What does Malaysia Day mean to you?

It may be a question that demands only a few seconds to answer that is burning in patriotism, or it may demand reciting a definition you have learned from reading somewhere. For the stateless children – more specifically, students in Iskul – they will exchange glances, totally clueless, or maybe they will stare back at you, lifting their shoulder claiming they have no idea. Well, they do not even know their birth date, the number 16-9 means absolutely nothing unless it is a monetary value.

For Ee Chia and me, we are eager to want to celebrate the day because we feel that it is important for the stateless children to feel belonged to a country, although they do not own citizenship anywhere. We want them to feel safe and secured residing in Omadal, where most of them were born. We even imagine learning our national anthem with them! Ambitious much, we had to reset our expectations later.

Weeks prior to our arrival, we had assigned our Mastal Arikik to plan the special class with the intention to share with our Iskul students the history behind the date and why is it an important lesson for us to know. However, when we arrived on the island, we realised that even our Mastal Arikik – Malaysian students attending Malaysian schools are yet to be aware of the history behind the date. Imagine our surprise. To our comfort, one of the Mastal Arikik do know that it is the day Malaysia is formed but no further details. I realised how late in our education path that we only learned of our country’s history – in Form 5 or the last year of our secondary education. My immediate question was how can we teach our little teachers the history in the shortest time and how can we then translate that in the simplest way to the understanding of our students?

Malaysia Day is held on 16 September every year to commemorate the establishment of the Malaysian federation on the same date in 1963. It marked the joining together of Malaya, North Borneo (now Sabah), Singapore and Sarawak to form Malaysia. That was the message we decided to convey during the class.

Mastal Arikiks were assigned to draw two Malaysia’s maps labelled with 14 states in Malaysia while Ee Chia and I crafted a simple and short way to present the history behind Malaysia Day which we assigned our Mastal Arikik the main roles.

Our students arrived very early on the morning of the Malaysia Day, eager to attend to class. Ee Chia and I are even more excited as we present them their first Iskul t-shirt that morning. That smile on their face! What a way to start a morning! They were all quickly changed and were dressed in an enthusiastic red for the Malaysia Day class.

We began our class by singing our Iskul song followed by marking attendance. The class was simple, to teach them the obvious – date of the Malaysia Day, 16 September 1963. Following that, we invited our Mastal Arikik to present the short sketch to illustrate what happened that day. In that sketch, we also taught them new words such as Malaya, Semenanjung, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapura. After that, our Mastal Arikik showed Malaysia maps and verbally introduces the 14 states in Malaysia, word by word to our students. All work and no play make learning exceptionally dull. We concluded the Malaysia Day class by distributing Malaysia’s flag and having our students learn to draw our flag. We have also provided our student meal after class as a celebration of Malaysia Day as well as acknowledging their efforts in learning that day.

We are really happy to have the class that day. Their eagerness to learn, their enthusiasm to complete their flags first – those were precious moments that touched our hearts at end of the day. Learning is only rewarding if one takes learning beyond knowledge; it is one’s attitude to learning that takes the lessons beyond. One thing for sure, we do expect our Mastal Arikik to be preparing the Malaysia Day class next year.


For more photos, go here.