Meet Muhammad Nazmi, or Cikgu Nazmi, an English and Arts teacher in Sarawak who recently won the RISE Educator of the Year Award
Cikgu Nazmi was a teacher at SK Long Sukang for four years, before recently being transferred to SK Luagan in Lawas.
According to him, children in Sarawak's rural villages are very far behind their urban counterparts.
Nevertheless, despite the discrimination against his students for their poor academic development and the lack of basic necessities for learning, Cikgu Nazmi poured his soul into teaching them.
Inspired by Marvel's Professor X, Cikgu Nazmi took it upon himself to implement the Danger Room – using creative classroom settings to make lessons interesting and relatable
"In the X Men comics, Professor X took in all the mutants and trained them in the Danger Room, where he used holographic simulations of the outside world.
"I see that my kids face the same things – they are disconnected from the world, they face the discrimination. So, I bring the outside world to them," explained Cikgu Nazmi.
Cikgu Nazmi has simulated various scenarios in the classroom using easily available materials, such as constructing a swimming pool out of 200 plastic bags, and a launderette out of cardboard
“On my first day in SK Long Sukang, I was going to teach them about money transactions, but I realised the kids there have not seen ATM machines.
"They also have a problem with writing essays. Sometimes the exam questions are about talking of their experiences going to the beach or being on a plane, but they have never been to a beach or on a plane!” said Cikgu Nazmi.
Given that the villages are surrounded by jungles, with no Internet connection, rationed electricity, and poor coverage, he reveals that teachers can become demotivated
Without any means to contact their loved ones or the outside community, teachers in rural areas may lose their passion to teach. Furthermore, Cikgu Nazmi revealed that many viewed the children in those villages as "hopeless".
"People say, you don't need to put in any extra effort. They won't go anywhere. You teach them today, they will forget tomorrow. Why bother?" he added.
For Cikgu Nazmi, however, this fuels him to see his students succeed
Four years ago, when Cikgu Nazmi first came to SK Long Sukang, only four students in the entire school passed their essay papers.
By the time Cikgu Nazmi was transferred to SK Luagan, the students had made so much progress that the school actually produced the highest scoring student in the entire district.
Even during the Movement Control Order in Sarawak, Cikgu Nazmi rode for hours on trucks into 13 villages to deliver homework and school materials to every one of his 111 students
This birthed the 'offsite' model, now recognised and adopted by the Ministry of Education for rural and urban poor students.
His model of offsite learning was successful, especially due to cooperation from parents and villagers like Jenny Bulan Gelawat, who turned her home into a 'Learning Centre' for students of the school to gather and collect the learning materials.
There is a saying - it takes a village to raise a child. This is a literal living example of this.
His efforts were rewarded when he swept both the RISE Educator Award, chosen via public voting, and the RISE Educator of the Year Award, awarded by a panel of judges
In conjunction with Teacher’s Day, Taylor’s College and The Risers launched the RISE Educator Award to celebrate teachers who have made an impact on the lives of students in Malaysia, allowing parents and students to nominate teachers who have inspired them.
One parent even travelled over three hours from Kampung Long Sukang to the nearest town to get Internet connection in order to nominate Cikgu Nazmi for the Award, to ensure his efforts would not go unnoticed.
"Raising the next generation is a community effort, and we’re so glad that The Rise Educator Award has surfaced incredible tales of kindness, compassion, determination, and creativity shown by teachers, that have truly become an inspiration to Malaysians and all of us here at Taylor’s," said Josephine Tan, Taylor’s College Campus Director.
Read more about Cikgu Nazmi and the stories of the other four shortlisted teachers on Taylor's College's Facebook Page