KOTA KINABALU: Help has come for schoolchildren who have had to cram into a boat for the past two years to go to school. A “mysterious” man from the peninsula has sent two boats to their village.
A villager in Pitas, Khairul Abidin, said the man, identified as Mohd Zulhairi Zainol, had sent him a message on Jan 20 that his organisation wanted to donate two boats after reading about the children’s dilemma in the media.
The boats, made of glass fibre, were delivered the next day, he said.
The donor had introduced himself as someone from Pertubuhan Amal Team in Selangor and said they would arrange for two boats to be sent to our village, Khairul told FMT.
“So far, I have not met or seen him but have only heard his voice on the phone. In any case, we are so grateful that someone from as far as the peninsula is willing to help.”
Last week, Khairul posted photos of more than 20 primary school children from Kampung Pituru Timbang Taun and Kampung Mengkapon Laut in Pitas district travelling in an overcrowded boat without life jackets to go to their school, Sekolah Kebangsaan Mengkapon.
He said he shared the photos, which soon went viral, not to blame anyone but in the hopes that they would grab the attention of the authorities.
Khairul said the two boats had been used for a year but looked new and were in good condition. One boat measures 7.6m in length and the other 5.8m. A 30-horsepower engine and several life jackets were included.
“We were so happy that we didn’t mind towing the boats to the river into the night. The bigger boat can accommodate more than 30 students while the smaller one 15, but this is more than enough.
“I asked Zulhairi if he would come to our village for us to show him our utmost appreciation, but he only laughed quietly (and) told me it wasn’t necessary to shout about the donation. But in all my years here, no one has ever given the villagers anything like this before,” Khairul said.
FMT managed to reach out to Zulhairi through his social media account. He is the chairman of Pertubuhan Amal Team, which is an NGO involved in Islamic funeral arrangements based in Bangi.
He said he was moved after reading the students’ difficulties on social media as well as in news reports.
“If we are sincere to help, we should not even think about the distance,” he told FMT.
It turns out that Zulhairi is no stranger to northern Sabah as he had previously helped to install solar panels at Banggi Island off Kudat, which is Pitas’ neighbouring district.
When told about how eager the villagers were to meet him, Zulhairi said he was thinking of visiting Pitas this coming Tuesday.
“But the important thing is I hope the children can reach their school safely now and without any problems,” he said.