Monday, July 9, 2007

My School Days

It was 1967 and we were in form 4 at Sultan Ibrahim Secondary School in Pasir Mas. It was then the only English school in this small town. Our Biology teacher Mr. Toh Kin Woon (Now Datok Dr) sent us on a field study to study various topics for our ecology class. The class of 40 were divided into four groups each comprising 10 students. Each group was given different topics to cover such as padi farming, rubber small holding and some others .

My group was comprised of 5 Malays and 5 Chienese. This is an all boys group. We had to walk a few miles for our field assignment since not all members could not afford to even own bicycles what more motorbikes as often is the norm nowadays among school children. We enjoyed the 4 miles walk to the village as we passed by beautiful chinese houses with peculiar curved roof. These wooden houses remain standing to this day. According to Liong Siok Hui of The Star, this curved roof seemed to be only pertinent to Kelantan.

Our subject was Pig Rearing. Upon discussion among the group, we decided to visit the nearest farm operated by a chinese farmer in Kampong Mekasar. There are also pig farms operated by Thai farmers in tumpat which is quite a distance away.

Pigs are reared in unsheltered pens with wooden fences and earthen floor. This contributed to the muddied state of the sty which emanated a strong stench. Believe it or not not a single one of us seemed perturbed by all this unhealty state of the subject and everyone of us took it as a matter of necessity for our study.

While having a look at the sty and its conditions, our presence attracted the attention of the owner who lived in a house nearby. After a short explanation by our chinese member as to the reason of our visit, the owner who is about 40 years old, opened up and agreed to answer our questions on the subject of pig rearing. We had our informations on how pig was reared in the traditional ways and the economics of it from the farmers experience and perspective. We realised that he was a very hardworking farmer as everyday he had to collect leftovers from restaurants in the town to feed his animals since they are voracious feeders.

Our next stop then was the veterinary office in Pasir Mas. The Vet then was a Mr Raja who was a very friendly officer. He assigned his Veterinary Assistant Che Husin Che Musa who answered more questions on pig rearing in the district. The questions were mostly on statistics, modern rearing techniques, diseases of pigs etc.

Armed with ample information about the local industry, we were able to put up a very creditable presentation to the class and deftly answered questions fielded by the class. Mr Toh Kin Woon was very impressed with our work and we gloated on the accolade.

Now of course you would want to find out what is so great about this excercise? I didnt see it as significant either until later in life when Major (R) Chong Chow Kar who was a member of the group sent emails to our classmates reminding us of this field trip we made as students during our schooldays. He reminded us of the camaraderie that we had among friends. It reminded us of our blindness as to the colour of our skin. It reminded us that nothing is taboo among us if we can see the tree from the forest. Do you think Mr Toh Kin Woon had the audacity to assign Malay students in Kelantan to study pig rearing as a subject for field study way back in 1967?. I guess no one would dare even suggest such a subject now for fear of being labelled as insensitive to ones culture and religion. If the assignment were to be done now I could envisage that students would go home and tell their parents about it and hell and fury would be unleashed in all the media and ptotests would be held by the so called guardian of morality. Remember PAS had a field day riling Pak Lah when he was put in charge of controlling the JE Virus when the industry was hit by it.

Upon reflections, I guess the education back then was far superior compared to what it is now. Schools seemed to be the best avenue to bind us together. We respected our teachers so much and regarded them as our mentor. When we did something wrong we were slapped in front of the class for everyone else to act as a lesson for evryone. We didnt whine abit or rushed home to tell our parents because doing so would elicit further beatings from our own father who would feel ashamed of us for doing something wrong in school.

Since it was so good I often wonder why did we change the system. Above all I regard the conversion to Malay as the medium of instruction as the biggest mistake by the country's leaders. It put the Malays at a disadvantage more than the others. I will dwell more on this in my newer postings.


Elviza Michele said...

A'kum Zawi,

Thanks for visiting my blog and welcome to the blogsphere. Sorry this greeting is a bit late in coming.

