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Extraordinary Teacher Travels 100km On Motorbike To Reach His Students

cikgu zahir sarawak lubuk antu

Education is a gift to rural students. Going to school every day is actually hard work for many the students living in rural areas. They walk for miles, cross precarious bridges and sometimes wade through mud just to get to school.

The hard work is not only experienced by students but teachers alike.

Meet Teacher Zahir, a 30 year old teacher who have dedicated six years of his life educating rural students in SK Nanga Entalau in the deep interiors of Sarawak. 

Source: Cikgu Emmet Menulis

From 2014 to early 2020, Teacher Zahir travelled 100km weekly on his trusty Honda kapcai from Sri Aman to Lubok Antu where the school is located. Road conditions are far from good. He travelled on dirt roads with numerous potholes. When it rains, these roads are treacherous terrain. 

Cikgu Zahir travels motorbike

Source: Cikgu Emmet Menulis

Zahir was born and bred in Negeri Sembilan. After he graduated as a teacher, he received his first posting to teach in Sarawak. While most of his batch mates chose to leave after a couple of years, Zahir stayed on thanks to the friendship and support he gained from the Iban community he befriended. 

SK Nanga Entalau Lubok Antu
Students at SK. Nanga Entalau, Lubok Antu, Sarawak.

Zahir worked as an Information and Communications Technology teacher at SK Nanga Entalau and stayed on throughout his stint in Sarawak. He shared his story with East Malaysian blogger Cikgu Emmet[1] with the intention of shedding more light on the condition of rural schools in Malaysia. The post went viral with over 3,500 reactions and hundreds of comments from Malaysians.

SK Nanga Entalau Lubok Antu
SK Nanga Entalau is one of the many remote schools in Malaysia that is in dire need of internet access.

The teacher made the arduous trip back and forth every week. He enjoys the adventure but can be tiresome, he admits.

I got lost in the forest and thankfully, I was rescued, I’ve also travelled in thick haze conditions during the pollution crisis in 2019 and sometimes I meet various animals such as forest pigs, snakes, big beetles all types of huge bugs.

Sarawak teacher travels motorbike dirt road

Source: Cikgu Emmet Menulis

The reason Zahir was forced between Sri Aman and Lubok Antu was because of the lack of internet connection in the rural area. He needed the internet to complete administrative work tasks.

Sarawak teacher travels motorbike

Source: Cikgu Emmet Menulis

According to the Department of Statistics, household internet penetration increased from 87% in 2018 to 90.1% in 2019[2] yet many living in remote areas have to bear with a sketchy internet connection or live without the internet. 

During a recent chat with him, he said that he has since been re-posted back to West Malaysia and he is happy to be reunited with his family, but his heart is for the people in Sarawak. When asked about the internet connection, he said,

Internet condition is worst since I left. My friend told me they can’t use the internet. Even when I send messages to them, they take up to a week to reply, sometimes even longer. I wonder how my students can continue learning as we are approaching the end of 2020 already. Basic line coverage is still limited in rural areas.

Sarawak teacher travels motorbike

Source: Cikgu Emmet Menulis

Xair group of companies managing director Nor Zachy Fernandez alluded to a problem where telecommunication-internet providers have a hard time deciding which areas receive the most coverage. “When the government awards spectrum to an operator [provider], it specifies that the operator must provide connectivity to 95% of the population, not 95% of the geographical area. Because the rural areas contain only about 5% of the population, the operators have the flexibility of not covering these areas. It is their prerogative and you can’t do anything about it,” he said in an interview with The Edge[3].

Source: Sarawak Voice

Things are even more challenging in Sarawak’s landscape. With a population of 2.8 million people in a land area of 124,450 sq km, the state’s population is very spread out. Infrastructure and road accessibility remains a huge need. Without it, remote communities are still hard to reach.

Sarawak teacher travels motorbike

Source: Cikgu Emmet Menulis

Teachers like Zahir are few and far between. This young inspiring teacher have touched the hearts of many and his students will have him to thank. Stories like this reminds us of the sacrifices people have made in our lives, but it also begs our attention to look beyond our circle and to communities in need. Can you be a ‘Teacher Zahir’ to someone today? What can you do for the next generation? 

Want a longer read? Download the whitepaper or slides on ‘Shocking Facts On Malaysia’s Education Gap’.

Explore Our Sources:

  1. Cikgu Emmet Menulis. (November 2019), Getir at Ng Entalau Teacher Zahir’s Challenge. Facebook Community. Link.
  2. Department of Statistics Malaysia. (April 2020). ICT Use and Access By Individuals and Households Survey Report, Malaysia, 2019. Link.
  3. Jacobs, J., Subramaniam, P., (October 2020). Cover Story: The Digital Divide and Disconnection. The Edge Markets. Link.

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