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Saturday, December 3, 2011

My School Days (Part One)

     (The article below is an excerpt of an article which I wrote that appeared on SPEKTRUM 24th Edition, 2010, a magazine produced by SMK Tengku Mahkota Muar.  Immediately I made up my mind to post this piece of writing on this blog since it would save me some effort in updating it.  The item, bearing the same title "I Still Remember" made up of almost 1800 words.  Although it only filled one page of the magazine, I think it is too long to be posted on this site which, for that reason, I decided to break it up into a few parts.  The one below is, of course, Part One.  Enjoy reading.)

            In the sixties, some schools used the Malay language as a medium of instruction while others used English.  National schools such as ‘Sekolah Kebangsaan Bakri Batu 5’ used the Malay language; which means at that school, every subject was taught in Malay except the English language.  On the other hand, at ‘Sekolah Ismail Dua’, every subject was taught in English apart from Bahasa Malaysia and ‘Agama Islam’.
This is not Sek. Keb. Bakri Batu 5 in the 60s, but there was a resemblance

Being the third child in the family, I had an elder sister and an elder brother, both of them studied at a ‘Sekolah Kebangsaan’ (Dad referred to it as a ‘Malay school’) half a mile away from our home.  They walked to and from school each day with a lot of their friends.  Since they learnt everything except the English Language in Malay, I used to hear my elder brother reading loudly at home.  I thought to myself, when the time came for me to go to school, I would also be like him, reciting printed words at the top of my voice.

I still remember that day when I was lying in my father’s lap (I was quite small at that time) one late afternoon.  My mother was at the kitchen preparing dinner for the family.  Though still very young, I was already able to talk and understand some dialogues around me.

            “Do you want to go to a Malay school or an English school?” Dad asked me.

            I didn’t understand what he meant.  Since English school was mentioned last, straight away I answered “English!” without thinking.

            Consequently, Dad registered me at an English school when I was seven.  He took me to Ismail School Two in town (now Sekolah Ismail Dua) on his Vespa scooter and left me at the mercy of the teachers.  The class teacher (after that I learnt her name was Mrs. Chong) brought me to a classroom, “Standard One Suloh” where about forty boys were sitting behind oversized desks.  Mrs. Chong made me sit on a chair.  I looked around the classroom and saw two of my cousins also sitting in the same room.  We waved at each other, relieved to find someone whom we knew.

            Then there was a loud rang.  It was recess time.  Mrs. Chong made us line up two by two.  “Small boys in front, big boys behind”, she barked.  When she was satisfied with the line, we marched towards the canteen. 

On the way to the canteen, we passed two blocks of classroom buildings.  When we got near the canteen, sweet aroma met my nostrils, making me hungry.  Probably other boys in the group also felt the same.  I saw a lot of big boys; Malays, Chinese and Indians busy buying food and drinks.  Looking around, I saw piles and piles of food on a long and high counter, as high as my chin.  There were fried bananas, curry puffs, “kuih bom”, fried noodles, rambutans and a lot of other foods which I could not remember.   Apart from fried noodles, the kuihs cost five cents per piece.  In case some of the readers do not understand “kuih bom”, it was a kind of cake made from banana mixed with flour and shaped into a small ball, as big as a boy’s fist.  Nowadays, this type of ‘kuih’ is only as big as a child’s fist; more or less thirty sen per piece. 
A school premis in the 60s. 

I approached a big pan on which a mountain of fried bananas were placed and took one.  Actually, one piece of banana was sliced at one end.  Then another sliced banana was attached to it, dipped in flour mixture and fried.  The price was five cents.  Dad gave me ten cents that morning.  After eating the warm, soft and sweet fried banana, I drank a plastic glass of cool sweet drink, also costing me five cents.
            When it was time to go home, once more we were made to line up two by two.  Outside the school gate, I saw Dad waiting for me on his scooter.  Ahh, soon I would be home!                                                                     

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