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rainbow ruler   :  Archive   :  2002   :  MY Schools Apr 2002


School CP - April 2002

Corpun file 9205 at


Daily Express, Kota Kinabalu, 3 April 2002

Concern over punishments

Keningau: A school headmaster has expressed concern over several actions taken by disciplinary teachers, saying that these could invoke retaliation by errant students.

He noted that most of the teachers had resorted to subjecting the students to a great deal of humiliation in the name of imposing discipline, even on petty issues.

Lasmin Majani, who is Keningau Headmasters Council chairman, felt that increasing disciplinary problems as well as gangsterism in schools could have stemmed from a high level of dissatisfaction among the students over the puritan attitude of their disciplinary teachers.

He did not wish frequent reports of students assaulting teachers in the peninsula be extended to Sabah, saying it could happen if the teachers concerned had not thought of the consequences of their harsh actions.

"The best solution that should be initiated between parents and the school authorities is to promote mutual cooperation towards tackling disciplinary problems in schools, that could avert ill-feelings on both sides," he said, on Monday.

He acknowledged that some parents in the district were unhappy over the kinds of harsh punishments meted out to their children by the discipline teachers.

Nobody would benefit from continuing disputes between both parties merely because of student discipline, he said.

Lasmin, who is also Kampung Tudan Baru Vision Village Movement chairman, said this when asked to comment on two separate incidents relating to actions by disciplinary teachers, recently.

In one incident, a nine-year-old student was caned 30 times with a rotan, while the other incident involved a secondary school student who had his hair cut and styled as an "X" style "to serve as a lesson to the others".

Therefore, the important factor would be the willingness of the disciplinary teachers, most of whom were still young, and the parents to sit together to discuss matters relating to student problems before any action could be taken, he said.

"The school management should strive to strengthen relationships with the parent-teacher associations, as well as village development and security committees towards promoting a recommendable level of discipline in schools."

According to him, it had been a normal procedure for the headmasters to summon parents of students involved in disciplinary problems before deciding on the next course of action.

Expelling or suspending student on petty disciplinary problems would serve no benefits on both sides, as this would only further deprive the younger people from formal education, he said.

Furthermore, the disciplinary teachers should also consider the logical aspects of their action because a slight mistake could complicate matters further, he said.

The current practice of oppressing and humiliating errant students could only aggravate the degree of ill-feelings among parents towards the disciplinary teachers "who often might have thought they are above regulations to do anything they like in the name of discipline", Lasmin said.

Copyright © Daily Express, Sabah, Malaysia

Corpun file 8968 at


New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 29 April 2002

Remember When

An 'ustaz' most extraordinary

By Pak Chan Man


THIS week I'm shifting my attention to a religious teacher, the ustaz.

The ustaz is a special individual, particularly in this Islamic renaissance, where so-called ulamas strive to outdo each other in promulgating new edicts, or re-interpreting old ones.

Back in my childhood in the 40s and 50s there were two school systems. For those who attended sekolah atap, as Malay primary schools were referred to then, religious education was taught in the afternoon. The curriculum consisted of Quran reading plus fardu ain or the various aspects of life as required by Islam.

If the child was clever enough to progress to the few secondary schools (English medium), ugama (religion) was slotted into the timetable twice a week. From my own experience, this was insufficient to complete the study of the Quran. So parents had to arrange for the tok guru (usually untrained ustaz) to tutor the child at home. So, by the time the child finished Senior Cambridge, he was able to read the Quran, recite the doa, lead a prayer as well as understand the basic tenets of Islam.

The other system was the madrasah or sekolah pondok, a religious residential institution where pupils lived in tiny wood and attap huts -- female pupils lived separately. They learnt only Quran reading and religious education. Good students were tutored to become mosque officials or religious teachers, although a small number were accepted into institutions of higher learning (Arabic) like Maktab Mahmud in Alor Star. From there, a few furthered their studies in Islamic universities such as Al Azhar in Cairo.

