A Malay Mother’s Achievement
By Altaf Shaikh
Teaching has been my passion since my childhood. After sailing as Chief Engineer for some 12 years on different foreign going vessels, I left sea life and searched for a shore job of the choice of my own. Soon I was in hold of teaching job in Maritime Academy of Malaysia. I flew from Karachi to Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) and from thence I reached Malacca — the historical city – where the academy is, by road.
Malaysia is a country of rivers and rains, snakes and reptiles, beautiful animals and birds. Heavy rains, thunder and lightening welcomed me the day I had to start teaching. It started raining at 4a.m. After punching the card I reached office at 7:55 am sharp. In Malaysia, the offices commence business at 8 O’clock and every government official including the prime minister of the country reaches office in time and punches card to prove his presence and punctuality for the duty.
Teaching in these educational institutions starts at eight-ten in morning. I sat in my office watching heavy rain pouring from the sky. Class rooms for students are in the adjacent building. I was sure that no student has arrived from the city. For me it was no problem to reach classroom as I enjoyed in-campus accommodation. While in office, I fancied roads of Karachi and Hyderabad which after a rain of half an hour get submerged and traffic stands still. I was wondering how this city of Malacca has become in this heavy rain. Due to rainy situation, I thought it might be a holiday and I was going to relax and read newspaper but all of a sudden I had to take my umbrella and went to have a look of the lecture room. To me it was a great surprise to see all students present and in fact, they were waiting for me to deliver the lecture. I realized that day, that this nation is going to achieve ultimate heights of success one day. This is a story of a day which passed some 30 years ago.
In this academy there are two types of students: Pre-Sea courses for cadets for 2 years and there were Post-Sea short courses of 4 months for ship officers (navigators and marine engineers) in order to be future Captains and Chief Engineers of the ships.
One fine day while going out, I saw a funeral procession near the academy gate. One of my students was also present in this procession. Upon asking about the dead person, he replied: “Sir Bapa saya” (Sir he is my father). I was astonished to hear that. Only a day ago, he introduced me his father who had arrived to Malacca to stay with him for a few days, from the northern city of Ipoh. As I was in a car while talking with the student, so I left for the city. Next day when I entered the class room, this student was present there. After lecture I called him in my office and inquired about the funeral in which he was present a day ago.
“Sir my father was a heart patient,” he said, “He suffered heart attack and died, we had to bury him here.”
“Why didn’t you bury him in your ancestral graveyard in Ipoh?” that was my immediate question plus my query that he restrained himself from taking leave.
He smiled and replied “I know sir that in Pakistan people carry dead bodies of their relatives to their home town even if they die in a far away country. But we Malay people bury dead bodies immediately, where he dies.”
After this he gave a sarcastic smile and said “Sir after all what is this whole planet earth in the Universe? It is just like a particle of sand. So what difference does it make if one is buried in Malacca side or in Mexico on the other side of this planet earth. On the day of judgment, each soul will be judged by his deeds and not by the place one is buried.” Her further added, “After all there are people who are destroyed in bombardments or end up in the stomachs of sharks when ship sinks.”
Regarding taking leave on behest of death, he said: “Whatever is gone is gone. My father cannot come back if I take leave. I am sent here by my shipping company to study well and after getting promotion I should immediately carryout the sailing on one of company’s ships. My company heavily pays my fees and other expenses of my studies, and it will be a crime to waste my valuable time by unnecessarily being absent from the class room.”
I think there was sense what he said. And such thoughts of students, parents and people steer countries on the right course and no doubt this country is on the path of progress and prosperity.
It is pertinent to mention that Malaysian government and people give great significance and priority to education. Education is obligatory for each child and there are schools even in remote villages of Malaysia. The education system and policy is same throughout the country. The teachers (and also police department) are paid higher salaries and their selection is purely on merit. In every school, teachers make sure that syllabus is completed before the annual examinations. Attendance and punctuality to arrive school is must. Each child, how far away his home may be, reaches school before 7a.m. In our country most of the children are late and always sleepy due to lack of sound sleep. They always suffer from sleeplessness.
