Everything starts with a dream…
One of the cliches that had been circulating around is the following sentence, in which the reader is required to put appropriate punctuations
A WOMAN WITHOUT HER MAN IS NOTHING
Many man would have put a coma after the woman, but a clever woman has put the most appropriate punctuation and it became like this
A WOMAN, WITHOUT HER, MAN IS NOTHING!
When a woman complains and a man listens…
I think I want to quit….she whispered.
May be not yet….my simple reply. I sat closer and put my arm around her shoulder, fingers gently stroking her hair…
That must be her tenth or eleventh time of ‘tempting’ me to say yes. But even the last time when I did, she still carried on. One day she came back really look exhausted, eyes swollen with tears. I can’t cope anymore….too many complaints…everything I did was wrong….she murmured. After a long conversation (well, most of the time I just listened, my only strength being a patient listener) she cooled down. We spoke and spoke about it again. I did not want to interfere in the school affair. She is the Headmistress, she practically runs every bit of the school, inevitably there are always problems, and any unpleasant things happened at school will bother her. Often time, after the school board meeting she will share certain issues (I kept it to myself, its confidential afterall), have I registered everything she said, I would have become sleepless and exhausted as much or even more….woman, you know is good in telling you everything, while man is generally more reluctant. When stressed, women talk, but men under stress will withdraw into their inner ‘caves’ and keep quiet.
Long ago, a man met a woman, history began
She has been a resounding success.
What began more than 20 years ago, had materialised into a colourful history. And I always would like to claim the credit, even if I don’t deserve it. It was her quality.
One day, 21 years ago, during a meeting at an Islamic school in Dublin Ireland there were voices of desperation, as there were shortage of women activitsts to help build the school in the community. I told one of the committee members, that there is going to be a very good muslimah from Malaysia coming to Ireland, she will actively participate and possibly take a leading role…and that news really pleased them. It was a promise came true. Only later they knew the ‘woman’ I meant was my future wife, who joined me to live in Dublin following our marriage.
She began in a small way, involved in the study circle among the young Muslim girls, organising their camps and other indoor and outdoor activities. Then she gradually got involved in the community school, many people liked her and she quickly gained their trust, more so because the husband is someone they knew for long. She started to get involved in the teaching and later recruited as a board member of the school. Meanwhile she continued her activism in the community, making herself known as a representative of the Malaysian Muslim community there.
With such a unique background, when we finally returned home to Malaysia for good, it wasn’t long before she was offered a post as a teacher in the preschool of Adni Islamic School. Yes it was not a very prestigious position. But I was happy enough, knowing that such a position will help her to continue her interest in education, while giving her ample time to manage the children, as we just began new life back home.
It wasn’t long before she climbed in rank to be one of the assistants to the Principal, maintaining the same commitment in the preschool education and later the primary school teaching. But she was never satisfied remaining in the same position all the time, she wanted to move further. Finally she quit Adni and told me she just wanted a rest so she could follow me everytime I go abroad! That’s not a problem with me of course a pleasure to have her company, but at the same time I wanted her to progress further. There was not a long gap, when, in 2011 Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia WP initiated the community education project, which aimed at building more Musleh schools at each state. This was the start of the Sekolah Islam Al-Amin WP Wangsa Maju, when they invited her to be part of the project committee. As the committee began planning seriously, they needed someone with a sound background in teaching plus experience in the preschool to add uniqueness to their brand new school. And Wan fit their requirement perfectly.
A new beginning…the making of a diamond
I took a deep breath, it was great, great news. It also meant she is holding a very important and busy position in the community, and as I am becoming busier in my practice, it only meant our life will ever become more hectic. But I did not see that as a hindrance, we had to keep going in our ‘dakwah’ life. And this one time opportunity should not be wasted. At first she herself was a bit reluctant, but once she started off, everything went off smoothly. It wasn’t long before her school began making name in the community, many of the achievements were partly attributed to her innovative approaches in many things. She told me, she wanted to be unique and do things beyond ‘ordinary’, some of the traits that she inherited from that long years of experience in Ireland. Just think of ordinary events at school – sports day, award presentation, teachers day – all were organised and tuned into something thrilling and memorable. Even the school teachers were not spared a rest, and having their creativity drilled into the deepest, they have come up with this excellent musical band and a ‘nashid’ group teamed up with another celeberity, producing a commercial album.
