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Malaysia: In a Sabah forest, two sisters build a ‘school’ to keep lessons going

Robin Augustin Free Malaysia Today Mon, May 25, 2020

Rechellyna and Ryverra Rinus have built their own schoolhouse on a hilltop to carry on studying.

PETALING JAYA: On a hilltop near a village some 100km from Sabah’s capital of Kota Kinabalu stands a shed where two sisters are keeping up with their studies despite the movement control order which has seen most public activities shut down since mid-March in the fight to curb the spread of Covid-19.

While schools remain closed, lessons are available online.

But internet coverage in Kampung Bomboi, Keningau, is close to non-existent, making online learning nearly impossible for Rechellyna Rinus, 17, and her younger sister Ryverra, 15.

Even when they could get a data signal in their village, the snail’s pace internet speed made online learning a frustrating experience and often caused them to miss out on lessons.

Eventually, Rechellyna and Ryverra decided to move to higher ground, to a piece of land where their uncle grows oil palm, at the edge of a hill nearly half a kilometre from their home where the internet signal is strongest.

The sisters began following their lessons via mobile phone, taking turns while squatting and standing under the hot sun and, at times, in rain.

Conditions were not conducive for learning, so they took matters into their own hands, building their own schoolhouse over the course of two days.

Rechellyna and Ryverra Rinus study at their simple table in Puru Online.

They chopped down saplings and, with their uncle’s guidance, turned the logs into a study table and benches. As there are no walls to their schoolhouse, they burn cardboard egg trays to ward off the relentless attacks of mosquitoes.

Outside the schoolhouse, they hung a sign which says “Welcome to Puru Online”. Puru is the Dusun word for forest.

A video of the girls’ efforts has racked up over 8,000 views on YouTube so far.

“If you feel sleepy, or your hips are (in) pain or you are tired, you can sleep here,” Rechellyna says in the video, pointing to a hammock tied to two trees. There is even a makeshift kitchen near the shed where the girls cook whenever they need a snack while studying.

“Now it is not like before. Now I’m really happy, we can learn more comfortably.”

The girls’ aunt, Flovea Ng, told FMT that Rechellyna and Ryverra, who have two younger siblings, set up Puru Online on April 28 as they refused to be left behind in their studies because of Covid-19.

“They want to improve their lives and that of their family. They are determined to have a better future.”

Ng said Rechellyna wants to be a teacher while Ryverra’s ambition is to become a dentist.

“Thankfully, of late, good Samaritans who saw their video stepped forward to purchase a laptop, modem and printer to help with their studies.

“The girls are so excited and touched, and their parents are very thankful to those who have helped their daughters,” she added.



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