Here in Malaysia people go to bed early whether they may be Muslims or non Muslims. All get up very early in the morning before sunrise. From 8p.m. strip of warning is flashed on TV screens that how many minutes are left to 8.30 …the time the children must go to bed. As children go to sleep early, they have sufficient sleep and they look fresh when they wake up for school in the morning. Here in Pakistan mostly mothers watch TV or films till 1 or 2 a.m. They also let their children do the same. Then in the morning while mothers keep sleeping, their children are forcibly woken by maid servants and sent to school. This makes our children dumb and unintelligent.
This is a universal fact that children show progress in studies, only when they and their parents also take interest in it. In our country we blame teachers for everything. We consider teachers as whole sole responsible for everything, but that not being true.
As I recall, in Cadet College Petaro, our British principal Col. Coombes once asked matric class to write an essay on “Our Aim in Life” during the summer vacation. He meant to write about our future programme in the practical life. At home neither we nor our parents could help us in this matter. “Whatever is in your fate, you shall be”, was the simple answer from our parents. Anyhow some of the cadets of our class wrote the essay but in very brief manner. They wanted to be pilots and fly aero plane, as they wrote. Some wrote he wanted to be a doctor/ or soldier and serve the people/ country, etc.
Our principal went angry from our poor response. He wrote to our parents informing them of our poor performance. “They are in matric class but they have not made up the road map for their life?” Our principal was not happy with those also who wrote that they wanted to be pilots, doctors or soldiers. “ Do you think you will be pilots by just desiring so? You should have written the things you must train yourself to achieve it, you must write the names of institutions you must apply for that, and about the selection standards to compete with, etc.”
Actually in our country, there is a lack of planning in students as well as in parents. Students complete 12th class, results are announced and then only they give it a thought of selecting line of carrier. Our students remain unaware about the final dates for applying professional colleges or universities, and also about the type of questions for the entry tests, and in most of the cases they lose a year in searching and deciding.
In Malaysia one of my students from a faraway and small village of Jungle area, achieved higher position in pre-sea examinations. During passing out function I asked his mother how her son could achieve this. She said, a few years ago when her son was in 8th class she went to perform Hajj by sea. On her journey from Penang port to Jeddah she was very much impressed from ship officers and their smart white uniform.
“I asked them about the institution they sought education from,” she said, “and I also asked them if my son likes to be a marine engineer (ship engineer) or navigator what requirements he must fulfill? They told me that Marine Academy Malaysia trains youngsters to be ship officers and every year there is a tough selection for the limited number of candidates who pass STPM (12th class) in higher position.”
She said that since then she determined that her son should become a sea officer. After returning from Hajj, she discussed this career with her son and said to him, “Son! If you want to be one of the ship officer then you must work hard right from now and you must make your base strong. There are still 4 years to bring your level at higher position so that you can come in the top ones.”
“My son passed SPM (Matric Class) and then STPM(12th class) with “A One” Grade and got selected for this academy” the proud mother said, “ and when he joined this academy I told him that your father is not alive, we are poor, if you study hard you can make your life. My son obeyed me and continued his hard work and devotion to studies and today he has topped in this academy.”
I think the planning and thoughts of a poor village lady of Malaysia are hundred percent correct and there is no harm if the mothers of other countries also follow her.
(About the author Altaf Shaikh.)
Altaf Shaikh is a famous scholar, a travelogue writer and a well known marine engineer. Born in 1944, Altaf Shaikh got his early education from Hala, then from Cadet College Petaro. He studied Marine Engineering at Marine Academy Chittagong, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh ) and did post graduation from the World Maritime University , Malmo , Sweden . After sailing as Chief Engineer on various types of ships for some 15 years, he served Malaysian and then Pakistan Marine Academy as Head of Marine Engineering Dept. for some 20 years. He is author of more than 70 books and regular columnist of daily Urdu and Sindhi newspapers: Ummat, Kawish, Ibrat, monthly Ghazi, Sarguzashid Digest and Cultural Heritage.