At the age of 31, he was entrusted with ministering a school, making him the youngest headmaster in the country.
It came with a host of challenges, most notably, having to rise to the demands of the job, like being in charge of teachers much more senior than him at the primary school. It called for perseverance and a sense of dogged dedication to the profession.
Sarawak Voice Editor, RADIN AZHAR AHMAD interviewed Osman Zaini on his experience in managing and administering a primary school.
Sarawak Voice: Can you tell us a little about your teaching journey?
Osman: I started my career as a teacher on January 17, 2012. My first placement was as Education Services Officer at SK Rajau Ensika, PPD Simunjan.
I underwent teaching training Institut Pendidikan Guru Malaysia Kampus Miri Sarawak (IPGKS) from July 2006 to November 2011.
There were a lot of challenges but Alhamdulillah, finally I succeeded getting a Bachelor of Teaching (Social Studies/Malay Language/Physical Education).
Did you want to be a teacher from the outset, Cikgu?
Actually, I aspired to be national football player, probably because I was active in sports at school. I represented my school in football, hockey, handball and rugby.
The spirit of sports was was very strong at that time and as a result, during the awards ceremony for student excellence, I was crowned Athlete SK Astana School in 2000. That was a meaningful moment.
In secondary school, I aspired to be a police officer but when I got into Form Five, I wanted to be a lawyer. This was because I was very fond of History.
All the time, I never thought of being a teacher but I suppose I eventually became one, thanks to my parents’ prayers.
Preparation before you became a teacher?
Like I said, I underwent teaching training at IPGKS from July 2006 to November 2011.
While in Miri, I was involved in three sessions of practicum at schools around Miri, namely, Sekolah Kebangsaan Tudan, Sekolah Kebangsaan Agama Miri and SK Pujut Corner. The practicum module is meant to expose trainee teachers to the real environmentat school.
At the same time, I also underwent short practical sessions at Sekolah Kebangsaan Astana, Sekolah Kebangsaan Gersik and Sekolah Kebangsaan Enche Buyong for one week.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all the teachers and friends who had helped me.
When were you appointed as a headmaster?
That took place on February 18, 2020, I reported duty as headmaster at Sekolah Kebangsaan Segali, Simunjan, where I am until today.
Before that, I served as a regular academic teacher but in my third year of teaching, I was appointed as Guru Penolong Kanan Kokurikulum at Sekolah Kebangsaan Rajau, Ensika.
That posting helped me gain a lot of experience in leadership and management in school.
What about being the youngest headmaster?
It is a personal achievement having been appointed headmaster after fulfilling the criteria, passing all tests and assessments during the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders (NPQEL) Year 2019 for three months.
Before being accepted to this course, the candidates need to attend interview selections, and should they meet the criteria, they will be called for a fitness test to make sure all are in good health.
Thereafter they will attend the NPQEL course over three months, during which various assessment and tests are given to all candidates to make sure they are really ready to administer and manage schools.
On passing, they will be commissioned as principals and headmasters.
Acceptance of senior teachers against Cikgu as a headmaster? Do you feel awkward working with them?
Alhamdulillah, until today, I am very comfortable and proud to work alongside the teaching fraternity. This is because they are very committed, hardworking and creative in their work.
At first it felt awkward. This is because almost 80 per cent of staff are above 40. So, this was one of the challenges for me to communicate effectively with them.
But I respect all school staff, always smile, have a tolerant attitude on work culture and see to my staff’s welfare.
Alhamdulillah, until today, I’m still practicing and it has had a positive impact on me and all my staff.
Responsibility as a headmaster?
Being headmaster is a great job because you get to be an instructional leader and a role model to other teachers in the school.
In my opinion, if the headmaster is excited to teach, it will give motivation to all teachers for more passionate, committed and creative sessions in class.
Headmasters also make sure lessons or the curriculum determined by the Ministry of Education are running accordingly.
The role of a young headmaster in the world of education?
Personally, I feel, headmasters in Malaysia have to implement sustainability in Malaysian education.
From my point of view as a headmaster, the role I play is to make sure the management and administration of the school are always under control and give motivation to all teachers to work more dedicatedly.
In addition, always fulfil the needs of pupils in school in all aspects such as curriculum, sports and games as well as student personality.
Next is fostering the relationship between the school and parents or guardians. This element is very important for a school progress.
The main challenge for me as a headmaster at my age is to learn from senior head teachers and draw from their experience.
I am also determined to continue studying and to tap on experience related to leadership and management. This is very important for me to hone my skills and competencies as a leader of the school.
What is the distance from your school to your own house?
My school is in a rural area. Sekolah Kebangsaan Segali only has 70 students, 12 teachers and three support staff.
I travel every day from my house at Samariang Aman, Kuching which is about 95km away.
The challenges to administer a rural school?
Each school environment isdifferent whether school small or big, the challenges are also different. For me,my main challenge at this rural school is for me to cultivate a passion to learn among the students.
I need to make sure students have fun and love to go to school.But duringthis pandemic phases, this is one of constraints.
The challenge now is to make sure all studentskeep up with learning at home and complete assignments.
Parents should not only depend on the role of teachers in schools, but needto make sure their children love to go to school to gain knowledge.
Any thoughts on your future in the world of education?
I will continue trying to be more persistent in the arena of education.
I want to challenge myself to go more further in the arena of education, so the experience, knowledge and aspirations that I have can direct education to be more sustainableand trusted by society.
At the same time, I want to study more and gain from the experience of fellow educators.