KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR) – Twelve-year-old Ayon Manson hails from a poor family.
He almost passed up a chance of pursuing secondary education due to his family’s financial challenges as well as geographical factors.
Living deep in the Penampang district, the former SK Terian pupil had to choose between staying home to help his family and getting out of his village – which incurred more cost such as transport money as well and meal expenses – just to go to school.
A former teacher at his primary school, who turned out to be a fellow villager, came to know of Ayon’s plight.
The young lad’s luck changed from there on.
“I actually know this boy’s family and one day, out of concern, I just asked what his plans were and which secondary school he was going to,” said Ms Fera Erna Bonis, 29.
“When I found out that he might not be able to go to secondary school due to financial reasons, I asked him one question which was ‘do you want to continue going to school?’ and he said ‘yes’,” she said.
Then, she told him that if he was serious, she would help him but he had to find a way to get out of the village, and bring what was needed such as clothes.
She said she would handle the rest.
“My mother who lives near Ayon’s family called soon after that saying he had left his house and was walking out of the village, which was about 14km from the main road,” said Ms Fera, who is a mother of two.
She was shocked to find out that Ayon’s idea of “getting out” was to walk alone.
Ayon, the fourth of six siblings, had to walk across dirt roads which were muddy and slippery due to the rainy season.
He had to climb up hills just to get to the main road.
“I immediately took my car, and started driving to the village from where I was, which was quite far away,” Ms Fera said, adding that she came across the boy when he was already halfway up a hill after a three-hour hike.
She took a picture of Ayon on her mobile phone and uploaded it onto her Facebook page, with a simple caption explaining his determination to achieve his dream of entering secondary school.
Her post went viral in just a matter of days, with quite a number of people calling her up and asking how they could help the boy.
On Ms Fera’s part, she took Ayon in as she arranged his entry into SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin in Penampang.
She also appealed for a spot at the school hostel for Ayon.
Soon after, he got in and with the help of charitable people, bought new school uniforms, stationery, school bags and shoes among other essentials.
Donor Adrian Edy, a local actor turned “social change maker”, who took Ayon shopping for school essentials, said: “He was so shy and humble.”
“He would hesitate to take more than one item and I had to keep assuring him that it was all right, that he can take whatever he needed,” said the 25-year-old.
He also managed to convince Ayon to get a bicycle.
Now, Ayon, who hopes to be a fireman when he grows up, is safe in his hostel, living out a new phase in his life, thanks to the kindness of Malaysians.