Almon Bantin John is a 26-year-old teacher, who has been posted to SK Long Aton, Ulu Tinjar, Baram, for just six months.
In that short time, limitation in communication access and other basic needs, he said, had humbled him and made him appreciate the opportunities and sustenance provided to teachers in the rural areas.
“Teaching in the interior has its own set of challenges and obstacles. My school is four hours away from the main road and I have to cross a river to get there.
“It’s difficult to go to the clinic when we (teachers) or our students are sick.
“We have to travel three hours more on a logging road to the Long San clinic or take a two-hour boat ride to the Long Loyang clinic,” he said.
Almon worked as a substitute teacher for almost a year in Saratok before he was posted to his first school.
He said he needed to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the school in Baram and cross a river by boat to get to a nearby village.
If the water supply to the school which was on a hill was cut off, he and the villagers had to trek through a forest for 45 minutes to locate and repair the blocked water sources.
“Internet access is also extremely limited; teachers routinely get up at two in the morning to access the internet in order to facilitate work,” the Saratok native explained.
Clearing the road to the school.
ALWAYS THINK POSITIVELY
The main key to his survival in the face of all the challenges he faces is to always think positively and accept all flaws in order to do his best to educate the children of the interior.
“For self-therapy, those of us who teach in the rural areas have to always take care of our emotions and make friends with the forest.
“We often miss our families. If I am free, I will call my family members. I always go jungle trekking, fishing with teachers and friends or have fun with the villagers.
“The villagers here are happy to make friends with teachers. Sometimes, they will give me things they plant and fish they catch or farm.
“They are very friendly. If there is a celebration like Mother’s Day, they will invite all school staff to celebrate together,” he said.
Almon hopes that all educators will remain committed to educating the country’s children.
“My advice to aspiring teachers is to avoid picking a particular school for their postings. A rural teaching experience is the most valuable in a teacher’s career.
“My advice to rural students is to keep on learning despite the challenges you face.
“I wish all teachers a “Happy Teachers’ Day,” he said.