Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
KUALA SELANGOR -- The well-known Hong Kong drama soundtrack The Shanghai Bund has indeed unleashed the inner feelings of students and their parents in Bagan Sungai Kajang near here.
At the crack of dawn every morning, some 90 students would put on their life jackets and take the sampan boat (or their "school boat") from the village to Kampung Bagan Pasir across the river.
The students of course are not going on a sight-seeing trip but are travelling to their school, SJK (C) Yit Khwan Bagan Pasir, because there isn't any school in their village..
Although the school is located cross the river from the village, the journey would take only a couple of minutes compared to more than 20 minutes on motorbike or a car. As a result, the school bus is the preferred mode of transport for students to reach their school in under five minutes.
Whenever there is low tide, the boatman would stop near another boat at the pier across the river and make sure the students with their heavy schoolbags cross over to the other boat safely before ascending the 6-foot wooden ladder to the land. And during the evening low tides, the students would have to climb some nine or ten feet of ladder to embark or disembark from the boat.
In other words, crossing the river twice a day to go to school is a tough experience these students have to go through each day.
To ensure the safety of these school children, parents will normally teach them some swimming skills. As many younger students have yet to master the skills of swimming, some degree of risks associated with river-crossing are still evident. Hence, the boatman would need to exercise a very high level of alert during his work.
Some villagers said a school boat tragedy took place a year ago, causing the students to fall into the river. Thanks to the immediate rescue operation initiated by some courageous residents, there was no casualty in the mishap.
Fifteen people each trip
"The flat-bottom sampan could accommodate 15 to 20 students. Kindergarten and lower-grade students who have yet to master the swimming skills are required to put on life jackets."
In actual fact, the safety of students would very much depend on the boatman. As the boat must never be overloaded, he would have to ply three or four times in order to ferry all the 90 students from Bagan Sungai Kajang to their school across the river.
Request for school construction
In view of the inconveniences, the villagers have since long ago hoped to get approval to construct a primary school or at least a concrete bridge across the river so that the students' safety could be assured.
Chairman of SJK (C) Yit Khwan school board cum village chief Hong Cheng Fook told Sin Chew Daily the school currently has 200 students, of whom 90 are from Bagan Sungai Kajang across the river.
"The boat is a private vessel that could only fetch up to 15 students each trip."
Hong added that local residents requested the education ministry to build a primary school in the village 18 years ago, but the application has yet to be approved today.