Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A CENTURY OLD SCHOOL


As posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at www.chedet.com on August 5, 2008 7:21 AM

1. I came back from a holiday in Croatia to attend the centenary celebration of my alma mater, Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid or Sultan Abdul Hamid College recently.

2. It was a sentimental occasion. Seeing the old school, quite unchanged since I was admitted into Primary I way back in 1932 brought back many sweet/sad memories.

3. The centenary was more meaningful to me because the school was founded by my father who was also its first headmaster. He used to tell me of his experiences when he was headmaster there.

4. It was not in the present building of course. It was housed in a wooden Malay house in the middle of the town of Alor Star. Called the GES or Government English School, he had Malaysia's first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman as one of his students.

5. My father died in 1962. I thought he would like me to attend the centenary. I felt very nostalgic of the good old days when he used to teach me and my brother mathematics.

6. Before I was born he was sent to Pahang to teach at a school in Raub. Then he was sent to Johore to teach at an English school there.

7. Those were very distant places and he had to travel by boat with my mother and my eldest sister. My mother's second child, also a girl was born in Pahang. Mahadi my mother's eldest son was born in Johor Bahru.

8. Father got tired of shifting house and traveling to strange places. He came back to Alor Star and applied for an auditor's job with the Kedah Government.

9. Although his name is Mohamad bin Iskandar, people generally call him "Master" or Mohamad Iskandar. To honour him the primary school attached to Sultan Abdul Hamid College was named "Sekolah Iskandar" inadvertently honouring my grandfather instead. I have never complained.

10. At the main ceremony on the morning of Saturday 26th July the College named three ex-collegiate as the Collegiate of the Centenary. HRH the Sultan was the first, second came Tunku Abdul Rahman and I felt greatly honoured to be named as the third Collegiate of the Centenary. It would be another century before anyone will get this award.

11. To be able to study at the GES was a great privilege in those days. This was the first and only Government English School in Kedah. There were only 30 boys from the whole of Kedah admitted each year. I was one of the lucky ones.

12. Going to school was thrilling to me and I couldn't wait for school holidays to end.

13. I did fairly well and my Senior Cambridge Examinations result was good enough for me to be admitted into the medical faculty of the King Edward VII College of Medicine. I was given financial aid which was not a scholarship. The British Colonial Government apparently practised affirmative action because all my Chinese and Indian classmates had far better results than me. The examination results of the other six Malay students were even worse than mine. There were 70 plus students in all.

14. I owed my teachers in school a great deal. Only one of them, Mr. Zain, is alive today. He was a great teacher and spoke grammatically correct English all the time.

15. Schooling was such a great experience and I recall with fondness many rewarding events that I went through.

16. I hope and pray that all Malaysians remember their school days and the part that school plays in their lives. Getting an education right up to University level is easy now. But we must nevertheless feel grateful for there are more than one billion illiterate people in the world. For them the future promises very little.