“2C is one of my most challenging classes. More than half the class of 38 students are aspiring boys. The class is well-populated with students who tend to be loud, disrespectful, sleepy and disruptive.
Today, I sat on a chair marking Sejarah papers. Alhamdulillah most of the students managed to score up to Band 2, some achieved Band 3 and a couple of them accomplished up to Band 4! All but one. . Azhar (bukan nama sebenar) completely failed. What’s worse is that he didn’t even try – his tests were mostly blank.He wrote his name and that was it! In class, Azhar was always one of the more disruptive students – one of those who threw paper planes at the girls, who would kick others’ chairs, and one who would always give teachers the pandang-tak-puas-hati look. I had burned the midnight oil working to differentiate my exercise sheets and lesson plans but Azhar hadn’t even put in a little bit of effort. I had to do something!
Me: Azhar, come here! I need to talk to you.
Azhar: Tak boleh lah cikgu, saya nak rehat. Nak makan.
Me: Takpe. Jangan kecoh pasal makan. Saya belanja awak breakfast hari ini. Awak tak perlu makan kat luar kantin. Ikut saya makan di kantin guru.
We walked to our humble school canteen. I put my arm on his shoulder. We didn’t say much as we continued walking but I bought him nasi lemak telur goreng with teh-o ais. I had mine and he had his.
Me: Azhar, ini kertas awak. Tengok! Semua kertas awak kosong. Kosong! Awak boleh membaca? Boleh menulis? Boleh mengeja?
He nodded to all my questions.
Me: Habis apa masalah awak? Belajar dalam kelas awak main. Awak langsung tak hormat saya. Saya penat taw ajar kamu dengan macam-macam bahan tapi kamu sepak macam tu je. Kamu tak tampal pon nota yang saya tulis untuk awak. Awak nak jadi apa? Semua kawan awak yang main pon boleh jawab. Mereka dah capai Band 2, 3. Kamu? Kalau mereka berjaya, mereka tak tolong kamu taw. Kamu tahu tak kenapa kamu datang sekolah?
Azhar: Belajar cikgu.
Me: Tipu! Pandang mata saya dan cakap awak nak belajar.
He didn’t. The nasi lemak that I bought for him was left untouched. I unwrapped it for him and gave him a pair of spoon and fork.
Me: Awak duduk mana?
Azhar: Pasoh 4, cikgu.
Me: Naik bas kan? Berapa yuran bas sebulan? Ayah kerja apa?
He suddenly burst into tears.
Azhar: Ayah kerja sendiri. Kalau ada orang panggil kait sawit, ayah ada kerja. Ayah selalu cari kerja tapi sekarang buat kerja kampung. Mak tak kerja. Duit yuran bas RM140 sebulan. Kakak ada kat sini jugak.
Me: Datang sekolah duit belanja berapa?
Azhar: RM2.Me: Cukup sehari sampai petang? Awak makan apa? Yang awak menangis kenapa?
His eyes were filled with unshed tears. The sadness that filled him was overwhelming and his vision was blurred by the tears that flowed down his face. One by one, drops fell from his eyes like they were on an assembly line, each one commemorating the hardships he had experienced.
Azhar: Cukup. Makan sekali je. Hot dog dengan air sampai petang. Saya menangis sebab cikgu tak marah saya. Cikgu belikan saya nasi lemak. Siap ada telur goreng lagi. Saya tak pernah makan nasi lemak kat kantin cikgu. Saya tak pernah ada orang tanya yuran bas saya. Saya menangis sebab teharu cikgu, bukan menangis sebab takut cikgu.
A few teachers close by stopped slurping their noodles and started to steer their sights to our table. I tried to keep our conversation low – I didn’t want to humiliate him.
I gave him a piece of advice, from a brother to another brother. We continued eating our breakfast thenI sent him to class and he salam-ed me.
Azhar: Saya minta maaf cikgu. Terima kasih banyak-banyak. Lepas ni cikgu nak rotan dan denda saya, cikgu buatlah.
That long kiss on my hand touched the bottom of my heart. I’m happy that after two months, I managed to touch at least one heart. Alhamdulillah. One student at a time.”