Late last week, out of the blue I was called to help with running a government subsidised course. Held over the weekend from 0800hrs. to 2200hrs. I was reluctant as I would normally want to be well prepared for any talks or lectures. The organisers assured me that all the materials were ready and that I would have no problem teaching these group. Since it was over the weekend and will be held in Langkawi (cheap ciggies...), I agreed.
The group of people turns out to be 30 boys and men who are mainly boatmen, boat operators and skippers. Those dealing with tourists understood a smattering of English, most do not, some have difficulty writing their own names. But they made up for these with their determination and eagerness to learn. Learn what ? They have been plying the island for years, what is there to learn ? To learn rules and regulations, to get licensed so that they would not be arrested or their boat - read livelihood - confiscated.
It was with great difficulty that I taught in Malay, much thinking was required to express maritime terms from English to Malay. It was exhilarating to be able to share what little I know with these people that we (my colleague and I) ended up extending classes well past midnight in response to their request. In those two days they have to learn compass and charts, rules of the road, light signals, basic communications, first aid, fire fighting and seamanship. Things which I myself learned more than a decade ago.
As I write this, they sms'ed saying that most had passed the orals exam with three of them having to re-do the exam this morning. I wish them luck and hope that they all get their license. It is their livelihood after all. With or without the license they will still operate the boat albeit the risk of being arrested or their boat confiscated...
UPDATE: I just received news that all of them manage to get their license. Augurs well with the spirit of the programme which is to license and regulate all maritime players. This feels good.