KUALA LIPIS: At first glance, Ahmad Saidin Mohd Idris resembles an odd-job worker, clad in worn out jeans, sweat-drenched long-sleeve shirt, mud covered shoes and carrying a backpack.
But the 40-year-old is a teacher at SK Lenjang, Lipis, who rides his motorcycle some 65km from his house in Kuala Medang near here to get to the school daily.
Undeterred by challenges, the father-of-two daily skillfully maneuvers his motorcycle along the muddy tracks, surrounded by a dense forest, to reach the school which caters for 456 Orang Asli students from 17 surrounding settlements.
Saidin, who had been posted at the school for over three years, once fell off his machine while travelling along the uneven road and came across wild animals, but nothing deterred him from performing his duties.
His day begins at 5am, and half an hour later he will hit the road to start his journey of two hours along the windy and hilly tarred road, which are mostly rutted and uneven.
Fearing a heavy downpour which could soak his work attire, the co-curricular senior teacher instead wears his casual clothes during the motorcycle ride and upon reaching the school, he will freshen up and don his formal attire for lessons.
Clad in his light blue shirt, neck-tie and dark coloured leather shoes, he said this has been his daily routine to ensure he arrives at school on time and is fit to conduct lessons.
"If I dress up neatly, my clothes might get dirty especially due to the roads from Pos Betau (Orang Asli settlement) being in bad condition. It worsens during heavy rain as the roads will not only have large puddles but also become slippery.
"Falling off the motorcycle is nothing new for most of us as we have experienced it when we were still new to the surrounding. But now most of us are familiar with the stretch and its condition," he said.
He added that only four-wheel-drive vehicles can travel here and most of the teachers will park their vehicles at the Sungai Koyan police station.
The Kuantan-born, who travels about 135km daily, said he believes the challenge at SK Lenjang is part and parcel of the job especially when serving in the interior, which has yet to be equipped with modern facilities.
"We rely on the river for water supply, solar-powered electricity and there is no phone coverage here apart from the wireless satellite. At the beginning it was tough but now we are used to it and all of us enjoy teaching at SK Lenjang.
"Apart from lessons, I enjoy introducing the Orang Asli pupils to various sports activities as for them, sports is a reason for them to go out from this place especially when participating in district and state-level competitions.
"Some even attend school to make sure they are not left out from taking part in sports activities," he said, adding that a 12-year-old pupil had represented SK Lenjang at the National Schools Sports Council(MSSM) competition for the cross-country event.
As for Teacher's Day celebrations at the school, Saidin said they do not expect anything from the pupils but instead the staff will host special meals for the pupil and hand out chocolates.
"At SK Lenjang, everyone is a like a big family and during school sports day or games we will include the supporting staff, including the security guards. Apart from teaching, we advice and motivate those who have completed Year Six to continue their studies to Form One as we do not want them to quit.
"Most of the teachers here have also learnt some words from the Semai dialect which allows us to become close with the pupils. To provide extra coaching, some teachers who live at the staff quarters nearby conduct extra classes for the Year Six students who live in the hostel at night," he said, adding that the Orang Asli pupils are mostly very shy.
SK Lenjang has 25 teachers and while some travel daily, others will usually leave the school premises on Friday evening before returning on Sunday.