The traditional educational system for learning about Islam is the sistem pondok (the hut system). In the traditional sistem pondok, there is a central building that houses the Tok Guru (the head teacher) which is surrounded by small pondok (huts or chalets) of the students. All the students go to learn from the Tok Guru and then return to rest and eat at their own huts. This has been going on since time immemorial. The pondok system is affordable and convenient for Islamic teaching. Students who graduate from the pondok system often continue their studies in Islam or Medicine in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. When they return, they work at the government hospitals or private hospitals. Almost all states in Malaysia have produced students from the pondok system who are now doctors or in allied health. Some are from the more recent Islamic schools operated by each state. The students complete Form 5 and continue to local university for 2 years before they go overseas for further degrees. These students are good and more rounded. They also become good leaders and are much prized for their honesty and sincerity as community leaders. They are not easily swayed by money, high post and corruption.
|Traditional Malay pondok system for Islamic teaching.|
New Pondok System
The traditional pondok system has some setbacks in terms of building safety. We have heard many fires razed many pondok and taken many innocent lives, year after year. A new move by the government is to set up more a modern and organised pondok system with a masjid as a central learning institution and surrounded by more modern housing for the students. This is a welcome move but it should be noted that if the rental rates of the huts become too expensive, poor students will not be able to afford to study at such pondok and therefore lose out altogether on all chances of learning.
|A modern Malay pondok system for Islamic teaching.|
Examples of pondok establishments
Some pondok establishments have received a lot of publicity while a few are not known to many. The famous ones are Pondok Terusan, Pondok Lubok Tapah and Pondok Jaal.
Pondok Terusan is adjacent to Pasir Tumboh, at the end of a canal (terusan). It is attended by young Muslim students from Kelantan, Thailand and neighbouring regions. Elderly single men, women and couples also live here and attend daily lessons held at the mosque. An unfurnished wooden pondok rents for RM250/month and a brick unit rents for RM300/month. Clean water and electricity is supplied to all rental units. Commercial drinking water vending machines are available nearby at the shops across the road - ROS water costs 50 sen for 25 gallons. There are a few shops on site which sell packed food and freshly cooked food. Some double as a coffee shop (kedai kopi). There is a small fresh market near the mosque that sells vegetables and fruits. Life is quite relaxed at this place.
Pondok Lubok Tapah is adjacent to Pasir Mas. Its founder has passed away. It is attended by local young Muslim students. This is a true kampung setting, among the coconut trees and a lovely village scene.
Pondok Jaal is in Jertih and is attended by elderly women (above 60s). The ladies here prefer locally made products as opposed to imported products, eg locally made facial powder from the skin of the young custard apples (kulit buah nona).
More modern Islamic schools are like the one at Pulau Melaka and the Muslim orphanage at Dermit (on the way to the airport).
The Pulau Melaka Muslim school is a modern school complex and is operated privately by the son(s) of Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan. The school is open to international students. Some previous students were 4 Somali siblings from New Zealand and a Chinese female student from China. Arabic, English and Malay are taught and used at the school. The teachers comprise local ustaz and ustazah, and ustaz from Egypt and other Islamic centres of learning. The school has a website. Meals are cooked daily on site by a group of housewives and the students get 3 complete meals a day. The students here get free time for recreation in the evening - the boys usually enjoy playing football by the river.
The orphanage at Dermit runs a Muslim school for boys in a modern complex. Meal are sometimes sponsored by outsiders and generous donors. An ustaz is usually around on duty on site should a visitor drop by. Here, the boys will be fed rice and will later make doa (supplication) for the donor. On weekends, the boys are free and they sit by the staircase to play quietly in the hot afternoons.