Anyway, I've kept this picture in my phone to remind me that there are still wolves clothed in sheepskin.
My encounter with this fler occurred because I was 'kicked out of SMJK Keat Hwa 1 for insisting that actions be taken on a teacher who had been cursing students. That teacher had been using curses like "I curse you to die by jumping down from buildings" and many other 'super-expressive' phrases. As the result of pushing for actions on that teacher, both my colleague and I were unceremoniously 'kicked out... supposedly in a semblance of fairness. We had to be transferred out too with that teacher. Anyway, that's another story which I have ranted on.
So there I was, in 2019, bruised after believing that standing up against a teacher bully was the right thing to do. Turned out, I was wrong. And that's how we ended up in Keat Hwa 2. And in this school, it was reinforced that to be a bully especially when one claims to have a 'bapa angkat' is possible. One can conjure up many thoughts at the thought of an almost 60 year old woman claiming to have a 'bapa angkat'.
I knew this fler's husband before as we had worked together before. So, my friend and I were warmly welcomed and I set down to work. Little was I to know what awaited.... The impressive structure of the school was all just a facade... and this facade is a far worse one than KH 1.
As the weeks wore on, it became clear that Keat Hwa 2 was not a very conducive place. If I had any inclination that Keat Hwa 1 was damaging enough with its communist cadre style of hair code, Keat Hwa 2 was worse. It had the same hair code but felt like a prison. I believe that a school should be a vibrant place for kids to discover themselves. But the restrictive environment of this school made it feel like a jail. In the coming months we would hear sounds of caning quite often. Being in an enclosed structure somehow amplified those whipping sounds.
There were many stories from students about teachers abusing the students, verbal and physical ones. There was a teacher who would hurl verbal insults including 4-letter words in class. But nothing beat the canings, I think. Kids were caned for being late, and failing to memorise lines for choral speaking. The school believed it was the right way to go about disciplining the kids. But I think somewhere along, the line became blur and some were rather sadistic.
My take... Chinese schools present this disciplined appearance. Increasingly, we are slowly losing it because we are just failing to engage the students. In a Chinese school, I guess we can go back into history and see the similarity of the legalistic nature of Shih Huang-di's reign. Legalism during his reign meant that betrayal and treachery of even family members against family members was a practice. Control is attained by stoking fear. Imagine a school operating even just some semblance of such a practice, and kids spending their formative years in such a place.. by the time they leave school, their formative years are spent mostly repressed. Academic results will be sterling but confidence in certain areas would be lacking. This is the culture of 'you do as I say, no questions asked.'
That aside, both my friend and I set down to our work. I never missed a day of work nor a class in my 7 months there. I put in full effort for all my classes. Yet all those weren't enough. Two things became issues.
The first issue was extra class. When asked to give extra classes in March, I said no as I felt that I did not need the extra time to finish the syllabus. My students were responding well in class. I felt it was too early to have any extra classes. (The facade of extra class requires another post to elaborate.) I told her that I would do it if I feel a need. Moreover, I had already set up a Google Classroom for my students. Any extra work could be dealt from there. It was only February when we had the conversation.
The second issue was a RM1,000 donation for the school basketball court. The coupons had been thrusted on all the Chinese teachers. But the Malay teachers were exempted. But as I had not been approached, I just left the matter be. But apparently, RM1,000 (make that RM2,000, including my friend's) was not an amount that she was going to let go. Since she was the head and we worked under her, I guess she felt she had a say in our salary too.
By May, I thought she would just leave us be.. but again, I was wrong. She must have been scheming and looking for reasons. And then one day, my friend was called in for a 'mentoring and coaching' session. You see, teachers are supposed to be afraid of such sessions. My friend too had not missed a class or day to school. To cut the long chase, my friend was told to settle the RM1,000 donation, despite having raised the fact that RM1,000 was a huge sum! A few days passed. I was not called. I thought that was the end. But as I have learned, this Chua fler would not leave it be. After all, if other teachers knew about us not paying, there would be mutiny! And so, I was called in.
I recorded the meeting. The wonder of a recording is it offers hindsight. As I replayed it, it became clear that as soon as I got in, she was playing a psychological game to intimidate, Of course, after being kicked around so much, I couldn't really care for all these psycho play. Thing is, the hour long mentoring and coaching session didn't sound like one. In the end, it came to the same thing...the RM1,000 donation. And it was clear that I was not going to give. Such kinds of HMs resort to the 'stick' to get the teachers to toe her line.
By end of May itself, I got word that she was bad-mouthing me in her Mesyuarat Pentadbir. Word got to me about my impending transfer and I began to edit my recording of conversation with her. Also, my friend and I started snooping around. What we unearthed was horrible. We discovered her phantom timetable. She had created a last period for herself in a class and nestled it in such a way that it would be easily missed if she cancelled the class. And cancelled they were, those classes. And no one said anything. It was just impossible that the timetable teacher did not know about it.