The school that began in a humble corner lot buiding grew up from mere 2 classrooms of 87 children to a current state of over 400 children and 40 staff. They introduced the preschool and daycare school which was a great attraction to parents – so they can leave their toddlers for all day while they are at work, while their school going children will stay at the daycare when the formal school hours ended while awaiting collection.
Then they introduced the tahfiz (Quran memorisation) which is a highly popular program in Islamic School. Interestingly the children are able to join the tahfiz program without having to miss a year or two of their regular school, this calls for special adjusted syllabus or modules. This excellent Quranic program have produced many excellent Quranic readers and chlldren who memorise up to 4 juzu’(chapter) of the Quran beginning from Year 4. Later they intoduced intensive tahfiz that began in Year 1 aimed at training the children to memorise as many as 15 juzu’ (half of the Quran) by the end of their primary school.
The revised curriculum which was slightly different from the mainstream Al Amin school is a powerful tool that some other schools including external ones developed interest and request permission to adapt it for their own curriculum.
Even at its infancy the children have had the greatest exposure and it is not too much to claim that the school began its international outreach, when a delegation from Korea paid a visit to the school to study their unique curriculum and teaching method. The children have had the opportunity to learn other cultures in South East Asian when the school organised educational (and charity) trip to Acheh last year, and Pnom Penh this year.
As a recognition of her achievement, Wan was nominated most potential Headmistress among the new Al Amin School of Malaysia. The school received recognition from the Ministry of Education (Co-Curriculum) and won financial awards from several authorities including the JAWI and Selangor government.
Managing a school is a very demanding job. Dealing with children from a variety of background, parents with divergent views, teaching staff and the school board, and not to forget the authorities. And the food often bothered her. Frequent complaints from children and parents alike, and staff who testified to quality of the food services had her ‘stretched’ her authority a bit further by enforcing rules to improve the food provision by the school caterer. This led to the state Ikram excos drawn into the ‘conflict’ which caused uneasiness among some people. Then there were issues with the Parents-Teachers body, with their unnerving views on the school. Though I was one of the state Ikram excos then, I restrained from interfering, any issues about the school that were raised in the meeting, usually came from the dedicated education committee. If there were arguments or disagreement, I stayed in the neutral.
But, at home I gave her full moral support. Everyday there is always a new thing she updated me on the school. Often she asked for advice or help such as writing draft of her speech. Since I left Ireland, I had completely left behind interest in education and young children. Mounting responsibilites at work prohibited me from committing seriously in any community affair, I admitted this as my weakness. Therefore, having the previliged to support my wife and occasionally give hand in things like medical opinion or services when required, or even donating money and promoting the school to friends and other people were among the little things I could do to help.
As time goes by, she became busier, two days in a week she will have meetings – one for school, another for the Ikram activities, and another night each of us have our own group usrah. Means, in a week sometimes only a day or two when both of us are free and available at home, this certainly somehow compromise quality time for our children as well as both of us as a couple. Sometimes, I will come over to her during lunchtime, evening or even morning when she is free for a cup of coffee or meal. Yes, I do it, now you know as time goes by, who is the busier one between us! Nevertheless, I thank God for this, and both of us tried to use that little free time together as a family.
She is good in involving everyone into her working career, and at the same time this create opportunities or even new jobs. There were friends and relatives looking for jobs, with appropriate qualifications she recruited them to various temporary and later permanent position as teachers or administrators. Even our children and their school friends were involved, helping as part time teaching staff during holidays, or helping the school children performances. One day she told me the school aimed to create usrah group for all teachers, and there were vacancy of ‘naqib’ or group leader for one of the usrah, I happily agreed to lead.
At some point there was uneasiness among the staff when the issues of appointment of one’s own relatives were brought up. That may have involved our own children, cousin or even her own sister (and brother in law). That was quite a challenge that must be handled delicately. I suggested to her that all decisions on appointments of her own relatives should be handled by the selection committee and agreed, independent of her, well documented and minutes recorded in the board meeting. Everything should be documented, and the appointees should not at any time take advantage of them being a relative to the Headmistress to gain special previliges like prolonged leave etc.
Quitting for a better position?
