MOST parents struggle to strike a balance between the commitments of parenthood with the demand of a career.
To Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, 58, parenting is a challenge.
“To become successful parents we need to be able to show good examples. A father’s role at home is leadership by example. He is essentially a leader and a role model. It is important to show respect to his children and wife,” he told The Borneo Post in an interview.
Tangau, who is married to Dr Jainah Sintian from Bundu Tuhan, are blessed with four girls and a boy.
He was born in a remote hill padi village called Lokos, which is inaccessible by road until he graduated in 1983. The nearest little village was Pekan Nabalu which was about five hours’ walk, and the nearest school was SMK Kiulu that would take about one day of walking.
Tangau’s primary school days started in 1965, three years after SRK Lokos was built.
After completing primary school, he decided to continue studies at SMK Kiulu, doing Bridge Class despite the strong objection from his parents. He managed to survive studying there until Form Two through various initiatives of his own, to look for money to pay school fees among others.
“I was lucky. When I was in Form Two I received a boarding scholarship and was transferred to SMK Ranau. I was there for only one year because I was selected by the state government to pursue my studies at Setapak High School after the Form Three examination.
“After Form Five (1976) I had a very good opportunity to further my studies overseas but due to communication problem in my village, I did not receive the offer letter,” he said chuckling.
“Instead, I was requested to further my studies at SM Sains Selangor in Cheras to do my Form Six. After that I entered University Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) to do a Bachelor’s Degree in Forestry; so I have spent eight years of my student life in Kuala Lumpur.
“Upon graduating, I decided to take up a job around Kota Kinabalu. It was a conscious decision because I wanted to stay in Kota Kinabalu and be involved with NGOs. I even turned down a job at the Forestry Department in Sandakan.
“I also decided to take up a position as a researcher at the Sabah Forestry Development Authority just so I will be able to stay in Kota Kinabalu. The NGOs were KDCA or KCA, Aliran and others,” he added.
Tangau is very passionate in telling his educational journey.
“Just before the collapse of the Berjaya government in 1984, I was sent to Japan for a four-month training stint in the various research institutions in Japan. Upon returning, there was already a new state government and under the new government I decided to join the newly set up Institute for Development Studies Sabah, which I served for nine years.
“During that time I also pursued my post graduate studies at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Manila, Philippines.
“Because of the various activities, I only got married when I was 33 years old, which is considered late. That was in 1991,” said Tangau, elaborating, how he finally started a family.
Tangau has 14 siblings. He has a hand in helping most of them in their studies, especially the younger ones because his parents were reluctant due to financial constraints.
Thankfully, their hard struggle paid off and five of them are university graduates.
When he was at the university, Tangau had always admired his parents for having 14 children in spite of being just padi farmers.
“I have this weird idea that I should have more children than my parents because in my profession I should be doing better.
“But when I got married I only have five children. Since education is very important to me I have sent all my children to pre-schools and kindergartens. With the exception of the youngest one, all of them were able to read. All of them loves reading until today,” he said.
One of the things as a father Tangau really wanted to do, for sure, is to spend time with his children.But until today, due to his activities, he admits that he could not spend the desired amount of time.
In 1994, Tangau was elected as a member of parliament for Tuaran and has been in politics since then.
In August last year, he was appointed as minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.
He is struggling to juggle his career and family, but one thing he will make sure is to spend time with them going to church every Sunday.
To him, family is the most important part in his life as they have been there as a team to make him a better person every single day.
“One of the greatest achievements as a family and a team to me was when I quit smoking in 2003. I have been smoking for the past 20 years, finishing more than 40 sticks a day, and my wife was unhappy about it, but no matter what she did she was not successful.
“One day, my children made a deal with me that if all of them could score straight As in their examinations I would quit smoking. This was put on paper signed by me and my children, witnessed by my wife.
“And so that year my eldest twin sat for the UPSR and scored straight As. My other children also scored straight As in their respective examinations, except for the youngest who was still in kindergarten. So I kept my end of the bargain and have not touched a single stick of cigarettes since then,” he said.
Asked what are the top three things that he stood for, his answer was education, development of indigenous people, and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“One of the things close to my heart is education. Upon my return to my village after Form Four in 1975, I, together with ex students of SRK Lokos, set up an ex-pupil association to assist pupils in the kampung.
“We have an annual fund raising programme and an annual Aku Janji to be diligent in school and to promise to our parents not to disappoint them. We also help a few of the children in the village from dropping out. We are doing that until today. When I was elected as an MP, my number one service is education.
“The other thing is the right of development for the indigenous people.
“As minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, I am promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM, which is the driving force for the country’s new economy as we move towards becoming a developed nation,” he said.
Being someone who was born in the interior and who managed to climb up the political ladder, Tangau always believes that one has to continue learning.
To him, learning is a life-long process right to our death beds.
“We should continue learning for as long as new knowledge is being discovered. Look at the rapid advancements in science and technology for example. An important attribute the workforce should have is the ability to unlearn and relearn new skills.
“It is our rate of adapting to new knowledge that would help determine our success in an ever-changing environment,” he concluded.