A young Malaysian boy has gone to great lengths – setting off alone on a 14km trek through muddy hills and slippery slopes – to further his studies and pursue secondary school education.
Boy's family had financial difficulties
The story of the 12-year-old boy named Ayon Manson was first shared by Fera Erna Bonis, his former primary school teacher, on Facebook.
It was widely circulated online and made headlines across several media outlets in Malaysia.
According to The Sun, Ayon came from deep within the rural Terian village in Penampang, Sabah, where he had just completed his primary level education at SK Terian.
At just the age of 12, Ayon was faced with a tough decision – either stay at home and help his family, or leave his village so he could go to secondary school.
The latter would involve spending money on Ayon's transport and meals -- money that his financially stricken family could not spare.
Ayon was the fourth of seven children, and his father worked as a farmer as the family's sole breadwinner to make ends meet.
Due to his family's financial difficulties, and the sheer geographical barrier between his village and secondary school, Ayon chose to forgo his education.
Wanted to continue studying
Fera, who also happened to be from the same village as Ayon, struck up a conversation with him one day and asked about his plans after primary school.
Speaking to The Sun, Fera said: "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."
After learning of Ayon's plight and his decision to forgo his secondary school education, Fera said she asked him one question: "Do you want to continue going to school?"
Ayon replied her with a simple "yes".
Fera told Ayon that she would help him if he was serious.
All he had to do was arrange for his own means of transport out of his village and bring along his essentials like clothes, while she would handle the rest.
Planned to trek the distance on foot
Little did Fera expect the young Ayon to make the 14km journey on foot and by himself.
Fera's mother, who lives near Ayon's family, was the one who alerted and called her after the older woman saw Ayon leaving his house and walking out of the village.
The main road was some 14km away from the village and Ayon had to go through muddy dirt roads, slippery slopes and then trek up a peak before getting there.
Fera said: "I immediately took my car, and started driving to the village from where I was, which was quite far away."
By the time she reached Ayon, she said he was three hours in to his trek and had already hiked halfway up the peak.
This was when Fera took the now-viral picture of Ayon, where he was carrying two backpacks -- one large blue backpack the size of his torso on the front and another on his back -- while climbing uphill in sandals against a backdrop of rolling green peaks.
Enrolled into SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin
After locating Ayon, Fera said she took him in and housed him temporarily while she arranged for his lodging at his school's hostel.
He was enrolled in SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin, a secondary school in Penampang.
After his boarding application was accepted, Ayon arrived at his school on Apr. 5.
Boy's story moved many
Fera said Ayon's strong desire to pursue his studies moved her tremendously.
His determination and grit has also captivated many in Malaysia, and several Good Samaritans have stepped forward to sponsor his school fees, allay his school costs, and purchase his school supplies.
This included a former Malaysian actor, Adrian Edy, who personally brought Ayon out to shop for his essentials.
Edy said the young boy was shy and polite, and also did not ask for much.
When Edy told Ayon to take whatever he want, Edy said Ayon declined politely and replied: "It's okay, it's already too much. I'll just take whatever I need, abang, and for this I'm already very grateful."
"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.”
When Edy asked Ayon if there was anything the younger boy wished he could buy, but never got the chance to, Ayon meekly replied: "I do, abang. I want a bicycle but daddy and mummy can't afford it yet."
This spurred Edy to take Ayon to a bicycle shop, where he promptly purchased a bicycle that the young boy had chosen for himself.
Hopes to be a firefighter
The bicycle was both a gift and an encouragement for Ayon to study hard and succeed.
Ayon told Edy he hopes to be a fireman when he grows up, and promised Edy to give back to others.
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Top image from Peri Peya/Facebook