Ethnic Indian boy the only student at Malaysian school

August 12th, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Aug 12 (IANS) V. Sivasanthiran, a 12-year-old ethnic Indian boy, is bored with school despite getting excessive attention from his teachers. The reason, he is the only student in the school. Sivasanthiran is studying Chinese at the SJK (C) Padang Gajah, a school in Trong some 30 km from Taiping, the capital of Perak state.

Being the only student, he is fussed over by headmaster Ooi Ah Bee, 55, and teacher Lim Shu Miin, 28 - the school’s only teachers. Miin and Ooi share the teaching. While Miin teaches Mandarin, the headmaster takes charge of English, art, physical education and music.

Sivasanthiran’s story was front-paged by the New Straits Times Tuesday with a photograph of him attired in a white shirt and blue shorts and flanked by his Chinese teacher and school principal.

Asked why he remained at the school and did not seek a transfer, the shy boy said: “My father wants me to learn Mandarin so that it will be easy for me to get a job in the future.”

The school, which opened in 1953, is possibly the only one in the country where teachers outnumber students.

This has been the situation in the last two years following a drop in the school’s enrolment in the late 1980s due to the migration of the mainly Chinese people to cities.

Being the only student is not much fun and Sivasanthiran is looking forward to attending secondary school next year where he will have classmates to talk to and play with.

“It can be quite lonely. I can’t wait for the school term to end,” he said in halting Mandarin. His Tamil-speaking parents work in an estate nearby.

Sivasanthiran’s parents have enrolled him in the nearby SMK Tat Beng school for his secondary education.

For teacher Lim, her first posting to the school after graduating from a teacher training college was not what she had expected.

“I was posted here two-and-a-half years ago. It is difficult to describe how I felt when I first reported for duty.

“It can be boring at times. I keep myself busy by doing office work as we do not have a clerk here,” said Lim.

The school’s own unique situation, however, is coming to an end. It will close its doors at the end of the year and be relocated.

“We may have the smallest number of students, but we still function like any other school,” said Lim.

Indians, a bulk of them Tamil-speaking, came to Malaysia during the British era. They form eight percent, while ethnic Chinese comprise roughly 33 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million population.

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