A Sabah teacher’s long trek to school

Harry Yanto Bikal treks nearly 10km through the forest to reach his school, SK Longkogungan.

PENAMPANG: For most people, a journey of 10km by foot through the jungle would be a daunting commute to work.

But for seven teachers and a clerk at SK Longkogungan here, fording rivers, hiking over hills and crossing wooden suspension bridges are a daily affair.

Each day, they make the long trek to teach the school’s 11 students, determined to ensure that these pupils receive the same level of education as those elsewhere.

One of the teachers, Harry Yanto Bikal, is no stranger to long commutes. Before moving to SK Longkogungan, he taught at SK Buayan, another school in the same district. The only difference was that vehicles could reach the school grounds at SK Buayan.

Located deep in the outskirts, SK Longkogungan sits on the border of the Penampang and Tambunan districts in Sabah.

For some, the trip to work can take up to two hours of steady trekking.

SK Longkogungan is located on the border of the Penampang and Tambunan districts in Sabah.

But Harry, 39, was not assigned to teach there. Instead, he volunteered.

“When I heard of the conditions at SK Longkogungan, I offered to teach there as I wanted to bring changes to the school,” he told FMT.

“I knew that it was a difficult task, not just because of the journey, but also because I would have to live far away from my family.”

Some of the changes Harry sought to bring about involved heavy work, including carrying computer equipment and items weighing nearly 40kg such as flag poles to the school.

He also carried items such as paint, books, freezers and food for the students.

“Imagine trekking through a dense forest with poor road conditions,” he said.

Teachers must often cross rivers on fallen logs, especially after heavy rain.

“Sometimes I reach the school grounds at two in the morning because of bad weather.”

Each time this happens, Harry is trapped by floods in the middle of the forest and must wait for the water level to subside before continuing his journey.

“I also need to be careful of strong winds that could cause branches to fall,” he said.

Yet his enthusiasm and dedication to his students has never wavered, even earning him a place in the limelight after a video of him transporting a freezer to the school made the rounds on social media.

He was also recognised by the state education department which chose him as a recipient of the Adiwira Award in conjunction with the state’s Teacher’s Day ceremony this year.