Tuesday May 8, 2012
Students strap on life jackets instead of seat belts every morning to attend classes
By TEH ENG HOCK
Their preferred choice of transportation is all the more astonishing because they only stay some 15 minutes away from Tanjung Karang town and not in some rural area in interior Sabah and Sarawak.
Besides putting on their school uniform every morning, these children of Kampung Bagan Sungai Kajang slip on an extra item of clothing a life jacket before leaving home.
“Every student has his or her own life jacket. Otherwise, they will be reprimanded by their teachers when they get to school,” said village chief Ang Seng Hock.
He said the jackets, available in children’s sizes, were given by the Government to ensure the pupils’ safety.
Villagers have been taking the boat to school for the past 60 years and instances of pupils falling into the river are not uncommon. Thankfully, though, no one has ever drowned.
“Sometimes, the children are rushing or are still sleepy and lose their footing when using the ladder to get onto the boat.
“With life jackets on, their lives are not at risk.
“At most they will lose their schoolbooks,” said Ang.
Lim Chuan Yu, 11, fell into the river when he was in Year One.
“Yes, I’m still scared of falling into the river. I slipped when I was climbing the ladder. I’ve also seen some of my friends fall in,” he said before boarding the boat to school yesterday.
Ang said pupils could also travel by road to school, which would take them 10 minutes longer than the boat ride.
There are four boats making a total of seven trips to ferry all the pupils.
“If they take the bus, we need to make at least two trips. With 30 minutes each way, it means the first batch has to leave very early so the bus has time to make the second trip,” he said.
The boat fees are reasonable at RM20 per child per month, he said.
Ang said the village would replace the wooden pier next month with a concrete one, adding that the current structure was falling apart.
“Now, it is about 1.2m wide. The new one will be 3m wide and have steps instead of a ladder for safety reasons,” he said.