KEM 2008 : My Perspective

While poems might seem to be my true forte, I can’t help but pen this one down in plain writing. My apologies for the lack of quality…

Introduction KEM 2008

Azri : “……setiap amalan dimulakan dengan niat…”

That should’ve struck a chord in me. Hearing the famous hadith for the umpteenth time did nothing to spur my interest that night. I was distracted. By what, I cannot say.
Sacrificing 10 days didn’t seem that long when I decided to commit myself to this program about six months ago. It really did sound like a good package, for I was excited at the prospect of setting foot in East Malaysia for the first time in my life.

But when it really got down to it, I realized just how much it would cost to ‘give’ 10 days of my precious summer break to total strangers living in a far off land. Though I shall not delve into the sticky details, safe to say I had to deflect the numerous pleas from my mom to scrap the trip (reasons of which I shall not share). That was the mind set from the beginning. Probably not the best of starts…

SMS Kuching

When Mr Bahtiar (Mr B) presented us with a video prospectus of the school, I was silently surprised at the amount of effort put in (not sure from which side though) to encourage the students to use technology in their daily learning. The school wanted something different from us. Their expectations were high.

That set the tone. We were dealing with privileged students. The approach had to be different. A ‘wow’ factor was needed to motivate these kids. Thank heavens the facilitators were all impressive enough in their CVs.

SMS Kucing reminded me a lot of my old school back in Subang. Living among students from all races and religions was the environment I was placed in during my first 11 years in school. Unfortunately, this also increased my annoyance (thank you Nazmi for calming me down) at the refusal of some of the facilitators to adapt their style to the multi-racial crowd.

Naturally, SMS students were an enthusiastic bunch. A notion probably agreed upon by all of those who were with me at that school. The response we got from the students was phenomenal.
That was our portal in. We had to cash in on that enthusiasm, harness it to achieve our objectives.

The way I saw it, these students more exposed to the outside world; and it showed a whole lot through the level of their general knowledge. They were certainly not the typical ‘katak bawah tempurung’ kids you’d expect.


“Buleh rileks x, diorg salam cium tangan dowh,” exclaimed Syafeeq in typical fashion.

The thing that struck me most was probably the respect they showed to us, regardless of what was going through their minds at that period of time.

While it may have been drilled into them to respect their seniors, (ie by the kissing of the hand) I think I speak on behalf of all the male facilitators when I say that it was a truly touching gesture.

‘Ukhuwwah fillah, abadan abada’, a phrase that often reverberated among the lips of the “geng surau” (a term coined by a certain someone who shall not be named) in KMB
The call of the athan struck me from my slumber. I looked up to observe the students go about their ‘rituals’ before performing their maghrib prayers.

Usually, each school had a trademark to its name. Even the tune of the athan would have a certain ‘ring’ to it that could be traced back to the origin of a school.

SMS Kucing gave full autonomy to its students to run the surau. Even Friday prayers were conducted fully by the students. Impressive to say the least…

“Abang datang nak buat program untuk tingkatan 5 je ke?” asked one of the students whom had braved up to approach me after the solat.

It had sent my pulse racing. My conversation with him shed light on two things I had failed to realize. Despite being privileged, these students were devoid of inspiration, lacking role models to look up to. Secondly, they had truly appreciated and welcomed our arrival simply because no one else had previously done what we had set out to do.

Suddenly, my doubts were erased.

“What would it cost me to simply give 10 days of my precious summer break to total strangers living in a far off land?”

The question had been answered. A credit card commercial replayed in my mind.
Flight tickets : RM350++
Bus and Train Fare : RM15
KEM Fee : RM65++
Sponsorship : RM50++

To inspire the students to succeed in life….priceless

Admittedly, SMKA Kota Kinabalu was a different story compared to SMS Kuching. Being the lead facilitator also bore consequences on my part. I was not tied down to my own ‘group’. The student-facilitator bond wasn’t as strong. It was another sacrifice I had to live with.

The condition of the school was derelict compared to Kuching. However what worried me most was the attitude of the male students, whom were oblivious to the fact that they were living in a dump. It wasn’t so much the lack of facilities that fazed me; it was the nonchalance of the students whom didn’t seem to care about the importance of cleanliness.

