Following our earlier feature on the inspiring Sarawakian school teacher, Cikgu Anne Margarette Kho, who transformed her classroom into a mini ‘Kedai Runcit’, we were fortunate enough to delve deeper into her story through an exclusive interview.
Stars for effort
Cikgu Anne elaborated on the various ways her students could earn stars (stickers), which serve as currency in her classroom kedai runcit.
For instance, students could earn stars by meeting specific lesson objectives, such as solving a set number of addition questions correctly.
Correct answers on quizzes would also earn them stars, as would consistent weekly attendance.
Furthermore, Cikgu Anne encourages the use of English during her Mathematics class, rewarding students’ efforts to do so with additional stars. Even tidiness in writing is incentivized, promoting an overall culture of excellence.
The reach of the Runcit
The items on offer in her kedai runcit range from basic stationeries to food containers, toys, and even toiletries, like soaps, shampoos, and toothbrush sets.
Importantly, these necessities serve a dual purpose. Not only do they act as an incentive, but they also fulfill a crucial need for her students, most of whom come from B40 families – the bottom 40% of Malaysian households with monthly income of RM 3,900 and below.
“Most of my pupils come from B40 families and sometimes they can’t afford to buy these simple toiletries,” Cikgu Anne said.
Providing these essentials enhances students’ self-confidence, making them feel more comfortable and eager to attend school.
Behind the scenes: The challenges of kindness
However, setting up and maintaining this unique ‘Kedai Runcit’ is not without its challenges. Cikgu Anne shared that she personally funds this project, often spending between RM 50 and RM200 per month to replenish the items in the kedai runcit.
Sometimes she shops in budget-friendly stores like the Eco Shop RM2.60 store, Mr.DIY, or OneStop Shop, but on occasion, personal emergencies mean she’s unable to top up the items.
Time is another significant challenge. Arranging the items, printing out and laminating price tags, and overall organization often require Cikgu Anne to stay back late or come in on weekends.
But seeing her students’ increased attendance, tidier handwriting, and more active participation in class, she feels it’s all worth the effort.
An unforgettable impact
One touching story that Cikgu Anne shared during our interview was about a student named Lian. In one of their sessions, Lian worked extraordinarily hard in class, with a focus he had never demonstrated before.
He was intent on earning a particular prize from the kedai runcit: a tube of toothpaste. After a tireless effort, Lian finally earned the toothpaste and raced out of the classroom.
On investigation, it was revealed that Lian had been working for the toothpaste not for himself, but for a friend, Tabed. Tabed, along with his younger brother, had run out of toothpaste at their hostel and couldn’t afford a replacement.
“We shed tears knowing this story, and knowing that kids willing to help each other through this Kedai Runcit initiative. This is what we want. To implement values among each other.“
Lian’s determined effort to help a friend in need through the kedai runcit was a moment of heartwarming solidarity among the students, illustrating how Cikgu Anne’s innovative system has fostered a sense of community, empathy, and kindness in her classroom.
Despite the challenges she faces in terms of time and personal financial commitment, Cikgu Anne’s dedication to her students has proven transformative in their academic performance, overall attitude towards learning, and personal growth.
It goes to show that sometimes, it’s the unconventional teaching methods that have the most profound impact.