The news of Brunei’s first woman Cabinet Minister was applauded nationwide when His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam announced the Cabinet reshuffle on June 7.
“The announcement came as a surprise and, almost immediately, I felt it with much gravity because it meant an enormous trust to carry out a great service to the people,” said the new Minister of Education Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah binti Haji Mohd Salleh in an interview with the Bulletin.
Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah while expressing her gratitude and appreciation for the blessings Allah the Almighty has bestowed upon her, also expressed Junjung Kasih to His Majesty for consenting to her appointment.
The minister said there were many emotions at first and that it was impossible for her to describe in a single word.
“Above all else, I am humbled and grateful for the trust bestowed on me,” she said, noting that she had never expected to be part of such a pivotal moment in Brunei, and being the first female Cabinet Minister carries its own mark in women’s achievements in the Sultanate.
Asked what she will focus on in the education sector as minister, Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah explained that her priorities and goals have consistently been aligned with the Ministry of Education’s (MoE), as her whole career has been with the ministry.
“Coupled with the fact that academically I am trained in this field, my priorities are aimed at achieving quality education in Brunei, and I am determined not to waver from this,” she added.
The minister said the main focus has always been the students, which is to ensure accessibility to quality education as quality education is for all children in Brunei.
She explained that, ideally, if children are put at the centre and whatever strategies are at the periphery, one wouldn’t go wrong.
“However, that is not the case. The children, as well as all of us, are part of an ecosystem that is shaped by many variables, meaning that we are all different,” said the minister, adding that this makes it challenging to address all the differences as no one strategy fits all.
“Nevertheless, I am confident that with consistent work, perseverance, and the support of all those at the ministry, especially in our schools, we can achieve this.”
Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah also highlighted that the achievements of the MoE have come from the sacrifices borne by its teachers and school leaders who have supported the ministry over the years.
She is thankful to her predecessors who also laid a foundation for her to continue towards the National Education Agenda.
As the first woman minister in the history of Brunei, she said women in the country have plenty of opportunities to play a role, and she believes that one of the most important roles a woman can play is in education.
“You always hear the saying, ‘behind every successful man is a successful woman’, and I’d like to add another phrase to this, ‘behind every successful person or individual is a mother’,” said the minister.
She said that studies have found when mothers have a medium or high level of education, the results of their children are better. “So, women have a critical role to play,” she added. “In educating our children who will be the future leaders in our country, we must support women continuing education. It is a sacred duty.”
The minister said there have of course been moments of doubt and failure, which she has had a fair share of, and it is still not easy to overcome all the struggles. But she believes there is always a blessing facing them.
She believes that the struggles are opportunities and tests of trust and faith in Allah the Almighty which will make individuals stronger and become better people.
“My message to all women and girls is to dream. Continue to dream and dream high. Keep your faith in Allah the Almighty and it will lead you to achieve the best that you can be, Insya Allah. Remember, gender is not a definition of what you can achieve or aspire to be.”
Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah added that anyone can reach just about anything they want to if they practice and pursue a healthy passion, put their energy into it, focus, and work hard.
“What’s important is for you to keep going, keep your intentions good, keep yourself in good health, and have faith in Allah the Almighty,” she added. A graduate of Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia with a PhD in Science Education, Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah began her career as a primary school teacher at Panchor Murai Primary School in 1991 before moving to Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) to become a tutor and a lecturer, coordinator of continuing education, senior lecturer, head of department, convenor and then Dean from 1999 to 2009.
In 2011 to 2013, she became the Director of Planning, Development and Research at the MoE before being appointed as the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Higher Education) in 2013 to 2014, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Core Education) 2014 to 2016, and Permanent Secretary in 2016, where she was later promoted to Deputy Minister of Education in 2018 to June 6, 2022.
Over the years, the minister has also been conferred with a number of state honorary medals, including the Pingat Indah Kerja Baik (PIKB) and Pingat Kerja Lama (PKL) in 2011 and 2013, as well as the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia Darjah Ketiga (SMB) in 2015, the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia Darjah Kedua (DPMB) in 2017 and the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia Darjah Pertama (SPMB) in 2018.