“For many students here – without knowledge, without education, there’s just marriage.” – Lydiawati Rusli, 2015 Fellow
When I first started teaching, I thought other schools would be like my school when I was a student. We could read, we could study on our own. I soon found out that that’s not the case everywhere.
Here, in this little town in Perak – it’s a different place with a different culture and different students.
And I’ve learned so much from my students.
It’s just been one and a half years, and the most important changes I’ve seen in my students are not what you’d call “big impact”. For me, even though it’s a little change, I still consider it change. My students can now sing in English, introduce themselves – these small things are really big to me.
I don’t really have big ups and downs, or one particular story about one particular student. Every day there are ups, every day there are downs. Different student, different time, different class, different situation.
I went to visit some of my students’ parents last year. I found that if they have a good family with parents who are constantly around, it’s likely those students will perform well in class.
Sometimes I meet young parents who ‘avoid’ their children or abandon them. Very often these students have problems in school. The family setting really affects how well students do in class. It tells me that the family structure is very, very important.
Nowadays, I advise my students in Form 5 not to get married too early, because if they marry too soon and have a child, there’s a high chance the child will experience the same challenges my students face.
“If you want to change the way things are, you have to change yourself first.”
“When you’re mature enough, then get married. When you’re ready to be a parent, then have kids.”
Especially in rural areas, if you cannot perform academically, you cannot get into university – so you get married, this happens especially with girls.
Without knowledge, without education, there’s just marriage. I want them to change that cycle.
Let’s say there are eight siblings in the family, and they are number seven. They need to mind their place within the family. I tell them it’s okay to break out of the norm, it’s okay to do something else, as long as you know what you want to do.
I also tell my students it’s okay if you don’t perform well academically. You may for example, be great at sailing boats, or at art or sports. Whatever it is, do it with passion.
It’s okay to say, ”Teacher, I don’t like to study. Saya tak pandai belajar tapi saya pandai ‘repair’ kereta.” (I’m not good at my studies but I’m good at repairing cars). Good, do it well. Be passionate, jangan ‘simply’ aje (don’t be lackadaisical about it).
They will realise the impact later – indeed, they will realise it.
I don’t believe that only book-smart kids will make it in life.
Not all successful people did well in their studies.
If you have passion, you can go far in life.
Lydiawati Binti Rusli graduated with a Masters in Advanced Care in Dementia from King’s College, London. She joined the Fellowship in 2015 and is a second-year teacher in a high-need school in Kerian, Perak. Lydiawati teaches History and English.