This is my story. I am a 50 year-old Chinese lady who resigned some ten years ago, after a year of unpaid leave.
I graduated from the University of Malaya with a first class honours in B.Sc.Ed. in 1984, majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Biology. . As part of the B. Sc. Ed. Programme, we were required to do our practical training after our third and fourth academic year. To my horror, I was not automatically placed in a school in spite of having academic training.
Apparently there was an “excess of teachers”. Therefore, those of us who chose not to accept the offer from Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) were not placed. Instead, places were given to MARA scholars who had then recently returned from abroad although they lacked the practical training that we had underwent. I was then advised to take up a post as a temporary teacher in a secondary school in my hometown of Malacca, teaching Physics and Form 6 Mathematics, filling in the vacancy of a senior teacher who migrated to New Zealand.
More than a year after I graduated, I went the Department of Education to apply for the aforementioned post. I was not allowed to hand in my certificate from University Malaya. Instead, I was told that they had to hire me under remuneration based on my Higher School Certificate. Subsequently, I was hired for a month.
During that time, I was in ‘limbo’. I had been giving tuition while waiting for a posting. During the first half of 1985, I sent a letter to NST, highlighting my plight, resulting in a reporter coming to interview my friends and I in Kuala Lumpur. Also, a course mate who turned to journalism during this time wrote an article on our plight for a magazine.
After our plight was discussed at the Cabinet level, some 22 of us who graduated in 1984 with the B.Sc.Ed. were offered a conversion course from Science to English. Apparently, there was a lack of English teachers then. After a stint at the Language Institute during the last quarter of 1985, we were due to start teaching in January 1986. My friends and I had lost 2 years of seniority because some untrained graduates were preferred over us. From what I gathered, some of them had degrees that were not suitable for teaching. When I compared notes with some of these 22 “converted” teachers, most of us went back to teaching Science and Mathematics. It was just an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.
In my first school, I learnt that despite all my extra hours, everything came to naught. The principal wrote in my assessment form that I only did what I was told. Instead, the teacher who hardly attended classes was awarded a scholarship to study in Tokyo based on the principal’s recommendation. Perhaps it could be deduced that the ones who do not attend classes had the time to go at all lengths to impress the principle. From then on, I resolved to work hard, not to be promoted, but because it was righteous to do so. In my opinion, I worked hard in helping my students improve, aside from being concerned with their well-being.
In my third school, SMK Infant Jesus Convent, I finally found a level playing field under the leadership of Mrs. Cheong Teng Wan. It was unfortunate that she had to retire. Subsequently, everything was just a show. For us teachers, work kept increasing and teachers were burdened to a point which, their performances were compromised. Additionally, race politics and issues of religion came into play. The principle treated me differently because I was a Christian. However, I decided to not let this deter from working harder. Why? This is because I am a Christian and my God is a God of all humanity and I tell myself to forgive them “for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34.
This principal awarded me a double promotion; a “menegak” instead of a “melintang” because according to her, I was a graduate and the non-graduates needed the money more than me. Had she discussed it with me and if it were true, I would have declined the double increment because my colleagues needed it more.
After a couple of years with her at the helm, I took a one year unpaid leave. At that time, I was 39 and was hoping to opt out when I turn 40. I had to resign because I wasn’t allowed to opt out. Among the reasons to why I resigned was that the results did not commensurate with the amount of effort we put in. Without a doubt, I figured that the meaningful thing which was left to do, was to be a full-time mother and homemaker.
After 11 years, I am grateful for the choice I made. I salute the friends I left behind, as I know just how thankless being a teacher can be in this present day.
This article is a response to the letter, “Who checks teachers?” (NST, 6/4/11). I would like to ask, “Who would want to be a teacher today?” Frankly, I do not make the choices for my children but I am guilty of telling them this, “You can be anything but a teacher!” Perhaps you could conduct a survey to find out how many teachers have children that took the same road.
May Chee Chook Ying resigned as a teacher some eleven years ago in an effort to be a better mother. Eleven years later, she’s still in the dark! Sometimes, because of what’s ingrained in her vocabulary, she makes remarks or typecast persons, which her 4 kids deem are racist. She’s trying hard to shake that off, very hard, but believes deep down inside, she is not one. She feels blessed her kids can accuse both their parents of being racists! It is her kids who remind her, now and then, what it means to be Malaysian. She believes a true Malaysia is possible. She has to because it’s possible she may have a grandchild whose name may be Travis Tuppani or Emma Abdullah. She’s going to love them all the same.