international schools and do not know what they are talking about.
As a parent myself, I have lots of tales to tell about how screwed up our education system is. You see, it is not just the sub-standard quality of education, but the calibre of our teachers too.
You see, when I was 13 years old, my parents sent me to an all-girls school. There I met Mr Wong – my English teacher. He was very friendly and nice to talk to. Unlike other teachers who were strict and sometimes “garang”, Mr Wong was cool and laid back. And because of this, most of the girls in my school loved chit-chatting with him.
One day, during our English lesson, Mr Wong decided to teach us the correct way of writing essays. He started by explaining the importance of describing things. For some unknown reason, he chose to describe how a woman takes a bath.
As 32 girls sat in the classroom transfixed, Mr Wong, with a smirk on his face, described in painstaking detail how a woman prepared for her bath. How she would take off her clothes and undergarments one by one until she stood completely naked in the bathroom. He explained how the cool water splashed all over her bare skin, and how the soap was slathered all over her body including the hidden places and the secret places.
While he clearly enjoyed telling his story, I, for one, felt extremely uncomfortable. So when I went home that day, I decided to tell my dad about it. Furious, dad called the school that very moment and vented his frustration at the principal over how Mr Wong conducted himself in a class full of girls who were at the age of puberty. Dad – without mentioning his or my name, claimed it was totally unacceptable and demanded the principal take action.
The next day at school, my discipline teacher walks into the class first thing in the morning, demanding to know who made the complaint. I was terrified.
From her tone, I felt like a spy who had sold the secret of my nation to the enemy. After her half-hour lecture, I felt regretful for “betraying’ Mr Wong.
“What happens in school stays in school,” said my discipline teacher. “If you want to make a complaint, I am here. The principal is here. Other teachers are here. We are responsible for you while you are in the school – not your parents. Remember, DO NOT tell your parents whatever takes place in school – come to us first. Be loyal to your school.” I remember her words very clearly after all these years because in a funny way, it made sense to me.
Two years later, a new teacher was transferred to my school – Cikgu Azmi. He had x-ray vision and would ogle us as if he was mentally taking snapshots of every inch of our body. Interaction with him was always an uncomfortable encounter.
My friends and I collectively disliked him. We used to have sessions during recess time specially to talk about how much we despised him. Cikgu Azmi wasn’t just a pervert, he was also a lousy teacher who always came to class unprepared and would instead read word for word from whatever was in the text book.
However, our dislike for him turned into hatred when he started inviting himself to the school field every time we had PE lessons. During this time, Cikgu Azmi would pick the perfect spot on the field to squat and smoke his cigarette as he watched us run.
Being at an age when our bodies were developing, we felt uneasy knowing his x-ray eyes were on us as we ran “towards” him. With our boobs bouncing north, south, east and west, Cikgu Azmi would blow cigarette smoke almost in slow motion. And realising this, we would subconsciously slow our pace as we attempted to cover our chests.
Remembering never to disclose school matters to our parents, we tried confiding in our teachers about how uneasy we felt about Cikgu Azmi and his “gatal”-ness. But no one took us seriously. Most of them simply laughed it off. Perhaps they taught teenagers like us tended to exaggerate.
When I left school in 1992, Mr Wong got transferred while Cikgu Azmi continued to ogle our juniors. I thought that was the end of my unfortunate events with “Cikgu Gatal” but I was wrong.
When my kids were in primary school some eight years ago, they had a teacher with itchy fingers. He loved pinching female students… on their chests.
When the parents of the students who complained brought up the matter, the principal stood by the teacher and claimed it was a big misunderstanding and the complaints were flushed down the toilet.
Even after the incident, the teacher continued to pinch other female students. But this time it wasn’t only on their chests, but thighs as well. I know of a few parents who decided to transfer their daughters because of this.
Last year, a good friend of mine told me about a new teacher who was transferred to her daughter’s school. Apparently there was a rumour going around about this teacher and so my friend decided to dig for news on the Internet.
She found out that this particular teacher was suspended earlier after one of his ex-students made a complaint of being molested by him. Apparently he requested the student to assist him in the store room where he took advantage of her. And when he was done, he gave her RM1 as a token of his appreciation.
I believe tales such as these do not stop here. A quick check online about cases involving teachers who molest students in Malaysia gave me a shocking list of cases to view.
One of the cases that caught my eye was filed by 11 female students against one male teacher. There were 23 witnesses but the teacher was acquitted because one prefect who witnessed the incident was not present.
Another case involved a student being forced to perform oral sex by the teacher for more than a year.
I have often wondered what happened to these teachers at the end of their suspension period. My guess is that they would just be transferred to a new school.
World-class education system? Pfffftt!!!