The pondok system still exists, under the State governments. The huts have evolved into hostels. But financing remains mostly courtesy of private donations.

Nowadays agama is still taught to Muslim students in government schools twice a week. Non-Muslims are taught moral education. However, the results on both counts have been less than effective. Religious education has not produced spiritually enlightened youths, and moral education is an excuse for time-wasting by some teachers. Still, most Muslim students do get the desired marks to pass their exams. But both Muslims and non-Muslims leave school sadly lacking in spiritual, moral and social awareness. Many youths are only interested in aping decadent Western culture.

Muslim parents who realise this shortcoming send their children to privately-run religious classes outside of school hours, so that the children may complete the khatam (mandatory reading of the Quran). I would like to describe one such class or school - the best example I've come across.

This school, in fact, sits right in front of my house. It was built in 1997 by a local philanthropist. The building has a hall whose walls and ceiling have beautiful carvings done by artisans from Uzbekistan. However, parents line up to register their children here not for its unique architecture, but for the extraordinary tutorial qualities of its ustaz.

Ustaz Fadzil belongs to the cane-wielding, loud-speaking and no-nonsense teaching of old. The opening of the school was timed to lure his services on his retirement from teaching religion to warders' children.

In this new school the ustaz takes in children, eight to 14, and sets entry standards and conditions that are non-negotiable. For example, when an applicant is called for a registration interview, both the parents and the intended pupil must be present on time. They must endure a three-hour briefing while the ustaz thrashes out the 32 conditions they have to abide by without exception, including punishment by caning or dismissal for any infringement by the pupil. Both mother and father must sign a written pledge to these clauses even before their child can be considered for registration.

Among the more draconian rules are:

* When a child is punished or caned, the parents must side with the ustaz, and if necessary, punish the child even more

* No fooling around

* No borrowing of stationery

* No stealing, bluffing or telling lies

* No doodling on table tops or touching of walls or mirrors

There are also some unusual innovations such as:

* No class monitors or group leaders

* Each child marks his or her own attendance in individual registers using colour codes that change every day -- it saves time and eliminates cheating.

* Instruction by bell -- the children must actually freeze like a statue when the bell is sounded - so that the ustaz can see what everybody has been doing.

* The uniform (full Malay dress or baju kurung with logo and name tags) must be spick and span. All books must be colourfully bound.


Any breach of the rules ends in automatic dismissal. Even criticism of the ustaz by a parent, but behind his back, has the same consequence. Children endure his shouts and his cane on a daily basis. No one ever complains. But if a pupil dozes off, he lets him continue for 10 minutes, then wakes him up and asks him to wash up.

Despite such tough conditions, parents queue up and appeal for their children's acceptance, and the children fight to keep their places. So, what makes this ustaz so cruel and yet so popular?

The answer is simple -- he has been producing the desired results! And he has been doing so single-handedly, teaching and drilling 170 pupils in two sessions without assistance from anyone else, even though the teaching is at four or five different levels. He has been repeating his success stories for over 35 years. His ex-students have become responsible and successful people such as directors, educators, professionals and religious leaders. Many come back to him to express their gratitude.


As a result his pupils have always stood out prominently in their normal schools. They become hardworking, helpful, amiable and their studies always improve. They are leaders in school, and steer away from dadah and cigarettes, or any form of immoral living.


I once asked him why he has not employed an assistant. He said that he had tried, but no one was able or willing to follow his teaching methods. No one else, it seems, has the guts to confront desperate parents, nor cane recalcitrants who willingly come back for more.

Like me, the ustaz does not have too many more years left to teach people to lead a good life, spiritually or otherwise. I doubt anybody can replace this extraordinary religious teacher who has selflessly devoted his life to instil good qualities. May God bless him.

The writer is a retired headmaster, English language teacher and editor of the Kelab Kedah Di Raja newsletter for 16 years.

© New Straits Times

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