This is a story of Elephant and her class of 30 friends. At the start of the school year, Elephant was elected class president. She was kind and everyone liked her. It came as no surprise, she won by a landslide with 28 out of 30 votes. As class president, she appointed her class committee. Each would hold an important role, such as the treasurer or head decorator.
ll of them wanted to do their best. Elephant was particularly keen on winning the award for best class in the school. To win, they would have to collect the most stars. Stars could be earned for various categories. As stars were given monthly for cleanliness and decorations, she made sure they would try and win it every time.
Her decorations officer proposed to have new decorations every month. The class would look good with shiny new decorations each time it was examined. Cleanliness was not a problem as well, for one reason: Tiger. The weirdo. He would pick up trash on the floor and keep it in his bag to bring home. Sometimes he would reach into the trash bin and find stuff he was fond of.
Another category she was aiming to win was the final year class performance. It was only January, but she had started creating a script based on a fantasy movie she liked and assigned people to prepare the props.
As the year progressed, some of her classmates seem to distance themselves from her. They seemed cold and less friendly to her. Cliques started to form and she found out some were bad-mouthing her. She was shocked! She did nothing wrong to them and the class was doing great. Halfway through the year and they had far more stars than any other class. Puzzled, she went to investigate.
She soon found out Snake had been frequently calling her names. One day, she overheard him saying how stupid she was for redecorating the class every month. She marched home that day, frustrated. They did not understand that she did all this for them.
She woke up one night crying from a nightmare. Her whole class teasing her in the dream. The next day, she decided to keep to herself and only hang out with her closest friends. She grew distant from the rest of her classmates.
For the play, she made sure the ones she liked got the best roles. The ones in her bad books, had to act as rocks, trees, and other lame roles. Snake, was to become the villain (which at the end of the play was chucked into a volcano). She smiled thinking of that last scene.
Later on, her committee went to discuss some changes to solve her “problem”. Before they could elaborate, she exploded with anger. She told him to go away, furious that they had abandoned her to side with her “enemy”. She was now alone.
During lunch, only Tiger willingly sat next to her. Seeing that Tiger was Snake’s neighbour, she wondered if he knew why Snake hated her so much. Tiger frowned, surprised that she did not know. Snake and his family were quite poor. He was financially burdened by all the class projects. Both the decorations and the props for the play cost money. The treasurer would collect monthly payments from everyone. Others like him were struggling to pay, and had to resort to using their lunch money.
Besides that, some were unhappy that they had no opportunity to give ideas in decorations. Her decorating officer aka “deco-dictator” would decide the theme, and everyone would be asked to set it up for her. Heart shapes were involved occasionally and there was plenty of pink. The boys passionately hated it.
Snake, ashamed of his situation vented his anger by bad-mouthing her. This inspired many others to do the same. She felt bad for what she had did. To cheer her up, Tiger gave her an origami plane made out of old newspaper. She smiled and said it was beautiful. He smiled back, and decided to bring her to his “studio” at home. The mystery of Tiger was finally revealed: He wasn’t weird, he was innovative!
He picked up stuff people had thrown out and made art. He turned discarded cardboard into flowers and animal, old newspaper was transformed into origami and other amazing things. A pile of the old class decorations were also kept neatly in his “creative” bin. His parents were passionate about recycling and encouraged their kids to do the same.
With eyes wide open, she shouted EUREKA! Running into the classroom the next day. She apologised to everyone for her mistakes and confidently told everyone her plan. She introduced everyone to Tiger’s passion for ”recycled” art. They would re-use from previous decorations that Tiger had kept, and use other recycled material they collected. They would also buy some stuff they needed but only with money they got from selling recyclable items they weren’t using.
It was still awkward for some in the class, but she knew in time things would improve. She decided to have more class meetings afterwards, where she could listen to the ideas of her friends. She would ensure that everyone’s concerns would be heard. As time went by she realised her plans and ideas were far better when everyone started to help out.
They did finally win the best class in the school at the end of the year. She smiled because she didn’t care much about it anymore. That wasn’t what made her class the best. No, it was the best because every day they tried to improve their class together. That everyone was enthusiastic to contribute time, effort and ideas. She got everyone to share, so that no one would be left out.
She understood now. The future is for us to determine, all of us.
Elephant and her friends are a metaphor for all to ponder on. Our circumstances and our experiences give birth to different ideas and we all have a say in our ‘class’ to make it better. Public Policy, as the name indicates requires the involvement of the public. With everyone contributing and participating, things will get better. So take the first step, shape your future, make it brighter.
Written by AWAY
Illustration by Fiqri Ramli