Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Teachers of Old - Mr. Vijaya Samaravickrama.

My earlier years of schooling began in a rural school called Sekolah Kebangsaan Kangkong, Pasir Mas, Kelantan. I was there from year one to year four. The teachers there didnt leave much impression on me except for the very nice Cikgu Aziz and the very fierce Cikgu Ramli. Cikgu Ramli never taught my class. He was teaching in another class next to mine one day and it happened that our own class teacher didnt come in at that time. Being free and not supervised, some of us went out of the class and saw many pupils in the next room were being punished by standing on their chairs by Cikgu Ramli. They immediately rushed in when Cikgu Ramli saw them outside his class. His stern look alone could scare the shit out of us. I was not in the group but out of curiousity I went out to see what was hapening in the next class. Cikgu Ramli caught the sight of me and he came after me. He gave me two whacks of the rotan. The lashes were so severe that it took the whole day for the welt to disappear. My thin shirt didnt help me much. Sympathetic class mates looked at my back and saw the two distinct parallel grooves left by the cane. From that time onwards I hate Cikgu Ramli. I felt the punishment was too severe for the offence that I made and I was physically too small to endure that two of his best strokes.

The next phase of my life involve a certain teacher by the name of Mr Vijaya Samaravickrama. To him I would like to dedicate this section.

After the 4 years stint in the Malay School I was fortunate to be accepted into a Special Malay Class in Sultan Ibrahim Primary School Pasir Mas. That was in 1961. The Special Malay Class was a two year transition program for Malay school pupils to enter the English school at standard 6. This is the earliest entry for malay school pupils to an English school. We can also enter form one in an English secondary school after completing standard six in a Malay or a Chinese school. Entry to form one was after undergoing a one year remove class.

What is special about this Special Malay Class is, it is not just for Malays. We have the Chinese and Thai pupils too but they were from Malay rural schools as well. I can remember two classmates by the name of Khoo Cheng Ho (deceased) and Foo Kheng Hwa.

Our class had a very special teacher by the name of Vijaya Samaravickrama (now Dr). He is of Sri Lankan ancestry but to our limited knowledge he was an Indian. A graduate of Kirkby Teachers Training College in England, I would consider him to be my best teacher. He was extremely tolerant of our ignorance and stupidity. The first teacher that we have in the English School whereby the teacher couldnt speak a word of Malay and the pupils couldnt speak a word of English.

The first day in class started as such:

Mr. Vijaya: Good morning children.
Pupils: Good morning children.
Mr. Viajaya: No you must answer 'good morning sir'.
Mr Vijaya: Good morning children
Pupils. Some answered Good morning sir while the rest answered good morning children.
Mr. Vijaya: Good morning children.
Pupils: Good morning sir.

At the end of the day another communication problem cropped up. Some pupils have to take the evening train. Since we were in the afternoon session, the class only ended after the time for the train to leave. These pupils asked Mr Vijaya for permission to leave early in order to catch the train. Since Mr. Vijaya couldn't understand Malay, they used all sort of gesticulations to make him understand the request. All attempts failed. Help came in the form of a senior pupil who passed by the class. He informed Mr Vijaya of their predicament and before Mr Vijaya could say yes they bolted out because the train was already hooting their horns at the station which was situated almost a kilometer from the school. The next day we heard they did manage to catch the train as the train driver saw them running after the train and he took pity upon them and delayed the train's departure.

Mr. Vijaya was a very creative teacher. What we love most about him was when he told us stories. As a dramatist, all stories came alive with not only him doing the parts but us pupils too will have to act certain parts. So not only we got to enjoy the story but also enjoyed acting. During such story telling times he would vent his frustrations with the dunces in the class. Either the dunces will be asked to act the part on a table or he will shake his/her head as a form of punishment. I guess not many of us realised that.

