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  • I had a miserable time in my primary school.

    My Mum had been trying to transfer me to another school, as she knew the teachers in the Soo Jin primary school were not being fair. Countless bullying - not just from the students but also from the teachers.

    Every school she enquired had to do a reference check with Soo Jin, and my nasty teachers would describe me as a 'very disobedient, disrespectful and useless child.'

    One after another rejected my application.

    After 6.5 years of 'torture' in Soo Jin, Mum finally found another school who accepted me.

    Ying Hua High School was different, as most of the Chinese children were darker than me, mostly due to their families’ occupation. Their families were mainly farmers, fishermen and plantation owners.

    For the first time, my skin color never became a problem.

    The classes were small with only 18 students - this meant the teachers could help me with my homework. And they were even happy to do so.

    My most memorable time in the school was when I had to meet my headmistress, Miss Ye, who made me cry the first day I was there.

    Miss Ye knew how the previous school treated me and yet she patiently said to me, "Do you want to go to school, Lina?"

    I said in a soft voice, "Yes". She then asked me why.

    I replied, "…because my parents want me to."

    Like the tenderness of a mother, she kneeled down on one knee and asked me if I wanted to be in Ying Hua.

    Holding back my tears and recalling my previous bad experiences, I said to her, "Miss Ye, I just can’t do Mandarin. I'll never be good at it and everyone here will hate me for it."

    She looked at me, then got up and wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me. It was her mobile and home number.

    She calmly whispered to me, "Lina, this is my phone number. If there is something you don't understand you can call me okay? I will stay back after school to help you."

    My face lighted up. None of my teachers had ever been that patient with me.

    Most importantly she said, "By the end of the year, your Mandarin will be so good, your parents would be proud of you, Lina."

    Then she held my hand and walked me back to my class. I was 11 years old then. What she did was gave me some glimmer of hope, and from that day onwards, I knew I won't be a ''useless'' student, like how my previous teachers used to describe me.

    Being in all girl’s high school took some getting used to. I hated it because of my dislike of girls. They were the ones who used to bully me in my previous school.

    But then I adjusted, I was active in sports and everything else I could get my hands on. I was the top 5 in my standard for my first year there.

    One day, my Mum was called to school, and she was expecting the worst. She was pleasantly surprised when my teacher congratulated her for my achievements. I was very happy I could make her proud of me at last.

    I joined Taekwondo, fire-brigade cadet, became a short distance runner and was nominated to be the Head Prefect.

    One incident I will never forget was when I was standing at the gates of my high school waiting for teachers from nearby primary schools to come pick up UPSR papers from my school's vault.

    My duty include asking the teachers which school they came from and tick them off the list before letting them in.

    It was then that I met my primary school teacher who taught me Mandarin. She would often publicly humiliate my mother by calling her “lazy girl’s mother” in the market and food stalls.

    She walked up to me and gave her name. I recognised her immediately from Soo Jin, and told her where she could pick up her results. She didn’t recognise me but looked at my name and had a puzzled look on her face as she walked in.

    While picking up her papers, this teacher met Miss Ye to find out who I was. After my first day of school encounter, Miss Ye became my favorite teacher in the school. Thankfully, she also adored me and gave my ex-Soo Jin teacher a whole list of my achievements. Stunned and ashamed, she quickly left but the expression on her face was priceless.

    I never had a chance to thank Miss Ye, and I hope that one day, I'd be able to thank her in person.

    By the end of my high school years, I was truly comfortable in my skin and with my name.

    I finally knew who I was.

    Story of Lina Tan for The Chindian Diaries
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