A FLYING START- From Daydreamer to King of the Skies
It is easy for adults to misconstrue the actions of their children. When Nik Amir Azafiq was gazing at the sky amid hopes of becoming a pilot, he was admonished for being a daydreamer…
He is like every other teenager. PlayStation and partying are in, but homework and household-chores are not. You know he’s going out when the whole house smells like a perfume factory, and his hair assumes that tousled spiky appearance which looks unkempt but has taken him the best part of two hours to perfect.
His mother marvels at his creativity in the excuses to ponteng sekolah. If only he could channel this imagination in his essay writing, she laments. He easily lists the top three songs in the music charts or recall with accuracy the scene in a particular movie or what cheats to use, to win any PlaySation game. Such was his memory that she wished he could regurgitate facts for his subjects in a similar capacity.
Trying Time for Family
So why did he hate school? Was it his teachers? The extra-large classes? Was he bullied? Returning from school, he’d simply flop onto the sofa, watch television, snack endlessly. He might play football or cycle round the block. Most times, he’d simply stare at the sky.
Four years ago, this boy’s mother was a figure of desperation. She transferred him to a private school. He was asked to audition for the school-band because of his interest in music. He excelled on the sports field. His grades improved but the cost of private education was a burden – financially, emotionally and physically. Finally, he returned to his former school.
An endless round of private tuition was organized. He passed his PMR. When his school grades slid, his parents became frantic. The SPM examinations were approaching. Even the tutor was despondent.
It was a trying time for the whole family. He was shouted at. “Lazy.” “Useless.” “Hopeless.” “Stop looking at the clouds.” “If you were a girl, I’d marry you off.” These were hurled at him. Nerves were on edge and relations were scarred.
A chance visit to the east coast, by air, with his father marked the turning point. He put more effort into his work. His parents prayed for the best. His tutor was hopeful.
The day of reckoning arrived. Yes, he had passed. His aim? To join a flying school.
More surprises were in store. His grandparents offered to contribute their savings towards the fees. The parents applied for additional funding. Finally he was accepted at the next intake of cadet pilots. That was two years ago.
For this boy from Sitiawan, the transformation was miraculous. Where he previously lacked concentration in his studies, he was now entirely focused. Gone was the schoolboy slouch, the baggy shorts, t-shirt and slippers. Parade drills in full uniform every morning improved posture and bearing. He was punctual and disciplined. His written work and assignments were handed promptly to the satisfaction of his lecturers. He diligently completed his two hundred flying hours. He was safety conscious and kept off cigarettes and drugs. Outdoor games and activities were a joy and welcome distraction from the very intense requirements of his course. His only complaint was that mess-food was monotonous and stodgy. He got on well with the other cadets. They were on best behaviour when they ventured into town. Being at flying school was like a badge of honour for them.
Last August, and four years from when his mother related her harrowing story of her first-born son, this boy finally received his cherished wings and Commercial Pilot’s Licence from HM Aerospace FLying School in Langkawi. It was a very emotional time. He had achieved and accomplished much.
It is easy for adults to misconstrue the actions of their children. When this boy was gazing at the sky amid hopes of becoming a pilot, he was admonished for being a daydreamer.
Whilst his father slept soundly in his seat on the way to their east-coast break, this boy had, with quiet persistence, questioned the crew about flying. He received an invitation to the cockpit. He had marvelled at the scenery, the freedom and the dedication of the pilots. His mind was set. He was going to be a pilot.
There must be hundreds of children like this boy who may skip classes, seem demotivated and lacking in ambition, but actually, whose ideals and aspirations lie undiscovered, untapped and unleashed.
More people in industry should give talks in our secondary schools about their professions. Many overseas schools set aside a session every fortnight for such an exercise. The professionals come from various disciplines – engineers (chemical, mechanical, civil, petroleum, electrical, marine), doctors, architects, city/traffic/town planners, nurses, surveyors, lawyers, film directors, fashion designers, veterinary doctors, dentists, graphic artists, advertising people, horticulturists, the armed forces. All it takes is a short talk and a chance to field questions. Don’t tell me we lack interesting professions and dedicated professionals to inspire and enlighten our youth?
I may be wrong but my research tells me that only some schools currently do this, but it is an optional after school activity, comprising visits to universities or exhibitions.
I think it best if the person whose job is highlighted, comes to the school, rather than the other way around. From there, a follow up visit to the factory, the hangar, the hospital, the laboratory or the site location of that particular profession could be arranged, should interest in that line of work be shown.
Work despite recession
This boy received his Commercial Pilot’s Licence last August, during a recession hit world with a scarcity of job opportunities. However, I am pleased to report that he has successfully managed to secure employment with AirAsia as a trainee pilot.
Emboldened by this news, I have also been in touch with both the Ipoh and Langkawi flying schools and they are only too pleased to show potential students around their flying schools.
I understand that during Ramadhan, a helicopter firm, Eurocopters (M) Sdn Bhd had a breaking of fast, in their hangar, for some orphans. It was a great time for the children to see the helicopters up close, be lectured on helicopters and the career of a pilot, in the hope that they may one day, aspire to be one.
Ipoh Firms to be Proactive
So, why can’t firms in Ipoh be more proactive like this and why can’t more schools take the initiative and invite people with interesting jobs to give talks? After all it is our children who will benefit and who knows, maybe some will excel in their chosen profession, and later return to their alma mater to further inspire the children of the future.