It was some years ago that we first began to catch on to these roads. It was a long journey to Kelantan via Serting and Muadzam Shah, spent a night in a friend’s house in Pasir Putih and headed home. Roads are fairly safe, not many traffic, but as we come to a town, then traffic get heavier. Most roads are flat. Only Bukit Putus offers different experience with its twisting hilly road in otherwise long, flat and manageable roads. Roads with little traffics are more enjoyable and safer. Roads free of junctions and billboards are better, roads where; orchards and swamps and jungle and field come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you as you ride by, where people look from their verandah to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tend to be longer than you want, where people ask where you are from and how long have you been riding.
A stop at Muadzam Shah breaks the long journey. Refreshment. The development of this town radiates from the nucleus of its township, a kilometer inside. It was a very ambitious plan to create a township and develop this part of Pahang. Many years ago, DARA was entrusted to see this through. With its business centre, UNITEN, Politeknik, MRSM, Sekolah Menengah Agama Muadzam Shah, Mardi, Sekolah Menengah Teknik and a few SMIs, this place is really thriving, gearing itself to support a large agricultural land. One of the largest FELDA scheme, Felda Keratong was there. A river called Sungai Badak which is a tributary of the larger Sungai Rompin cut across the region. Unfamiliar names like Kedaik, Mentadang are a few examples of settlements along the river. A real haven for Udang Galah. With more land opened up for cultivation, and as a result a diminishing catchment’s area required for a good, healthy and thriving river, I cannot guess the fate of Udang Galah there. Somehow nature will react to changes and find its own equilibrium. It has always been like that in any part of the world.
Then I would like to mention a bit on being reactive and proactive as a one of the mechanism in management. Being proactive is seen as good because one scan things, plan and do things on a zero defect mission. Zero defects were a popular slogan during the Blue-print days of Tan Sri Wan Zahid. Being reactive is seen as weak, without vision loose alignment, and whatever is bad about performance. Management books say it as relentless effort to keep putting fire out. I would look at school management as being in war. One doesn’t kill people obviously but manage them. I sincerely think that the two, are just things required to go to battle. Having weapons to push through the opponents in one hand and having first aid box and medical team together on the other. One will be for the onslaught with clear mission and the other to tend to the bruises and injury.
A strong inclination towards reactive strategy will strengthen the organization because it deals with the real thing. Otherwise the mission can still be accomplished, victory in hand and at the same time with lots of injury, bruises, and hurt in body, souls and minds not attended. A strong organization I would say has the capacity to get on with their forward looking strategies and also has the ability to tend to unexpected happenings, to view and to do serious postmortem. A matured organization must have mastered the skill to adapt, to change and to cushion unintended falls. Students are sent to play on fields to have a taste of the reality; of winning and losing. Maturity develops that way.
Now we follow the main road from Serting to Seremban. It changes from rubber trees, oil palms, secondary forest, paddy fields, orchards, monolith graves, country sides, and little towns, abandon paddy fields, rivers, streams, wetlands and dry land. It changes from undeveloped to developing and to developed setting. Sometimes we wonder how the constant changes will affect the setting of the journey in years to come. Then we want to wonder if the changes are manifestation of necessity, greed, or just a battle between man and environment to determine who will outlast.
I remember many years ago, there were big boulders somewhere along the road. They were quite close to the road. PWD had broken it to pieces for safety reason I was told. But then, the existence of the boulders is in itself a safety signage “HATI-HATI DI JALANRAYA”. As one realize its existence, one would slow the car down, and possibly has time to view the surrounding, the plain and the paddy field. It’s more than beautiful. It is majestic. The PWD could have done a better job by taking boulders out completely. Few broken bits of the boulders were left, probably as a reminder of something that we had been missing out of their doing. That could have been intentional or a result of poor supervision or as admission of failure when man has war with nature. It is really a grim reminder which ever way one look at it. Man rule over things is one. Clouded thinking is another one.
The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature has not misled us into thinking we know something we don’t actually know. There is not a scientist, an engineer or principal or teacher who hasn’t suffered from that one. That’s the main reason why so much scientific, engineering or school information and manuals sound so dull and cautious. If we get careless or go romanticizing scientific information, giving it a flourish here and there, Nature will soon make a fool out of us. One must be extremely careful and rigidly logical when dealing with nature, one logical slip, and an entire scientific frame will tumble down. One false deduction, one can get hung up indefinitely.
A formal scientific problem will start with the statement of the problem. The main skill is stating absolutely no more than what we positively know. It is much better to state “Solve problem: Why doesn’t car work” which sounds dumb but correct than to say “Solve problem: what’s with the electrical system” when we don’t absolutely know the trouble is in the electrical system. One can state “Solve problem: What is wrong with the car”. And then state as the first entry of part two “hypothesis one: the trouble is in the electrical system”. One can think of as many hypothesis as one can, and then design. An ability to sieve through data, post relevant question, put up good hypothesis and goes on with the test and research and come up with answers. Sometimes things may get muddled up, like the recent case of Proton versus AP. Looking through reports and comments in mass media; some unfortunately miss the whole issue by miles.
I find it worthwhile mentioning about a school in Ipoh. The school has a tradition of parade competition between classes, right from form 1 to form 6. Every class will send a platoon of 30 to the competition. Something kids will talk about for weeks and they assemble and train everyday after school. They check their steps, their turns, the precision, and their dress. Form teachers play a role as well to keep enthusiasm going. That is beautiful for kids for their development, the unity and togetherness. A new principal came in and stop that part of school tradition. The school result drops from that year onwards until he was transferred and another principal come in and have it reinstated. His reasoning would probably be “Why allow kids to parade under the hot sun for weeks and they are not reading or studying”. He may miss the point there when pride and unity is a unifying thing surpassing others. The parade is a symbol of struggle to glory. Lot of good values and virtue lies hidden under mundane activities. Again applying bit of scientific approach to things and activities may allow us to be proper, sensible and not blinded by the more obvious.
