Bringing English to the jungle

Three hours by boat from the closest town, in the heart of the jungle, has been home for Yong ‘Jarod’ Jik Kam for the last five years.

Credit: HopSing Chieng

The 2009 Bachelor of Education (TESOL) graduate asked to be placed where he was needed most when looking for a graduate teaching position in Malaysia, and was excited at the prospect of teaching in the jungle.

“I thought if I can teach in these conditions, I can teach anywhere in the world,” he says.

Jarod’s school in the Malaysian town, Song, has concrete buildings with running water and electricity, and the jungle is breathtakingly beautiful, he says. “It’s green as far as the eye can see. I think that this is how the world is supposed to be—peaceful, clean and green.”

Even with the close proximity to the equator, the density of the jungle makes most mornings cold and misty. “You need a cardigan—it’s very much like a Wellington summer.”

Although the jungle is home to many different types of plants and animals, Jarod says they don’t pose any serious harm. “I’ve encountered crocodiles, snakes, scorpions and leeches, but they are easy to avoid.”

He teaches children who have grown up in the jungle and don’t speak English in their daily lives. “Some cannot speak a word of English or write a sentence after six years of schooling.

“Many of these children come from broken families, extreme poverty and have very little to look forward to. They are too young to realise that where they come from does not determine their future.

“I integrate lessons on discipline, reasoning, leadership, proactivity, critical thinking and hope into every aspect of my work here. I want to build leaders and watch them become successful and then return and build more leaders in their community.”

The Bachelor of Education (TESOL) is an undergraduate education and professional teaching qualification for teachers on government scholarships, to specialise in teaching English in Malaysia.