I found your posting informative. Could we have more please?

H J Angus said...

thanks for sharing our good old days.

I agree that the switch to English was a big mistake that was made worse when English was allowed to be sidelined.

The pig rearing visit would have been distasteful for most students but I am sure you learned some interesting details.

Keep up the interesting article!

H J Angus said...

thanks for sharing our good old days.

I agree that the switch to English was a big mistake that was made worse when English was allowed to be sidelined.

The pig rearing visit would have been distasteful for most students but I am sure you learned some interesting details.

Keep up the interesting article!

J.T. said...

Hello Zawi

I was blog hopping and found your comments in Zorro's blog. I decided to pay you a visit. You have an interesting post here.

Talking about the standard of education, I remember going through some of my father's old English books many years ago. I thought he used them after secondary school. I was surprised to see that they were used in Standard 6!

Speaking of school days, even during my time (70s - early 80s), we were afraid to tell our parents that we got punished or slapped by the teacher. We would suffer another round of punishment at home. That is not the case today.

Those were the days. I feel that our education system has taken a dive. My niece's English teacher does not even speak English during lessons. A huge shame.

Zawi said...

Thanks for the comment.

Puteri said...


I am catching up on all your old posts. Really informative and entertaining!

I agree with you about the decline in the standard of education since the switch to BM. Nationalism, I guess was the reason. And you are right about the Malays and also the rural folks of Sarawak being at a disadvantage because of their poor grasp of the English language.

I have blogger friends who are graduates of our local universities who write such poor Englsih. Such a shame. My father who only had a primary school education used to be so disgusted with the new graduates who worked with him. They could not speak or write English well.

Yes, can you imagine Malay students being asked to study on pig rearing today?! All hell will break loose!

Unfortunately my Malay friends who didn't care about sharing our food as long as it was not pork when we were in school, refused to eat or drink anything when they came to visit me at my family house during Christmas. I was very disappointed and wondered what has changed.

Zawi said...

Elviza and H J Angus,
Holycow! How on earth did I miss your comment and H J Angus comments of sometime ago? I came back here after receiving a note from G mail that Puteri has posted a comment in here and saw the two comments from you nad Angus. Better late than never though it was overtaken by events.
Thanks to the both of you. Happy to note that you fond my posting to be of interest.

Zawi said...

I dunno how to answer you. What has become of them that scares the shit out of them from eating food in a non muslims home. Some of them are not pious muslims at all but will not do anything they consider as taboo.
Lucky thing my wife is as tolerant as me and will not show any discomfort at having something in a non moslems house. I have a close frioend by the name of Ah Hoon and we went to his house for CNY. We ater his wife;s fried mee to our hearts content. We know they wont put in anything that we moslem cant take.
Nationalism my foot. Doesnt serve anybody any good.

Anonymous said...

Dear Zawi

Your anecdotes flashes the good old memories at SIS and I enjoyed reading your stories very much.

Your name however slip my memory .

If you could quote names of old 'pasis' I am sure I can recall some of them . Khoo Cheng Hoo and Toh Kin Woon are the names that I recognised .

Know Ibrahim Hussain , Zainal Abidin Hussain , Baharin Jalil , Aziz , Shafie , Anuar , Mahani Yusoff , Norma Hamzah , etc etc ?

Zawi said...

Cant help you much there if you can't recall me. The only way I can help you is by posting the pictures of me in form 4 and 5 group photo which I think I still have in my collection somewhere. Just give me a few days and comeback to see the blog again will ya?
I was indeed a member of 'Pasis 68' and we had the logo emblazoned on our T shirts or even singlets. Pasis 68 was designed by Shafie and it stands for Penghuni Asrama Sultan Ibrahim School.
How I wish you could identify yourself so that I can recall you.
The late Khoo Cheng Ho was guned down by the underworld while he was serving in the police force. He was in the detective squad I think.