The whole pace of life and personality of people who live along the road are truly different. They are not going anywhere. They are not too busy to be courteous. The here ness and now ness of things is something they know all about. It’s the others, the one who move to cities years ago and their lost offspring, who have all but forgotten it. We saw it and we didn’t see it. Or rather we are trained not to see it. Conned perhaps into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I am looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.
Gentam. Nice name. It fits the setting. We pass through more fields and jungles and the day wears on. Teghachi is also an interesting place and I think the place is very neat. There is a police station there with its unmistakably blue colour.
We ride down out of Bukit Putus onto the plain of Paroi. On both side of the road we can see medium size Pokok Jati. Factories start to appear as we move on, more on the left towards Senawang, the right side is Kampong Baru Paroi. This picture-postcard scenery fits memory well. The meeting point of Bukit Putus and the Plain of Paroi have not change much, except for the dying durian trees at the first turn. The row of vegetable sheds on the left side looks as old as before.
There is two traffic lights before we reach the Stadium Paroi. The house at that junction with retaining walls has gone through face lift recently and stays as a land mark. Stadium Paroi too has gone higher as SUKMA fever swept through Negeri Sembilan last year.
Trip back from Kuala Pilah is not a multiple choice journey. There is only one route to be taken, unless one wishes to go round and come back from Rembau. As always the journey is routine, no complexity and fairly straight forward.
Looking after a school is like a journey too. One travels and arrives. To avoid depression out of resting period of arrival, then one may want to consider multiple journeys, different destination, and different mode of transport, different passengers and setting different pace.
Taking into consideration administration, curriculum, students’ affairs, co-curricular and others, then one will see the multiple journeys or rather multiple task at hand. It’s not a trip at a time.
We come to the junction separating Gedung Lalang 50 and Gedong Lalang 120, Paroi and Ampangan. The junction will be very busy early in the morning letting people from Paroi and Sikamat through to work, and kids to schools. In that proximity alone, there are 5 schools; STTJ, SMKSA, SMTA, SKA and King George Primary. I think something like 5,500 kids see that junction every morning. Sekolah Kebangsaan Ampangan is one of the oldest schools in Seremban. A glimpse of the old building can still be seen. The old block was occupied by PSPN once.. The junction has always been a bottleneck. It is also a trap, where once you get in it, you will be swallowed by madness of traffic and can’t get out.
I would like to expand the categories of traps. Those that block affective understanding, called value traps; those that block cognitive understanding, called truth traps and those that block psychomotor behavior, called muscle traps. The value traps are by far the largest and the most dangerous group.
Of the value traps, the most widespread and pernicious is value rigidity. This is an inability to revalue what one sees because of commitment to previous values. In school management you rediscover what you do as you go. Rigid values make this impossible.
The typical situation is that the school doesn’t perform to expectation. The facts are there but you don’t see them. You are looking right at them, but they don’t yet have enough value. This is what Yusof was talking about. Quality, value, creates the subjects and objects of the world. The facts do not exist until value has created them. If your values are rigid you can’t really learn new facts. This often shows up in premature diagnosis, when you are sure you don’t know what the trouble is, and then when it isn’t, you are stuck. Then you have got to find new clues, but before you can find them you have got to clear your head of old opinions. If you are plagued with value rigidity you can fail to see the real answer even when it’s staring you right in the face because you can’t see the new answers importance. The case of Ipoh’s school, boulders beside the road and APs highlight this problem.
The birth of a new fact is always a wonderful thing to experience. It is dualistically called a discovery because of the presumption that it has an experience independent of anyone’s awareness of it. When it comes along, it always has, at first, a low value. Then depending on the value looseness of the observer and the potential quality of the fact, its value increases, either slowly or rapidly, or the value wanes and the fact disappear.
The overwhelming majority of facts, the sights and sounds that are around us every second and the relationships among them and everything in our memory – these have no value. If they were all present at once our consciousness would be so jammed with meaningless data we couldn’t think or act. So we preselect on the basis of value, or quality.
What you have to do, if you get caught in this gumption trap of value rigidity, is slow down – you have to slow down anyway whether you want to or not – but slow down deliberately and go over ground that you have been over before to see if things you thought were important were really important. Watch it the way you watch a line when fishing and before long, as sure as you live, you will get a nibble, a little fact asking in a timid, humble way if you are interested in it. That’s the way the world keeps on happening. Just be interested in it.
There is a road separating SMK Seri Ampangan and SMT Ampangan. As we take the turn and head on towards PPD Seremban, we are able to see four schools simultaneously, and although they look quite similar, they exhibit individual character. At times we wonder why by looking at the school we can guess the actual soul and spirit lying underneath and within. The journey ends when En Sulong, a colorful figure and the guardian of the soul of STTJ greets us and opens the gate. The automatic gate opens slowly letting the car in, the stainless steel arch reflects the afternoon light on to the grey Waja and the five of us return after a long journey. It is through the same gate too, that Dato Sudin, Dato Khusaini, Dato Rohani, Dato Rafie and Dato Ahamad had come and visited the school. So are many officers, principals, headmasters, teachers, students, parents and others.
vetiver grass in landscape
3 months ago