An Iban Couple Take the Initiative

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When the outbreak of COVID in China occurred more than 100 days ago, you and I would not have thought that the outbreak would affect Malaysia as well. Seeing the outbreak of COVID-19 in Malaysia, the Malaysian government decisively announced MCO with effect from March 18. The MCO was extended a few times and affected the daily operations and finance of the kindergarten.

Kindergarten undertakes the mission of preschool education

“Tadika Methodist Kanowit (TMK)”, under the Ik Ong MC, Kanowit, was started by the church with the aims to ensure that the local Chinese and Iban kids can receive the same kind of preschool education as well as laying a good foundation for the early childhood education in this small town. TMK has been keeping to this mission till today. However the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the running of the kindergarten badly.

How does COVID-19 outbreak affect the kindergarten? TMK is a small kindergarten with 5 teachers and 71 students. According to this year’s budget, the monthly income of the kindergarten (total school fees collected is the same every month so treated as fixed income) is RM 5,300; teacher’s salary and other benefits amounting to RM 5,700 per month are the major part of the total expenses. Expenses for teachers to upgrade their teaching skills, about RM 4,000 per year, drinks and food (about RM 1,200 per year), teaching materials and stationeries (about RM 500 per year), sundries (about RM 500 per year), activities expenses (about RM 800) and miscellaneous expenses (RM 1,000) have also to be covered.

All in all, the kindergarten’s annual income is RM 63,600 (RM 5,300 per month) and is not enough to cover the annual expenditure of RM 76,400 (RM 6,366 per month) and TMK faces a loss of RM 12,800 for this year. The Board of Directors accepts this budget with the understanding to support early childhood education.

Greater financial pressure
because of the COVID outbreaks

Under the MCO order the kindergarten was closed per government’s order. The initial 2 weeks lockdown was extended a few times and the kindergarten faces greater financial burden.

Some parents lost their jobs because of the MCO. Many parents expected the kindergarten to waive school fees during the MCO period. Considering the difficulties faced by the parents the Board of Directors of TMK decided not to collect school fees for the months from April to June. Many parents were glad about the decision.

However by such decision the kindergarten is now facing an additional loss of approximately RM 15,900. So the total shortfall for the kindergarten is expected to be around RM 30,000 this year.

Despite so, the Board of Directors never plans to cut the largest expense—teachers’ salaryies. At this very difficult time they shared Jesus’ love with all parties.

A Kind Act during the Outbreak

However, God knows that we are in need! After the kindergarten made the official announcement, an Iban parent contacted me. She had already paid her whole year’s school fees at the beginning of the year. She could have asked for refund for April to June school fees. Knowing the situation of the kindergarten, her husband and she decided to offer this amount to the kindergarten to support TMK’s early childhood education.

I was really touched and excited when I heard about her kind offering. Some time ago the Ulu Kanowit’s short mission team, under the BM Ministry, had visited the longhouse of this couple for gospel ministry. Subsequently the team visited this long house a few times to preach the gospel to them and led them in worship.

On top of that, my wife Lim Wee Nee has always been concerned about the early childhood education of the indigenous people. She always thinks about how to help these children so that they can have the same educational resources as Chinese children and thus get the same results. In 2019, when she was preparing to write a thesis for her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, she chose to research on how to cooperate with the parents and this couple was selected as one of the subjects.

By God’s grace she was able to complete the research and met the requirements! The active participation of this couple not only strengthens their children’s learning abilities, but also gives them full confidence in Methodist kindergarten.

These two ministries blessed TMK indirectly. When we are in need the Iban couple supported TMK financially. Their deeds inspire me to rely on God to continue serving in education. Their actions remind me of Hebrews 10:24: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” A kind act during the COVID-19 outbreak!

Reflections on Education:

This COVID-19 outbreak reminds me of the word “Perseverance”. The former directors, former principals and former teachers had all persevered in the past difficult situations to set up these educational institutions. Paul reminds us: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. “ (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Reported by Rev Ling Yaw Jye
Translated by KT Chew