07 Mar Dika College Alumni Guidance by Faith: Luastilla Harajan’s Journey
Dika College Alumni
Guidance by Faith: Luastilla Harajan’s Journey
It’s been almost a decade since Luastilla Harajan left the comfort of her home in Pitas, Sabah to come to Kuala Lumpur and pursue her passion for teaching. As a member of the Protestant Church in Sabah, Luastilla joined the Kindergarten Teacher Training course by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in 2013. This programme was a joint effort with Dika College that offered young women the opportunity to become educators at an affordable cost. During this course, she spent one year training at YWCA and then moved on to the Diploma in Early Childhood Education (DECE) at Dika College.
Her days in KL were spent working as a class teacher and second liner at Kinderland, Bangsar while attending classes at Dika College. Today, Luastilla is the Head Teacher at the kindergarten. “Almost 9 years later, I can proudly say that I have helped create a safe and successful school environment,” said Luastilla. However, those 9 years spent teaching were not without challenges.
Luastilla with youth leaders at a church in KL
Coping with New Norms
When the pandemic hit, Luastilla spent the initial three weeks in lockdown making time for some self-care activities, which included reigniting her passion for cooking. It wasn’t long after that when she began to feel the stress that came with conducting online classes. “I didn’t have the slightest idea of what Google Drive was, nor was I familiar with Zoom or sharing slides,” said Luastilla.
On the verge of quitting, Luastilla remembered that God is always on her side. “I prayed to Him to help me through these troubling times and sure enough, He gave me the strength and guidance that I needed to push through,” Luastilla reiterated. With help from God and her supportive colleagues, Luastilla managed to conduct effective online classes for her students.
Luastilla with her students, facilitating outdoor sand play at Kinderland, Bangsar
This got her thinking about the challenges that most educators face; yet, no recognition or solutions are ever offered to them. “Based on my experience, I think that the most prominent problems are the long working hours, the declining mental health of educators and the low pay,” said Luastilla.
If you think kindergarten teachers end work when the kids finish school, you’re terribly mistaken. Kindergarten teachers have mountains of paperwork to complete while looking after a classroom full of children and coming up with effective lesson plans for them. Often, the stress of this leads to feeling burnt out, which ultimately results in declining mental health. “This has a trickle-down effect on the little ones because they can feel our sadness and it affects everyone in the classroom,” shared Luastilla. With a salary that’s just enough to get by, it’s truly admirable how much teaching means to Luastilla.
Luastilla in her hometown at Dataran Bengkoka, Pitas, Sabah
But Luastilla is not ready to give up hope just yet. “It’s simple really. All we have to do is shorten the hours by creating schedules that allow teachers to take breaks when necessary,” said Luastilla. We mustn’t forget that teachers play a crucial role in the development of young children’s minds; so, it’s important that they look after their well-being too. “Of course, a raise in salary would be nice and I think it’s achievable,” Luastilla reiterated.
With all the knowledge and experience Luastilla has gained over the years, she one day hopes to open her own tuition centre for preschool children. In the near future, she also plans on going back to Sabah to visit her family after years of being apart. At the end of the day, Luastilla wants to be a role model to her students and future educators.
Dika College graduates are leading change in various industry sectors throughout Malaysia and across the globe. They are successful in their chosen vocation as professionals in the early childhood fields. Many pursue further education, and some are volunteers and advocates for charitable causes.
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