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from experience.

Child of Hope
By: Nurul Kamilah Binti Mat Kamil

Tears welled up in my eyes, as I choked out a reply to my teacher’s question.
“I’m sorry, teacher, I cannot read this. It’s in English.”

I saw Mr. Teo go red in the face, ready to spank me.

“What has your mother taught you? She’s an English teacher, how can she not have taught you anything?”

The tears came streaming down my cheeks, as I ran out of the class, terrified. Mr Teo called after me, but I didn’t even look back.

As I was halfway down the corridor, heading for the exit, a gentle hand grasped my wrists.

“Sany,” the soft voice beckoned.

I spun around to see Miss Hasniza, my foster mother and English teacher.

“Where are you going?” She asked, her face contorting in concern.

“I want to go back.”

She held my small, trembling body in an embrace. “It’s all right.”

Miss Hasniza took me to the cafeteria and sat me down on a chair like a toddler. She bought me a currypuff, and calmly told me to eat, even though recess was over an hour ago.

“Mr. Teo is very hot-tempered, but he’s very kind-hearted if you get to know him.”

I bit my lip obstinately. Mr. Teo was one of those people who never understood people like me.

I was of the Temiar clan; a child of nature. It was Miss Hasniza who introduced me to the concrete jungle when she adopted me last month. I never got used to my new surroundings. I missed the singing of the crickets at night, the cooling rush of the river at my feet and the feel of moss on my fingers as I played in the trees. Most of all, I missed my ageing mother.

“Let’s go to the computer lab, shall we?”

I looked up at my teacher in surprise. That was unexpected; usually she would coax me to get back to class.

I stifled back a tear, “okay.”
Heads turned in the staff room as the other teachers saw the young, petite teacher walk with a grubby little boy at her side down the corridor.

Hand-in-hand, Miss Hasniza led me past the school garden to the computer lab. The garden was a myriad of colors, from morning glories to rhododendrons, and allamandas. Butterflies floated by, and birds chirped merrily, lifting the gloom from my heart. I was calmed by the presence of nature.

Upon entering the vacant computer lab, Miss Hasniza brought out her mobile phone and dialed a number. She spoke for awhile to the person on the other line. Then, when she finished, she turned to me. “Do you remember how to turn on the computer?”

Miss Hasniza knew my passion for computers. I nodded, enthusiastically. “I’ll try.”

After about half-an-hour fumbling with the buttons, I successfully managed to turn on the computer without much damage to the equipment, or to myself.

I watched as Miss Hasniza turned on the contraption she called a ‘web cam’. Without warning, she snapped a photo of me using the web cam. I watched in amazement as a picture of my moody face was displayed on the screen. I almost laughed looking at my face. It was contorted into such ugly features. I thought of the jembalang stories my mother told me. I smiled to myself secretly.

Then, Miss Hasniza introduced me to the internet. “You know, you can communicate with other people in other places using the web cam. It’s like a magic mirror.”

I looked at her in fascination. “Show me.”

All of a sudden, an unrecognizable man’s face appeared on the screen. I was startled, but Miss Hasniza calmed me down.

“This is Mr. Subramaniam. He’s in charge of the ICT program at your village.”

The man beamed as he stepped back, allowing the face of an older woman to fill the screen- it was my mother!

Tears began streaming down my face again, but I quickly wiped them away, because I knew that my mother wouldn’t want to see me unhappy. I put on a brave face for her.

“How are you, son?” She spoke in our native tongue.

“I miss you, ma.”

“I miss you too, son.”

I reached out a finger and touched the screen. “I want to go back to you, ma.”

“You have to be strong, son. We depend on you. Miss Hasniza will help you.”

In the background, my brother and sisters were playing. They were dressed in my old t-shirts that were handed down to them after I left for the city.

A teardrop fell on the keyboard as I rested my heavy head on the monitor. I clutched at my shirt. How I wished my mother, brothers and sisters would be here. How I wished they had proper clothes to wear, how I wished they could see the technological marvels I’ve seen, taste the nasi lemak, sleep in a warm, comfy bed at night, how I wished…

“It’s okay, ma. I’ll be strong for you.” I croaked.

After saying good bye to her, I cried in Miss Hasniza’s arms.

Since that day, I’ve tried my best in everything, especially in English. I was far behind in my class, but I struggled. Miss Hasniza was always there when I needed the support, encouraging me to go on, when everybody else ignored me, when they have all given up on me.

“He’ll never get anywhere. The least he’ll get is a ‘c’, and that’s as good as 5A’s for an illiterate orang asli like him,” I hear people sometimes whisper under their breaths.

I sometimes cried, knowing that fact, but every night, Miss Hasniza would tell me that it’ll soon get better the next day. With that optimism in mind, my days did get better indeed.

In my hands today, I hold my diploma in education. I will return to my village to teach the younger generation there. I am forever indebted to Miss Hasniza, the teacher who changed my life. Thank you, teacher.

Word count: 998


aRiFF hAFIZi said…

nie essay 4 pertandingan esei sempena hari guru peringkat kebangsaan 2009 ke??

nice essay, kam..
keep it up!!

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