As part of the job, I get to visit schools and have iftar (breaking of fast) with the children and teachers in the schools. This year we were instructed to sample life in the school hostels during Ramadan. We were also instructed to visit off the beaten track schools and avoid the overly exposed schools in Selangor, KL and Putrajaya. Indeed some of the orphanages in nearby KL, Selangor and Pjaya received so much aid during the Ramadan period, they can afford to pick and choose the benefactors. I heard of one orphanage received so much rice during Ramadan that they struck a deal with a rice dealer to re-sell the surplus stocks after Syawal for cash. And boy, they have piles and piles of those in their back storehouse. Those in the rural and those not so accessible and not so well known orphanages remained in the backwaters. Pity.
Back to my main story, on Friday we were arranged to break fast with a group of hostelites of a ‘common ‘ school in the northern tip of Sarawak. As usual the school made every effort to greet us and the welcome was warm and honest, despite the tired look on the faces of the teachers. We took the opportunity to have a briefing session to explain our current programmes and try to gain as much traction as possible with our troops on the ground. Despite not being a Muslim, the principal was very accommodating, accompanying us in every session except for the religious events. The surau is quite well equipped and we had our iftar in the dining hall – a place that is a throw back to my teaching days in Kuching – we even had to conduct impromptu tazkirah for the muslim students just before iftar. It was a laid back and simple affair. By 9.30pm we were back in our hotel. The next day, we were at a famous ‘college’, an old but new school. The schools is old but the buildings are new. The Governmet had to demolish and rebuilt the buildings as the old ones were no longer safe. The new sprawling complex is really superb, befitting a college title. After the usual briefings we were welcomed with a kompang troupe on our way to the modern looking surau. Teachers and students lined up on both sides of the pathway to the surau. I felt like I am in Kuala Besut! The events was highly organised by the students. There was the usual speeches and introductions. And there was a nasyid performance backed by with percussion ensemble. It was a highly polished affair. the students event light up the path to the dining hall with kerosene lanterns – just like the old days in the kampungs. I realy felt very guilty having to compel them go to such a length to welcome us. But the principal insisted that it was a part and parcel of their education. Well, I cannot argue with that. TQ everybody.