School as I recall it

Form 4 Arts, HIJ Convent
Siti Rashidah [Front row, 3rd from Right]
Glad to share this letter sent to me through NSTP Johor:

Dear Editor,

I just had to respond to your article, Immersed in English, which appeared in the New Straits Times on The English Language Teachers Conference with, School as I recall it:

Dear Peggy,

That photograph of our Form Four Arts class made me recall a lot of memories and kept a good grin on my face for many days.  Even if it was just a class photo in black and white and nearly forty years ago, I was so proud I could share a little bit of glamour, appearing in the newspaper, with office colleague and a few of my siblings who also attended the HIJ Convent.  

Why should it not evoke memories of my early days attending “Sekolah Orang Putih”?  I still recall that it was not easy to attend an English missionary school in those days. Without any basic English whatsoever, I stepped into the school to mingle with other multi racial students on my first day of school in 1964.  I recall there were just a few Malay girls in class.  Among those I can still remember in that class photograph are Kausar, Mastura, Wan Jooria and a few more, quite a number of Indian friends namely the loud mouthed Jayashree Pillay, the soft spoken Geetha Achutan, Sinduja, Elizabeth Mathews and some Eurasians among us namely Audrey, Isabella, Daphne, and of course our dear sweet Peggy, just to name a few.

As I recall, the first phrase that I had to learn and learn fast was ‘Excuse me teacher’ and ‘Please teacher may I go out’ because it was important for us to go to the loo… In spite of not being able to converse very well with friends because of the lack of verbal proficiency, we got along very well.  Language was not a barrier.  Even if the “chicken” had to talk with the “duck” it did not matter as long as we understood one another, that was good enough – no matter even if it was obviously broken English.  Maybe some of the Indian and Eurasian friends are all very well-versed in their English (coming from English-speaking background and parents).

Time just seemed to fly. From Standard One to Standard Two and finally to our Standard Six or was it at Standard Five where we had to sit for our Assessment Examinations …. I even got a distinction for English!  I guess by that time English was no more a taboo subject because we were already well-versed, thanks to all our teachers!

I remember during our primary school days, every class had a small cupboard which was filled with plenty of reading materials.  I guess that must have been the reason why I had taken to reading.  Mind you then all subjects were taught in English except for Bahasa Malaysia.  Like it or not we just had to get on with it. Whether you understood English sparingly or sparsely or not at all, class had to go on.

One of our Primary teachers who I can still remember very well is, of course, the graceful Miss Amy Wong who came to class in beautiful Victorian frocks.  We got curious as to what made Miss Wong’s pretty skirts stiff and held its shape and did not get crumpled. Our guess was it must be the under-wire that was holding it nicely until she got off from school.  Apologies Miss Wong, we were only 11 or 12 years old then, I guess it was a very curious and imaginative age!

Soon we moved on to Secondary school.  Thank God we were not hustled off to other schools and stayed in the same grounds with the secondary school just next door.  We were then bigger girls going to higher levels of class. I think many of us still remained in the same classes from primary school to secondary school.

Lessons got tougher and standards got higher, but nevertheless school was still enjoyable. How we loves those days!  How we couldn’t wait for the holidays to end so that we could get back to school and be with our friends. There were so many stories to tell and gossips to share which happened during the holidays.  Growing up as teenagers meant getting more involved with school activities as well as with social activities in life and for some of us, even getting involved with love or was it just puppy love?

Hey… do you also remember that day when Frankie Cheah came to school?  I can’t remember what he came for… wait… if I am not mistaken I think there was going to be a debate between our school and his school.  We were all so excited, waiting with apprehension for a glimpse of that good-looking, singing teacher!

Soon it was time to sit for more important exams, namely The Lower Certificate of Education.  The exams were all conducted in English and by this time we were already proficient in our English.  However hard the subjects may be, as long as we had a love for them, I guess that helped us to pass them.

By then our reading standards were getting better.  From simple Fairy Tales to Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, we graduated to higher reading materials.  How we loved Mills & Boon, Denise Robins and Agatha Chrisite books!  I can recall with horror, the days when some of our books were confiscated by our teachers!  It was not the loss of the book that mattered but the story that we were reading.  Love indeed is a many splendoured thing! We were so green that our teachers thought the contents of the books were not suitable for us at that tender age.  I recall on one occasion, I had to throw one of my love story books out through the windows so as to avoid being caught red-handed!

Hey friends, soon it was our last year in school. Form Five - our eleventh year in school. How time seems to fly! Have we any regrets?  It had been years filled with love among friends, love for our teachers, love for their guidance, love for the school and love for life itself. Vini vidi, vici, we came, we saw, we conquered.

It was nice going down memory lane. I hope you enjoyed sharing the precious time we had during school days.

Love from me,

Siti Rashidah bt Sh Ismail
Sektor Pengurusan Sekolah
Jabatan Pelajaran Johor
11 July 2012


1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7/23/2012

    Wonderful sharing.
    Now it is my turn to be nostalgic.
    Do you know that I used to hate eating vegetables when I was young...or rather cooked vegetables. I had no problems with raw vegetables, salad or even scalded vegetables and chye sim was definitely a no, no, until I went to your grandma's house for lunch (my cousin, I think, was quite close to Ruby) and she made chye sim in soup, and was it delicious...and it changed my perception of vegetables from that day on.