BELAGA: Being a teacher is admittedly not an easy job; if it were, anyone in the world could be one.
However, for teachers who work in rural areas, particularly in Sarawak, the challenges and obstacles they face will definitely change them for life and for the better.
Jezriel Sulang Ucho, 26, who is currently teaching at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Long Busang Belaga, admitted that being a teacher in the rural area was not just a career.
“ it’s instead a way of life that needs to be understood and observed together.
“A teacher’s job, especially in the rural area, is heavy,” said Jeriel who has taught three years at the school explained.
NO PROPER INTERNET ACCESS
“It seems that there is no end to the issue of internet access to meet the needs of online data management and reporting, which is the biggest challenge for schools there.
“This is because internet access in the interior is extremely limited, causing data updates and reporting to be significantly delayed.
“Sometimes, there are teachers who must stand at the foot of the school hill until midnight to access the internet.
“Furthermore, the teaching supplies are limited in rural schools, either due to the high cost in rural areas or the difficulty in obtaining such supplies from the city.”
When contacted recently, Jeriel explained, “It is common to see a teacher who has just returned from holiday carrying a lot of boxes on a four-wheel drive. In the boxes are personal and sufficient teaching needs.”
GAPS AND 1001 OF KNOWLEDGE
She said that there was a clear gap between students in rural and urban schools.
“For example, current teaching content requires students to learn vocabulary that is too foreign to them, making them uncomfortable with the material they should have learned.”
“This difficulty also means they are less exposed to the use of technology for learning purposes, especially in comparison to students in the city who have been exposed from an early age,” she said.
According to Jeriel, SK Long Busang is no stranger to the challenges of teaching and school administration work due to a lack of manpower.
“As a rural teacher, we must equip ourselves with 1001 skills, including repairing pipes, and electricity and becoming a doctor to students to ensure the smooth management and administration of the school so that students can learn in a conducive environment.
“I applaud the rural educators who recognise the importance of this need.
“However, teachers are also human.
“The tendency to work lazily is not unfamiliar to us either because the status of rural teachers leads to the perception that top-down monitoring is less than in city schools.”
“However, thank you for the presence of teachers who collaborate in reprimanding one another as well as attempting to create an active and efficient work environment,” she explained.
According to the Sibu-born teacher, there are ways to face and overcome challenges that come along the way.
“We overcame the limited internet access at SK Long Busang by allocating our own money to purchase ‘Prepaid ConnectMe,’ despite the fact that the price is quite expensive. The existing free broadband network is insufficient to meet the needs of current teacher assignments.
“Rural teachers will take advantage of the opportunity to be in the city during the school holidays to download and upload documents and related data.
“The opportunity to shop in the city will be used to stock up on teaching materials and personal necessities.
“We also provide visual exposure to our students by showing using existing devices so that they are not too unfamiliar with the content of the lessons that they should learn in the current syllabus.”
“In addition, the school will always expose students to the “outside world” through student participation in international, national, and state-level programmes and competitions,” she said.
THE NEED FOR “ME TIME”
She revealed, on behalf of all other rural teachers, how a lack of manpower burdened teachers, forcing them to be more proactive in managing their time, emotions, and mental health.
“Although the practice of returning homework is frowned upon, the reality is that it is forcing teachers to do so.
“Teachers like us allocated some ‘me-time’, ‘self-therapy’, and ‘self-healing’ as often as possible.
As a result, sports, fishing, river picnics and hunting are among the leisure activities enjoyed by rural teachers at SK Long Busang.
“In other words, rural teachers must find their own enjoyment by making the best of what they have so they must be wise to adapt to the existing world,” she added.
STUDENTS THE MAIN FOCUS
Jezriel also admitted that there was no other way to overcome the challenges and obstacles of being a rural teacher other than to always think outside the box and remain dedicated to the profession.
“Although this is only the opinion of a novice teacher, I have high hopes that the teachers will always remember that the real customers are the students, not us.
“If all rural teachers just complain about the weight of the task without trying to overcome the challenges, then on whom else can we place the fate of students in the rural?
“A teacher who strays from his or her intention to serve students will always find a dead end in his career,” she added.
Although teaching is a difficult profession, Jazriel believes that the rewards can be seen in the success of the students taught.
“Even if this success is only a minor boost in their ability to understand and master ABC, it’s a start.
“Hopefully, students all over the world will continue to value their teachers’ sacrifices and recognise that simply being a civilised human being is sufficient to make your teachers happy.
“Happy Teacher’s Day 2022,” she said.