NEWS that Marilenancy Johnny had managed to score an A for her Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) Chinese composition paper was rather interesting for me.
Yes, this Iban pupil from SJK Chung Hua Lutong put many of her Chinese classmates to shame by achieving the top grade in a paper considered to be particularly tough this year.
Reading her story a couple of days ago made me very proud to be a Sarawakian. Call me sentimental in my old age, but I am always pleased to learn of Sarawakians who continue to defy the boxes that some quarters insist on putting us into.
How many times have you heard some people, usually those from outside this great State of ours, say that if you are Chinese or Malay you are supposed to be a certain way or do certain things. I did not include Dayak into that category because we all know on certain forms Dayak and Melanau simply come under a box called Other!
Well we Sarawakians don’t fit into such boxes necessarily. Marilenancy certainly doesn’t. Judging from the fact that she writes so well in Chinese, she definitely puts many of my Chinese friends to shame because they can neither speak Mandarin or read, let alone write, Chinese characters.
However, these Sarawakian Chinese friends of mine speak Bahasa Sarawak fluently. I have a Chinese aunt who has an excellent command of Iban. In fact she speaks Iban better than she does English. Then there’s another Chinese uncle who speaks Biatah, and no one can fault his accent either. And of course my Iban uncle speaks Hockien.
I am sure my family is not the exception in Sarawak. I know of many other families where various languages are heard during get-togethers.
Friends of different ethnic groups also speak different languages together and are often keen to learn the languages of others.
During a trip to Malaya not so long ago, as we passed a Chinese-medium school, I commented to my taxi driver that in Sarawak, many Bumiputera — Dayak and Malay — send their children to such schools. And that in fact the majority of students in Chinese-medium schools in the rural areas are Bumiputera. He was quite stunned by the concept. He couldn’t comprehend why Bumiputeras would want to study in Chinese-medium schools.
Now the point is that in Sarawak, and I hope this never changes, we are willing to accept each other no matter what our race or religion. Let’s try to hang on to this always.
How The Borneo Post reported it:
Iban girl scores A in Chinese essay
By Philip Kiew
MIRI: Chinese composition is considered one of the most difficult UPSR subjects but an Iban pupil from SJK Chung Hua Lutong has scored an impressive ‘A’ in the subject, which has left even her teachers speechless.
Marilenancy Johnny scored an A, putting many Chinese students to shame, as she defied the odds in the toughest UPSR subject where the questions were particularly difficult this year.
Her classmate in Class 6B, Marini Wilson was another big surprise, scoring 4A’s that blew her and her entire school away as her previous results proved to be a wrong barometer.
Her teacher Wong Ding Niew was moved to tears as her student hugged her asking, “I can’t believe it. How did I do it, teacher?”
“I have never, never, in my wildest dream expected Marilenancy to score an A in Chinese composition because even Chinese students find it very hard to score an A, and I have to bring Marini out of hiding as she could not believe the news when she was first informed by her classmates,” the teary teacher said.
The other Iban pupils who obtained excellent results were Oliviana Richard Cherryline Alban Romeo (5A’s) and Leonardas Emai Jackson who scored 4A’s.
There was improvement in the passing rate of the school led by headmistress Angelina Lee Ik Ching with the full support of her teachers, where pupils were given tuition in school daily. She said the results would not be possible without the hard work, dedication and sacrifices of the teachers in guiding and pushing their pupils consistently, and she looked forward to continuing the momentum.
The school has been in the doldrums in performance where half of the pupil population is native, and the Chinese language has always proven to be the stumbling block for the school to excel.
Under the renewed style and methods of teaching and preparation for the public examinations injected by Lee, both students and teachers reaped the rewards of the right formula and their hard work as evidenced in the results this year.
Although the improved passing rate is still below the target set by the school, the teachers are already looking forward to next year to move up to the next level.
The school has one 7A’s achiever, 6A’s (1), 5A’s (6) and 4A’s (7).
The top performers are encouraged to continue to work hard and not get carried away in secondary schools, while those with less impressive results to work harder.