For the Love of Teaching
Tatler Malaysia|August 2021
English teacher Samuel Isaiah is on a quest to prove that orang asli children have what it takes to excel academically
Chong Jinn Xiung

The orang Asli community of Malaysia is among the poorest and most marginalized groups in the country. In 2019, The Orang Asli Development Department reported that 99 percent of them live below the poverty line.

While education is normally the path to a better future, many orang Asli students are stigmatised as being lost causes. English teacher Samuel Isaiah wants to prove that orang Asli students are just as bright and talented as other students.

After graduating from Teacher’s Training College in Penang, he hoped to serve at an elite urban school with all the best facilities. Life had other plans for him though as he was assigned to teach in Sekolah Kebangsaan Runchang, a rural school near Pekan in 2012.

“There are so many issues affecting rural schools like the one I was assigned. Many lacked basic amenities, there was also high dropout rate and low school attendance among students,” explains Isaiah.

Nevertheless, Isaiah was not going to give up on his students. Every day he would travel 200km to and from the school, which was located deep in the forest. “I wanted to prove to Malaysians and the world, that indigenous communities are not hopeless. By using the right systems and methodology, they are capable of succeeding academically.”

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