Art and craft is another interesting time with Mr Vijaya. He had so much to teach us and he taught us as much as he could. Thats learning and from a teacher who is so passionate about his job, we learnt alot and very fast. By the end of year one, we could understand English though speaking it is still a problem what more with our Kelantanese tounge which make our English sound with a different twang.

Our class teacher in Special Malay Two was Cikgu Hashim Mohamad. A great artist who could paint with withwater colours and produce great artwork. At least to my eyes. Unfortunately he didnt teach us art and so none of his ability rub off on us.

In year three we joined standard six. The three classes of Special Malay Class were combined with the 3 classes from standard five. The new 6 classes of standard Six were named by the letters A to E and we were streamed based on our exam result.

Again I was fortunate to have Mr. Vijaya as our English teacher of Standard Six A. A teacher who laid the base for our English education and someone whom we know, like and trust. Mr. Vijaya was also the hostel Master for the combined Secondary and Primary School. During his tenure at the primary school, he was also involved in many activities such as drama productions and other literary activities such as debates and elocutions in The Secondary School. Shakespeares plays such as MacBeth and Julius Ceasar were staged in this East Coast school during his time and if I remember it right it was carried in The Straits Times then. Later he produced Androclus And the Lion whereby he played the leading role. Unfortunately it was staged in Kota bharu and it was too faraway for me to see. As I was alwayss interested in these activities I will always snooping around to such functions. It was such experiences that helped me to create activities for my English Literary and Debating Society of which I was Chairman. This was when I was in form 5.

Mr. Vijaya was transfered out of the school in 1963. Later he lectured in UITM and the last we were in contact in 2005 he was lecturing in Taylors College. A teacher who will teach as long as he is capable to teach. To you sir, I am indebted for life.

4 comments:

Azmy Omar said...

Yes. Indeed Mr Vijaya was a very good story teller. When he told us stories our mouth were wide opened, so to speak. He would even sing to attract our attention to his stories. We missed him a lot when he left us.

Yes 1963. It was the year when I met Zawawi for the first time in Standard 6A. We became the best of friend. Our form teacher was Mr Lian Chong Lai, not Mr. Vijaya, a teacher from Penang. I was not a Special Malay student. I was in Primary One in 1958.

I remebered quite well. The first day at school. January 1958.. yes a few months after we gained our independence. One of my classmates was even a mat salleh kid. Of course he understood every word of what the techer was talking about... but us, with no prior knowledge of English just looked at each other.

Slowly but surely we began to undersrand the language. We were taught to sing nursery rhymes of course. Twinkle, Twinklr Little Satrs, Baa Baa Blacke Sheep. etc etc.

The text books used, were based on English Farms. Names like Old Lob, Mr. Grump the horse, Percy..the chick.. and when we were introduced to fruits; it began with apple, orange, banana, watermelon, papaya, mango.

I still remember that first year when I got 2nd place for the End of Year exam. The first place went to Wan Karimah who happened to be my neighbour.


Yeah that was 1958. It was a long time ago....

Azmy Omar Al-Ahmadi

visit me at
http://adchmy.fotopages.com
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Zawi said...

Tuan Haji Azmi,
Thank you for visiting my site. Yeah you were right, it was Mr Lian Chong Lai who was our class teacher. maybe he took over from Mr. Vijaya after he was transfered out. I remember Mr Vijaya giving me a knock on my head with his knuckles during line up before entering the class. I cheekily wished him good morning during the line up. Thats why i got the knock hehehe.

J.T. said...

Teachers like Mr Vijaya are hard to come by these days. There are rare exceptions, though. Teachers like him do more than just teach a subject. They teach about life.

Zawi said...

j.t.

We were fortunate in the sense that during our times we had teachers coming from all over Malaysia to teach in a small town of Pasir Mas. Beside the Malay teachers we have many Chinese, Indians, Punjabis and Ceylonese like Dr. Vijaya. They all are dedicated teachers. I will be writing more about the rest in my later postings. I have also managed to contact Dr. Vijaya via email to let him know about the article dedicated to him.