The day has finally arrived! Iskul was able to throw a celebration to commemorate the progress our students have made since enrolled in our weekend classes in August 2015 – our very first Majlis Konvokesyen Pelajar dan Penghargaan Mastal Arikik Iskul Sama DiLaut Omadal 2020 (1st Students’ Convocation & Mastal Arikik Appreciation Ceremony 2020)!

The first trial class in August 2015, sees a group of 15 children from the stateless Bajau Laut community of Omadal Island taken their very first momentous step to learn. The eagerness in these children to attain knowledge remains ever joyous, be it the pioneer batch or the recent new intake. They beamed at the thought of attending lessons and take pride in being known to attend lessons with Iskul. And that was the fuel for Iskul. In return, we want to celebrate their journey through this convocation ceremony!

In order for us to be able to evaluate their progress upon graduation, we set a prerequisite that they must have completed or at least attempted the evaluation test for Bahasa Malaysia and Mathematics that we have prepared. A total of 18 students from the pioneer batch have come forth and took the challenge courageously. The reason why we said it was a brave step is that they have had almost one gap year where they did not attend to lessons in Iskul. This is because, in January 2019, Iskul lost two capable Field Coordinators and with no Mastal Arikik to carry out lessons, classes were put on hold. When Khairul returned in May 2019, he gathered a new intake of students and convinced two of the pioneer batch students to teach as Mastal Arikik. As 2019 progressed, lessons were conducted for the new intake of students. Since the pioneer batch students had learned the basics, they no longer want to attend classes.

What surprised us most was to find out that some of the students continue to learn on their own effort despite no classes held for the year! Their performance in the evaluation tests testify their effort and further proved to us the potential these children have if only they were given the chance. Just a brief recap, January lost two Field Coordinators and no Mastal Arikik, which forced us to close the classes until we were able to gather the teachers again. It is estimated that from August 2015 to December 2018, they have only attended about 70 days or 14 weeks (less than 4 months) of school over the past three years! You may read about the detailed analysis of the evaluation here.

It was a festive weekend as we hold Hari Sukan followed by the ceremony the day after. It took the whole team almost 2 weeks of preparation prior to the weekend. The invitation cards for parents have been delivered personally to the homes of students and Mastal Arikik, inviting them to witness the momentous ceremony for Iskul. For the first time, our students will be walking into a school compound and receiving their graduation certificate in a school hall. Iskul is very grateful to have Encik Budlaji, Principal of SK Pulau Omadal who has been encouraging and supportive in making this gift of experience to our students possible!

The night after the Hari Sukan, the team gathered at Pondok Iskul to make the finishing decoration touch-up for the stage. The next morning, we gathered at SK Pulau Omadal to set up the venue for the 7.30 pm event. Our pioneer batch students have also helped to arrange the chairs for the invited guests.

On 23 February 2020, Iskul’s 1st Students’ Convocation & Mastal Arikik Appreciation Ceremony 2020 was graced by MPKK Pulau Omadal Hujung, Tn Hj Jimlan Panglima Sabtuhari, Headmaster of SK Pulau Omadal, Encik Budlaji Bin Tianggi, as well as our very own Headmistress, Pn Roziah Jalalid. Our Field Coordinator, Khairul Atim was the Masters of Ceremony (MC) for the ceremony. The parents have arrived earlier and were served with a simple meal before the ceremony began.

The Principal of SK Pulau Omadal, Encik Budlaji Bin Tianggi complimented the initiative. He congratulated our students and encouraged our students not to feel inferior. Encik Budlaji further added that the school welcome the children as long as we all ensure that the school assets are taken care of.

This inaugural ceremony was successfully organised in a spacious environment, many thanks to the willingness of the Headmaster of SK Pulau Omadal who allowed us to use their solar panel hall. Iskul presented our shirt to the Headmaster of SK Pulau Omadal to commemorate our first collaboration and we look forward to future joint activities!

We are also very grateful to MPKK Tn Hj Jimlan for officiating our ceremony and as always encouraged our students and their parents to learn and be literate. As the fatherly figure to Iskul, he has always been watching over us and in his speech, he has never failed to remind our students to step away from glue-sniffing addiction and focus on learning.

Besides celebrating our pioneer students who have successfully completed their basic (preschool) learning, we also celebrate their parents who had helped to ensure that they attend classes every weekend. We are very proud of our students and their parents for making learning a priority despite living in poverty! 

During the event, our hearts warmed as we witnessed our student representative as well as currently one of our Mastal Arikik, Enidah courageously say a short sentence of gratitude in Bahasa Malaysia.

Enidah also sang a song entitled, “Cinta Luar Biasa” during the closing performance. Oh, our hearts! 

As the ceremony aptly named, it is also to acknowledge the effort and time invested by our Mastal Arikik (MA) over the years. They took time off their weekends to teach their friends from the stateless community. We have 10 MAs who have volunteered their time for Iskul and the stateless community. To conclude the ceremony, Izwan, representing our Mastal Arikik to perform a song in the closing.

Moving forward, we hope to have them returning to learn as we work towards providing more advanced classes and/or other skills-building classes for them. Of course, we also hope to hold another convocation ceremony for the current intake, perhaps in a year or two!