Something had to give. We needed to act. So began phase one of brain-washing the students. Led by Faisol, we cleaned up the hostel area and made sure they knew about it. At approximately 11pm a roll-call like style involving all the male students was held in the common room. Safe to say by the end of the session, our objectives were reached...

The Dilemma

The students were also facing a state trial exam starting Friday. Tensions were running high. The strain on the faces of the students was there for all to see. Participation was during lectures were minimal. Attendance was also dwindling, especially on the boys’ side. It was fast turning into a disaster.

“Ana rase kite patut cancel je program kat SMAKK ni,” Azri’s voice nervously suggested through the phone.

Hairul and I looked at each other passively. This wasn’t going to happen on my watch. I had faith in SMAKK. We would do all we could to convince Azri. The kids needed us. I was sure of that.

I met Ms Kartina personally that morning. Her words stuck to my head like glue.

“Budak-budak di sini sangat down dari segi morale. Mereka perlukan motivasi. Tidak pernah dalam sejarah sekolah ini terdapat sekumpulan pelajar yang sanggup datang berjumpa dengan adik-adik, lagi-lagi pelajar dari luar Negara. Cikgu yakin dengan kebolehan budak-budak sekolah ini. Cikgu yakin mereka boleh berjaya. Dan harapan Cikgu supaya "ijat” dan rakan-rakan dapat menyuntik semangat dalam diri mereka….”

Never mind she pronounced my name wrongly. Never mind. It had now turned into an obligation…
During the meeting with the KEM Director, Hairul was the main man in defending our cause, stressing the importance of us being there, despite the dire situation we were in. It worked, albeit a few alterations in the tentative, we were given the green light, Alhamdulillah.

In Closing

Ku merinitiih, ku menangis, aku merataaap, aku mengharaap…

Khaidir’s soulful voice filled the room. Ms Kartina was already dabbing her tears. I was struggling to control my own….

I thank god that I was in the front-most seat, I was an emotional mess that morning.

How much things had changed since the first day. The transformation in terms of attitude, motivation and spirit was too good to be true. Alhamdulillah, the program was a success. Their spirit touched our hearts. I couldn’t believe that it was finally time to leave…

Goodbye Borneo, may we meet again soon, Insha Allah.


Ustadz Hasrizal-for your inspiration
Akhi Muhtar Suhaili-for your valuable insight
Azri Bohari-for your sacrifices
Nazmie-for that calming influence
Faisol-for keeping me in check
Syafeeq Ridzam-for being there when needed
Shazif-my steady companion
Hairul Junior-for that spark that we sorely missed in KK
Wani-for leading from the wings
To my newfound friends, Isa, Sham, Nasir, Jani and the rest of the gang (whom I failed to mention but appreciate nonetheless)
May we meet again…



nova said...

A brilliant post!

Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for your time, money, and energy consumed in order to ensure the program a success in Borneo.

May we meet again in the future; if not in person, at least in cause of serving God and humanity, Insya Allah.

Anonymous said...

a priceless experience indeed..
thanks hijaz for making things in order.

mujahidah said...

SMKAKK is the best SMKA in Sabah. my own experience would also say exctly cm cikgu tuh cakap. Kalo tgk result exam mereka (yg nmpk biasa shj), sebenarnya mrk sgt hebat untuk perform sebegitu, without role model, without many facilities yg org semenanjung dapat, dan pendedahan bhs inggeris yg sgt kurang. Even, infrastructure sekolah tuh sndr pun agak terkebelakang relative to statusnya dan kedudukannya di KK.
btw, priceless experience, lebih berbaloi dr semua matawang yg habis tuh.

E Nursyaheera Sulaiman said...


A very fine perspective. Indeed it was a valuable experience. And to receive another perspective on the other side of the programme (SMS & SMAKK), add more colours to my journey there too. May we be able to continue doing this, again and again. InsyaAllah.

Mohd Ashraf said...

Fantastic piece! btw, thanks for your advice, they are forgiven but never forgotten...


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