Sarina Sulong (left) helping Nurul Azzah Abd Aziz to prepare for the final round competition.
KUALA TERENGGANU (NST): Nurul Azzah Abd Aziz has the heart of a champion.
|Aaron Khor Gaik Neng (centre) will be competing against 13 other top students in the finals|
Skipping the school holidays to work daily on difficult words with her teacher Sarina Sulong is a “small sacrifice” for the best secondary speller in the state in the RHB New Straits Times Spell-It-Right (SIR) Challenge.
The fifth former at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama Tok Jiring realises only too well that she will be representing not only her school but the state at the finals in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 8.
“I have no choice but to take the competition very seriously as more than just personal pride will be at stake at the national challenge.
“This time I will not only be fighting to uphold the good name of my school but doing battle for my home state as well,” said the third of four siblings who is in the finals for the first time.
While her friends were having fun at tourist destinations, the 17-year-old was content to spend her holidays with Sarina improving her “word bank”.
“I think I have about a thousand words in there so far but since the competition is still a little more than a month away, there is still room for some more multi-syllable, extra-hard words,” she said.
The third of four siblings, who reads books from the Harry Potter series to take her mind off studies, said the pressure was a lot less when she and her schoolmates won in the state-level school’s category last year.
“I was part of the group and we did not have to do battle at the national level then.
“This time I will be all alone and the prospect of competing with other state champions is making me nervous as I cannot shake off this feeling that they are better spellers than me,” she said during a practice session at her school.
However, Nurul, who attended pre-school in London when her parents, Abdul Aziz Muda and Azizah Endut, were studying there, said encouragement from her family, teachers and friends had given her much-needed confidence for D-day.
“Everybody keeps saying that Terengganu has come a long way in achieving educational excellence, especially in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) examinations.
“I also want to believe them when they say that I have what it takes to win the national title but deep down, I know that I am going to need a whole lot of luck in order for me to pull that off,” she said.
Sarina was impressed with Nurul, who aspires to follow her parents’ footsteps in becoming a university lecturer.
She said it was difficult for a student to juggle schoolwork and extra-curricular activities at the same time.
“Nurul seems to be the exception as while she is representing the state in various programmes, including the National Youth Forum and SIR, she has no problem coping with the workload for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) later this year,” she said.
As for primary champion, Aaron Khor Gaik Neng, the hard work that he put in for the state finals will come in handy when he competes with 13 other top students in the national finals.
The Year Five pupil, who beat last year’s winner Jeremiah Thomas Koshy to become the best speller in the primary category, is working hard to make the state proud by practising difficult words with his teacher, Yusnita Md Yunus.
The Sekolah Kebangsaan Sultan Sulaiman (I) pupil made it to his team after participating in mock contests that Yusnita organised to get the best to represent the school.