06 December 2007

The attraction of teaching in rural schools

The Star

IT is encouraging that more teachers are prepared to serve in rural schools as this will give pupils there the chance of a good education.

Rural children have always been handicapped due to the shortage of teachers willing to serve in the countryside, especially those graduates who come from cities and towns.

This latest development also shows that the Education Ministry’s groundwork to provide better facilities for rural teachers is paying dividends.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein should get the credit for implementing such changes, making it more attractive for teachers to serve in the outlying areas, including in Sabah and Sarawak.

It used to be so difficult to convince newly qualified teachers to accept such rural postings, even though it was part of the terms of service when they enrolled for the training course.

They would use all sorts of excuses to exempt themselves from such postings, and it is good that the ministry has refused to entertain their requests.

In the past few years, the ministry has been working hard to provide better housing and other amenities to make the teachers as comfortable as possible. The lack of such facilities was the main reason for their fear of such postings.

To put the icing on the cake, the ministry introduced special allowances for such hardship assignments of up to RM1,500 a month, for being away from their loved ones for so many years.

In addition, they would be given free air tickets to allow them to go home during school holidays, thus saving them a few hundred ringgit in airfare.

While these perks may be important, teachers found out something that is sorely lacking in urban schools: RESPECT. Teachers are highly respected in a rural setting; people look up to them.

Unlike their counterparts in urban schools, they have very few disciplinary problems since parents would leave it to teachers to do their job with little interference.

They are happy that their children were getting an education, and therefore appreciate those ready to serve in such backward areas.

In fact, many of those transferred back to urban schools in Peninsular Malaysia had regretted doing so and it must have been a culture shock for many that there is little respect for the profession in urban settings.

They also found the cost of living so much higher in the urban areas that they could barely make ends meet, whereas they could save quite a bit in their previous posting.

For this reason, and perhaps many more, there is every possibility that rural teachers would be reluctant to ask for a transfer if they could help it. No doubt the ministry would be more than happy to oblige.

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