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From chemistry to computers

TIONG Ting Ming is a chemistry graduate whose foray into technology began in 1984 when he helped set up and manage a computer club at another school.

Since he was an Apple Macintosh fan, the club was equipped with a total of 30 Mac SEs and LCs, all networked together.

``I ran the club for six years and learned everything there was to know about networking,'' Tiong says.

When he was promoted to headmaster at SMJK Dindings in June 1992, Tiong decided to use networking as the means to create a conducive environment for the students to learn about technology.

``It was a battle all the way as I had to bulldoze my way to push the idea through when mere persuasion failed,'' he recalls.

Despite gaining more enemies than friends in the process, Tiong's perseverance paid off in the end.

Back in 1992, the 38-year-old lower secondary school comprised a motley set of wooden huts that made up the school office, classrooms and science laboratories. Hardly a place that would perhaps one day house a Smart School.

Furthermore, it only catered to students up till Year Three. Its student population was made up mainly of children from the fishing, farming and smallholders community, as well as daily wage earners.

Tiong managed to introduce Year 4 and 5 sessions at SMJK Dindings, raising the student population.

``We had only 320 students back in 1992, and this steadily increased as we improved the facilities here,'' he says.

Help from friends

Tiong joined SMJK Dindings with a mission to transform it into a networked school. He spent his five years raising funds to rebuild parts of the school, and constructed a new building block.

``The entrance leading to the school was a muddy path -- today, it is neatly tarred. We renovated the school hall and classrooms, and replaced the zinc roofs too,'' he says, adding that RM800,000 was raised by students, the school's Parents-Teachers Association (PTA), teachers and through donations from the general public.

The Education Ministry also chipped in RM500,000 for the building renovation project.

Tiong also designed the new block with a networked environment in mind, even making sure the ground where the new block is located was fumigated for pest control.

When the Malaysian Government introduced then Smart School concept in 1996, Tiong picked relevant sections from the concept paper and incorporated them into his students' computer education programme.

Although SMJK Dindings had a newly furnished building, Tiong had a tough time equipping it with the technology he desired. So he went out and lobbied for donations from several computer firms.

After repeated persistent requests, a large telecommunications firm came back with a cool RM250,000 worth of PCs and PowerPCs, plus networking products for the school's computer lab.

``Now that the infrastructure is in place and the classes are running, the paradigm shift will start,'' Tiong says. -- ANITA MATTHEWS

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