Five years of success in building the school. No doubt it is heading in the right direction. Despite lack of funding and inadequate resources, frequently changing staff and teachers, slow approval from the authorities, the school is making great progress and received several local and national recognition awards.
Now she wants to quit, she thought she has done enough and want to rest or perhaps do something else? Yeah this one woman is not happy doing one thing for too long and I have to think of what is her next line…
As the Al Amin primary school is soon producing its graduate (year six students, including my daugher), they now have to plan where therse children should go the following year. This was the impetus for yet another project, building the secondary school. At the same time they are still looking for alternative new school buidling complex that could possibly accommodate both the primary and secondary schools.
They had an offer from one of the closed factory building, not very far from the current school, big enough to accommodate the need for the above. However, in the final moment the bid fail due to some administrative issue and they had to look for other options.
While the process was going on, now there is a new opportunity coming up, the post as Secondary School Principal. I told her to go for it. She was not very keen. ‘I just want to quit’. She said it firmly. She wanted to concentrate on the children. She wanted to care for the little boy Hazim, and our younger daughter who is entering secondary school. She thought her job had been busy enough that she yearned to be back as a fulltime housewife.
She always joked, arguing that the reason I don’t want her to quit because I would not like her to be a full time housemaker, as this will give her a lot more time to ‘bother’ me. But my point, looking at her accomplishment, she is capable of achieving more, give more to the society – this is something I myself could not do. So let me make money and support the family, while she goes out to the community, that was my point.
The ‘brothers’ out there were good at persuasion. They firmly said she is currently the best candidate to lead this new school based on a unique acclaim of ‘usahawan’ (enterprenaurship), in the end she agreed.
At any stage of her social involvement, it was never about money. When she started at Adni, she was paid a meager salary, she used to tell friends that she received her monthly from the husband, much more thant what the school gave her (involving in teaching was more from her passion than money). Even now, when she is earning quite a handsome amount monthly, she never worried about not having money if she stopped working. At the management level, she had fought hard to ensure the teachers and staff were renumerated appropriately, given their yearly allowance etc at par or even better than other schools. But she never fought for her own self! Now as she was offered this new position, she quietly told me, she may be paid less due to some ‘mistakes’ by the administration. She had given them words, that unless this matter is rectified, she will not take the offer. I think it is a fair demand, it’s not about the amount, but it was about how people acknowledge and recognise your achievement. I am sure the issue will be resolved, and will soon see a smiling face on the headline, a new school with a unique brand of enterpreneurship (Sekolah Menengah Usahawan).
They always say, behind a successful man, there is a woman. And behind a successful woman, there is certainly a man, at least in our case. One day, I stood beside a friend, whose wife is also a teacher holding the post of assistant Principal. He said ‘hard life for them, harder for us having to listen tot their moaning daily…’ Then we both smile and proudly said, we have made ‘great’ contribution to the community, by giving our women to them, and this is our sacrifice as men…
Some background of the Sekolah Menengah Usahawan Al Amin Ulu Klang (SMUAAUK)
Rapidly expanding world technology, global culture and communication poses new challenges in imparting education to the young people. Developing resilient Muslim personalities that possess integrity and intelligence to adapt to changes is essential elementl in modern education. The Akademi Al-Amin Sdn Bhd had come up with this idea of opening an Enterpreneurship school adopting the idea of developing credible personalities that will be able to face future such as the ability to self-manufacture employment and adapting to more diverse culture of the outside world.
Among the co-curricular activities planned are clubs and societies, sports and games, ‘wafdul Amin’, Co-Curriculum Carnival, Robotic. ‘Tarbiyyah’ or Islamic education such as Usrah/study circle, Daurah/iftar/itikaf and mukhayyam dagili (personal development camp). They emphasised on discipline and personality development, leadership, cleanliness and happiness, counseling, charity, safety and merit and demerit system. Subjects covered (for a start Form 1 and 2) include Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Inggeris, Matematik, Bahasa Arab Komunikasi, Science, Sejarah, Geografi, Kemahiran Hidup and Pendidikan Islam along with ‘Diniyyah’ Al-Amin curriculum’such as Tasawwur Islami, AlQuran and ICT.
Registration (Form 1 and 2) are open now at http://www.al-amin.edu.my/
Views expressed in this writing is entirely of my own, not related to any organisation or other individuals. I am a senior member of Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia and hold the post of Chairman of Ikramhealth.