A few months earlier, my friend had noticed discrepancy in the school procurement of sports equipment. We did some investigations of our own and found that badminton rackets bought the previous year had been bought at 2.5 times, from a supplier in Ipoh. There were other discrepancies, as well. My friend who was in charge of PE looked for new quotations. After finding a local supplier who could give the school the price we saw in Lazada, we asked for a quotation. She gave the quotation to the Chua fler. Now, quotations are supposed not to be divulged to other suppliers to ensure that the school gets the most competitive price. Also, government institutions are encouraged to source locally rather than out of state. The latter is only to take place if a local source is not possible. It is impossible that badminton rackets cannot be sourced from a city like Alor Setar.
Yet to our surprise, when the goods came, the price and even sequence of goods were same as the quotation that my friend had gotten from the local supplier. Instead of using the local supplier, it looked like Chua had given the quotation to her supplier from Ipoh, in a clear breach of procedures. Now such kinds of practice often imply impropriety. We met with a SPRM Officer and asked if this was the case. We were told yes and so we decided to lodge a report.
In the meantime, I had also lodged a police report about public canings held almost weekly in the assembly area. Students would be gathered and I discovered in one of the random videos that I recorded from the 4th floor one morning containing as many as 3 different canings taking place at one time. Imagine the spectacle that one gets in the Colosseum, during the Roman Empire. Well, it was happening in Keat Hwa 2. Such spectacles can only take place with explicit approval of the principal.
After rounds of being kicked around for things like the above, I am actually past caring about many things. A cheating, mean and scheming head of a school was allowed to get away from all her doings. Recently I have been bumping into her in person and all those contempt for her has been coming back. If someone like her can bully with her position, I guess it is okay for anyone to do just about that too...
I've served under a few remarkable heads, a few mediocre and a few terrible ones... but none is like this one. You see, the terrible ones usually know they are doing things which are not right and they don't walk the high moral ground or spew a 'holier-than-thou-attitude'. This one? She played the racial cards when it suited her, was terribly mean and also scheming. She can be sweet and sultry when she wanted to. And downright arrogant too. Sometimes one gets the feeling that she flirts her way around to get what she wanted as well too.
SMJK Keat Hwa 2 is also a conforming school, a former SMJK, which means it is generally mono-racial. In my 7 months, I learned this. The best students claw their way to Keat Hwa 1. Those who are afraid to be bullied in national schools would try to find their way into Keat Hwa 2. Thus, there are many struggling students in schools like SMJK Keat Hwa 2. These kids stay 5 years in school and leave without being able to use the national language. Is it good? And you have principals like her who run the school like a penitentiary. Her favourite phrase...."Everything will collapse if she didn't do this or that." Well the school hasn't collapsed even after she is gone...
For too long, Malaysia has been going on the thread of sentiment. Fear is what we monger and use to get people to toe the line. All the wrong values born by this action is now making its way to every institution. The Chinese schools seem to be able to get a lot of things done... more than the national type schools. It is because the Chinese schools are able to get the public to donate generously. Yet, when you have schools with such school boards loaded with cash, those cash can grow the devil's horns too. Schools these days are places with million ringgit projects. Look into the boards and you will find board members with construction companies, and they are the ones who end up with those projects. And it can be done under the guise of community good.
Having schools along racial lines is bad. Kids no longer play together. Malays feel that Chinese kids don't understand them. But many of the ordinary Malays also don't understand that their leaders also want the vernacular schools to stay because it is a convenient tool for them too. The Chinese play the racial cards too... and so our leaders at every level divide to rule us all. For the kids? Many of these kids leave school without the ability to use the national language well enough.
HMs come and go in the life of a teacher.. but having gone through this particular one is like going through the devil's right hand woman... and this devil has the system as her advocate. SPRM kicked the report made back to JPN and it got buried there. The Police sent the case back to JPN too... it got buried too... It seems like the only way these days is to get things viralled. Going through proper channels is just no use.
So think for a moment? Who are we to kid that our schools can reach greatness? Cos we can't even get the basic moral values right. Principles of justice? Well, that's only if you are obedient or can close an eye. We have now come to the point where little Napoleans have learned this great truth... Chua qualifies as a Napolean. However I don't think Napolean pitted his generals like she pitted teachers against teachers to get what she wanted too.
I still keep all those audio and video recordings and documents too... but in a broken system perpetuated by such kinds of heads... they are no use.
I can walk away from many things but lately I keep bumping into her. Been more than a year. Thought I'd let it go, but she keeps showing up in person like the nightmare that she is. There is no way I can wish her well or want her retirement to be peaceful.
The consolation though... good thing there is a mandatory retirement age. That fler now has no more kingdom to spew her venom. And like everyone of us, she needs to grow old and die too. That is the best part...
Seems like death is the only antidote to ensure that evil does not destroy humanity totally...