Somewhere in the island of Pasir Hitam, there lies a school called SJK (C) Aik Hua, and somewhere in SJK (C) Aik Hua, there sits a student. It’s just one single student in the whole school, and that’s it.
But it hasn’t always been that way though.
See, Pulau Pasir Hitam used to have a population of about 3,000 villagers back in the 70s-80s, but because of migration for better education and jobs, the population seriously dropped to about 50 villagers as of January 2016. That’s also why the number of students in SJK (C) Aik Hua fell from nearly 300 to 1.
This low populated island does not have electricity or piped water, so basic needs and other necessities like clothing are brought over to the island by boat, and the boat trips can take UP TO AN HOUR!
Because basic needs are such an inconvenience on the island, it’s natural that parents would want to move their families over to the mainland and to more urban areas so that they have easier access to food and water for their children.
But even if people do decide to stay on Pulau Pasir Hitam, the majority of the people living there are working fishermen, so with a population of about 50, there wouldn’t actually be many kids there… So how has this school managed to survive?
SJK (C) Aik Hua has managed to stay open for a very simple reason
The reason for its survival all comes down to the simple reason that as long as a school has at least one student, it shall be allowed to remain open, and this is actually a legit requirement of the Education Ministry.
Looking at the student history, for the past 7 years, the school has had some close calls, having only one student for about half of that time. The numbers look something like this:
- 2010 – 1 student
- 2012 – 3 students
- 2013 – 5 students
- 2015 – 2 students
- 2016 – 1 student
- 2017 – 1 student
There have also been some instances where the school had been very nearly forced to close, like at the end of 2011. A mother, Hasisah, heard about this and decided to help save the school by sending three of her ten children to the school in 2012.
Besides that, SJK (C) Aik Hua has also seen a few other saves. For instance, after two students in the school had completed their UPSR in November 2015, the school had not received any new enrolments and things were looking really bad for them. Luckily, during the last week of 2015, the school got a call from a grandmother who wanted to enroll her grandson, Oon Sheng Juin, in the school. Talk about a miracle!
Fortunately, protocol has changed slightly this year, allowing schools with no new enrolments to wait a year or two before shutting down completely.
The school is giving out money to students who enrol!
Considering its secluded area and its low population, the school, as well as some associations have offered allowances to attract students. This included a monthly allowance of RM150 to each student who enrolls given by the parent-teacher association (PTA) of SJK (C) Aik Hua. The Bukit Gantang MCA also decided to contribute another allowance of RM150 to each student every month. That means RM300 a month in total!!
On top of that, back in 2016, a “Tan Sri” philanthropist also pledged to sponsor RM500 MONTHLY to anyone who studies in that school. The lone student, Oon Sheng Juin, who had been studying in the school throughout 2016, had his education funded by this Tan Sri.
Sheng Juin, who had moved to Pulau Pasir Hitam from Penang, had been staying with his two teachers throughout the year, at a house near the school which belongs to the school’s board of governors.
We tried to call the school to find out a bit more about the school fees, sponsorships and allowances but no one picked up. 🙁
It is actually very tough for the school to stay open due to operational costs
Keeping the school open is one thing – it’s as straightforward as making sure that there’s at least one student enrolled in the school each year. The other problem that SJK (C) Aik Hua faces is maintaining itself, because the operational costs to keep a school is actually quite high. According to the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Chong Sin Woon, basic school expenses have to go to employing:
“…at least two security guards, two cleaners, a clerk, a principal and several teachers.” – Datuk Chong Sin Woon, taken from The Star
Some schools even take the extra step of providing transport to the students, so that amounts to extra costs too.
So when you think about it, it isn’t very practical to have to appoint so many staff members if the school only has one or two students, especially since Sheng Juin, and the school’s current student, Xiao Shun Yang, had moved from bigger cities just to come to this school. Sheng Juin had moved to Pulau Pasir Hitam from Penang last year (before moving back in January this year), and Shun Yang had moved from Puchong earlier this year, so you can kinda see how impractical this whole situation is.
The only sensible solution to this is if the school relocates to a slightly larger populated area like the mainland, or if it just totally shuts down.
We also wrote an article at the beginning of this year about under-enrolled schools, and how the Ministry of Education would investigate each school and decide on the best out of these four options: moving to a heavier populated area, merging with a similar school, winding down and cutting down operations, or maintaining the school.
Hopefully perseverance and luck will continue to keep SJK (C) Aik Hua open in the future
We don’t know when exactly the number of students in the school dropped so drastically from a three digit number to a one digit number, but since the start of the decline in their numbers, it’s quite clear that SJK (C) Ai Hua has actually been super lucky to keep being able to get at least one student enrolled each year.
Unfortunately, if students stop enrolling, the school would most likely either have to relocate or shut down to stop them from losing too much money trying to upkeep the school. The good thing is that the school has considered some plans to try relocating to the mainland in 2016, but since the arrival of Shen Juin last year and Shun Yang this year, the school will be remaining on Pulau Pasir Hitam for now.
Needless to say, the school’s determination to prevent it from shutting down is part of why SJK (C) Aik Hua is still standing today. If there’s one thing we can learn about this, and other under-enrolled schools is that if you truly believe in and work for something the way the staff and teachers believe their schools and students, things may all work out for you in the long run.