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YE Made Me Bold

Interview with Cikgu Indra Nair – YE Teacher of SMK Bukit Mewah 
Written by JA Malaysia Alumnus – Richelle 

“Towards the end of the Young Enterprise programme, I could see the bonds between the students. Rather than a corporation, we had ‘gelled’ together and become a family.” Most teacher – student relationships end the moment the school bell rings. However, that was not the case for

Cikgu Indra, the YE club advisor of SMK Bukit Mewah, Negeri Sembilan for 11 years. Her responsibility required her to sacrifice her afterschool leisure to communicate with the students and work neck-to-neck with them. The YE programme was a bridge; it paved Cikgu Indra’s strong camaraderie with her students.

Retired in the year of 2018, Cikgu Indra certainly did not hesitate to unleash her adventurous temperament. No longer encumbered in school work, she gallantly challenged the Mount of Annapurna and successfully reached its pinnacle in seven days. She dedicated her boldness to the YE programme, in which the entrepreneurship spirit has spurred her to try out new things and become fond of the freshness. The learning curve had come in mutual ways; she devoted her insights to the programme and was in turn, taught some life lessons by it.

The YE programme first left its traces in SMK Bukit Mewah in 2008. At that time when students were not recognised to possess business acumen, the idea of getting them to engage in the YE programme was faced with oppositions. Not only was it time-consuming, students constantly had to step out of their classrooms- a behaviour that opposed the conventional education system in our country. Practised in the field of economics and commerce, Cikgu Indra was able to envision the avalanche of benefits students could reap from that programme. She adamantly held onto the blue plan and with the support of other school administrators, the YE club of SMK Bukit Mewah was officially established.

It was heart-warming to be the students’ mentor, to witness them blossom into charismatic leaders. Amidst the emerging leaders, Cikgu Indra especially noted a memorable event, “There was
this boy; when he initially joined the programme, he couldn’t speak a single word in English. One day, our school received a visit from government officials- that time, the programme was coming to an end. And there he was, standing on the podium and introducing his product! In English!” The
rapture in her tone, glistening of her eyes; she was, indeed, very proud. To see her student develop as the programme flourishes was her best reward as a teacher.

The YE students of SMK Bukit Mewah have always dazzled us with their stupendous performances. Their very first product was an organic soap and they had taken their initiative far enough to visit a factory plant to survey for raw materials. They were bright minds oozing with
innovative ideas but beneath the glamorous facade, were the silent sacrifices of a teacher. Due to the programme being a taxing one, students often had to skip lessons. They did not have ample time to finish their schoolwork nor attend after school tuitions. The odds against Cikgu Indra aggravated when highly-regarded students started to display a slip in academic performances.

The students’ passion was overwhelming, they held the YE programme more dearly than their daily schoolwork. Their inclination stirred up some displeasure and being the teacher advisor,
Cikgu Indra was definitely the first target. She had to contain the laments from her colleagues regarding the students’ absence from class and on the other hand, soothe the exasperated parents. She confessed that it was an emotional turmoil but the idea of giving up never crossed her mind. Her
eyes were clear to the students’ relish in their journey of self-discovery and persevered in her role of being the mediator. After all, they were only form 4 students.

When asked about her advices to the current YE students, she laughed and admitted that she had a lot in her bag. However, the one piece that shines through is to always create useful products. “I always tell my students: you have to invent products that can add value to the community. Build something out of sustainable resources- and take pride in them, because they’re original; they’re your product.” The analogy she used was an electric cleaner propagated by an alumnus named Lavinesh, which aimed to reduce the burden of underprivileged people in carrying out strenuous chores.

Cikgu Indra also addressed the need for co-curricular participation to be acknowledged as a form of education. As a student, that resonated in me. Our education system draws a dogmatic definition for students who are referred as the cream of crop: one who excels academically. We must be more accepting of the diversities in talents, and nurture them, so that our young buds would not feel oppressed in this fastidious society. Only when their horizons are expanded through the colourful opportunities, can they emerge as the next generation of masterminds.