By SMAS English Department teacher and Lower School Coordinator Chris Hadley (CfBT)
On Saturday 21st of January 2017 Sekolah Menengah Awang Semaun (SMAS) had the pleasure of hosting eleven visiting year 11 students and their teacher from International School Brunei (ISB). The main event for the visit was a ceremony for the students who lost their homes in the recent fires in Kampong Ayer and other students to be presented with gifts of school equipment.
The visit came about when, in my capacity as a CfBT teacher working at Awang Semaun, I heard about a project that the International School had been running to help local communities and initiated links between the schools. The project, which is overseen for ISB by English Department teacher Maggie Rait, was inspired by a field trip to Vietnam that some of the students went on when they were in year 10. They had made links with an orphanage in Vietnam and had visited to help refurbish and support the home. When they returned they were keen to support communities closer to home and had heard that some students in areas of deprivation in Kampong Ayer and in The Penan Tribe of Malaysia were not able to fully access education because they did not have the correct equipment. ISB set up an appeal for students and their families to donate brand new school bags and equipment such as books, pencil cases, stationary, etc. Over 500 bags were donated by the ISB school community.
Over 80 bags were given to SMAS and arrangements made for some of the ISB students involved in the project to come and hand over bags to SMAS students. The year 11 students, most of whom are members of the school council, were also keen to find a focus for this year’s project and so the visit was planned to include a fact-finding research element whereby key staff involved with student welfare at SMAS and some students themselves were interviewed. The students at ISB hope to set up an Exchange Programme with SMAS to develop relations and support each other.
The day started with a trip on the government boat from Pusar Ulak to SMAS jetty. The ISB students attended assembly and then set up the Staff Lounge for the ceremony later in the morning before taking a tour of the school campus.
The tour included a visit to the pre-vocational room where the special needs students were studying. The five special needs students were presented with bags to help them with their studies and were very pleased to receive them. It was a very nice moment. The teacher in charge of the pre-vocational room, Cg Tainun told the visitors about the special needs students’ work and very kindly presented the ISB students with two pieces of artwork made by the special needs students.
Cg Tainun can be seen here (3rd from right) along with Maggie Rait (centre) and the ISB students from left to right- Eriss Nasim, Willly Wee, Harry Swindolls, Hafidz Isham, Elysa Shezali, Aida Ariffin, Chaeyeon Song, Mei Yan Soh. Front Row- Farisya Khairul, Razel Hendra, Dayana Kula.
After the tour, five of the ISB students visited class 7A and six joined 8A for a Q&A session during period 3.
During periods 4 & 5 a ceremony was held in the Staff Lounge for students affected by recent fires in Kampong Ayer. Also invited were fire victims from last year and orphans from across the school. Members of the English Department were there to help including CfBT teachers Piripi Rawari, Darren Taylor and Raymond George and Cg. Hannah who kindly acted as MC for the proceedings. Cg. Nurfadilah from the Welfare Section played a key role in making sure all the students who were due to receive a gift were in attendance. Cg. Khairul Rizal and members of the schools CCA Media club were on hand to record the events while one of my classes, 7A, joined us as an audience to take notes for a recount writing task about the ceremony.
DP Academic Cg. Hjh Norsinah addressed the assembled students before I explained the reason for the visit and Maggie gave more background to the community projects that ISB undertake and expressed her hope that links could be made between the schools. Year 11 Head Boy Hafidz spoke on behalf of the ISB students responsible for organizing the donation drive.
Over 50 SMAS students were presented with backpacks containing school equipment.
The students who had been affected by the recent fires in Kg. Ayer along with the ISB students and members of staff from both schools doing the obligatory ‘free style’ pose!
During the morning break the visiting students ate in the canteen and chatted with many SMAS students. After that and for the rest of the morning the ISB students were involved in a series of meetings and interviews with key members of staff including DP Academic Hjh Norsinah, DP Administration Cg. Hj. Fadhillah, Cg. Nurfadilah from the Welfare Section, School Counselors Cg. Hamdillah and Cg. Nur Hasiefah and Head School Librarian Mahali. The purpose of the meetings was to find out the challenges that the students at SMAS face and find ways to help with focused future community projects. At 12:30pm, after a busy and very productive and enjoyable morning the visiting students and their teacher boarded the government boat back on their return to ISB.
Chris Hadley (4th from right) with the Yr 11 ISB students at the ISB campus in Kg Sungai Hanching.
The contingent from ISB expressed their heartfelt thanks at being invited and being made to feel so welcome at SMAS. Staff from SMAS expressed what a pleasure it had been to meet the ambassadors from ISB. They went away with positivity and enthusiasm for future plans. It was recognized by all parties that it had been a very successful visit and that there are many ways in which the two schools can build links, relationships and collaborations in the future. Plans are already underway for a return visit, for some English O level students and staff from SMAS to visit the ISB campus and for a project to help enhance the SMAS Library entrance.
Lower School Co-ordinator, English Dept. SMAS and CfBT