A retired teacher shares his memories of serving in rural schools and his perspective on today’s teaching profession


Ali Sabri (right) is now enjoying his retirement days to the full with his loved ones.

BINTULU (May 16): Teachers’ Day is observed every May 16 to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices and services of educators towards nation building.

The Borneo Post managed to get a glimpse of what it was like to be a teacher in the 1970s thanks to Ali Sabri Saber Ali Khan.

The 64-year-old former educator also shared some insights into today’s teaching profession and fond memories of his school days.

He is one of those educators who had the opportunity to serve in rural schools.

Ali Sabri’s first placement was in May 1979 before his mandatory retirement at the age of 60 in August 2017 after committing his 39 years of service.

“I received basic teacher training at Maktab Perguruan Ilmu Khas, Jalan Cheras, Kuala Lumpur from 1977 to 1978.

“In April 1979, I returned to Sarawak. My first internship as a qualified teacher was at SMK Tatau, which at the time was still temporarily operating at SK Kuala Annau, Kuala Annau, Tatau,” he said.

Asked about the challenges of education during those years, Ali Sabri said the main problem at the time was the lack of basic infrastructure.

“There was no 24-hour electricity supply, only a generator. It was turned on at 6:30 p.m. and turned off around 11:00 p.m.

“Similarly, the supply of clean and treated water was also non-existent. Only used water from catchments in metal (zinc) tanks and the abundant Batang Anap River,” he recalls.

He said today that the progress and development of infrastructure is very important, including in most rural and inland areas accessible by road.

He added that most of the schools are already equipped with basic facilities, in the interest of the sustainability of the national education policy.

Nonetheless, he said teaching challenges are part of a teacher’s life that requires them to be a step or two ahead in order to be well prepared.

He said above all is to realize the aspirations of the country to the maximum level.

Ali Sabri (fifth from left) first position at SMK Tatau. Also pictured is school principal Peter Langgong Mani (seated center).

According to him, basic education at the preschool level has not reached a commendable percentage.

“There are students who need to receive remedial lessons to be eligible to enter mainstream classes at the primary school level, to be grouped successfully into groups of students who have a pre-school basic education compared to those who do not,” he said.

He said that for some parents, they would send their children for pre-school education at National Unity Department, Hikmah, Pasti, SeDidik and others.

He believed that parents were supposed to enroll their children in kindergarten before the age of six.

“Usually, students who have had a basic education will do well when they enter mainstream classes,” he said.

Second, he said secondary school teachers also face similar issues.

He said students had to go through a bridging or re-education session before receiving the appropriate aspects of the first-form lessons.

Thirdly, he said that almost all reports are now done online and that if educators are not skilled in using information and communication technology (ICT) devices, it will be difficult to accomplish the tasks and responsibilities on time.

In some situations, he said, students will also face the same problem, having no ICT skills and no internet coverage will also be a problem.

Ali Sabri said the fourth common challenge facing most educators today is tackling student discipline issues.

“There are indeed a handful of students who are really rude and disrespectful and like to fight with the teacher. If strict disciplinary measures are taken against them, parents will be on their children’s side,” he said. -he declares.

The love of teaching and enlightening students can also be a problem for teachers.

He said that in more extreme situations, there are parents who simply sue teachers instead of being grateful.

“Indeed, sometimes teachers take too many measures without the knowledge of school principals. If there is a case like this, the principal or the director should resolve it,” the former principal said.

Ali Sabri (standing on the right) with fellow teachers.

He said the fifth challenge is the new culture caused by the Covid-19 pandemic which has almost crippled the national education system if not managed wisely.

He said that during this critical period, students were forced to stay home without receiving lessons from their teachers.

He added that teachers also struggled to help their students learn.

“Fortunately, the Ministry of Education has taken proactive measures to ensure that the learning process is not severely affected.

“The learning was set up online because face-to-face teaching was not allowed,” he said.

Although the country has entered the endemic phase, he said educators must remain vigilant and prepared for any eventuality.

“I hope that parents will also play a role in ensuring that their children remain successful. Keep track of each child’s lessons,” he said.

Ali Sabri said parents don’t need to go through teacher training to keep track of their children’s learning progress, just be polite, caring and firm.

“The responsibility for ensuring high-performing children does not rest solely with teachers. It is the responsibility of all parties with mutual concern,” he said.

Ali Sabri had his early education at Sebauh Central Upper Primary School before going by the name Sekolah Rendah Kerajaan Sebauh (SRK) and now going by the name Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sebauh.

He studied at CUP Sebauh in 1964 in first primary before continuing to second primary at SRK Orang Kaya Mohamad when his family moved to Bintulu.

However, he failed the Primary Six exam which is the common entrance test in 1969 and had to repeat and pass in 1970.

In 1971, he was in first form at BGSS or Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Bintulu till fifth form in 1975.

“I would like to express my deepest thanks and gratitude to the teachers who taught me,” he said.

When asked about his fond memories while studying at Sebauh, he still remembered the late Professor Sulaiman Rusan.

“This teacher had punished me at the request of my mother for taking a long bath in the river. It was a sweet memory for me. After that, I obeyed my mother’s words,” he said.

While attending school at SRK Orang Kaya Mohamad, Ali Sabri was taught by, among others, the late Professor Yusof Mahmud and the late Bujang Taha including Bakri Yusof, Norhayati Atahar Khan, the late Awang Mahmud Awang Hamzani and Julaihi Suhai .

“I remember when I was in fourth grade, an event that at the time was funny, but very embarrassing for me.

“I asked Professor Norhayati for permission to go to the bathroom. She doesn’t allow it.

“Then I peed while pointing at my desk. But seen by the same classmate sitting in the back, Baba @ Kassim Yasin who later told the teacher,” he recalled.

Ali Sabri was then punished by cleaning the desk drawer and standing on the table.

His second unforgettable memory was when he was whipped six times by a manager.

The reason was that he watched Hindustani films on school nights with his family, not including his father.

“The pain was so unbearable that I sat down on the floor holding back the pain but not crying. Too bad to be seen by the girls,” he added.

No matter what he went through as a student, Ali Sabri was very grateful for the services and sacrifices of all the teachers who taught him and raised him to who he is today.

He also apologized for not naming all the teachers who taught him, but prayed that their devotional service would always be blessed by God.

“To those who are still in this world, I pray that they will continue to be healthy and live long.

“I hope that as much as I respect and appreciate all my teachers, my students should respect and appreciate my service, even if I don’t ask for retaliation,” he said.






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