School starts again!

Iconic statue in the JB Convent and its
famous front steps that are a favourite spot for photos!
Soon after Christmas Day, parents and students can feel a subtle shift in the mood because it will be a matter of days before the school term starts again.  After eight full weeks of holidays, I can recall how difficult it was to adjust myself to the thought of going back to school.  The days of carefree fun and waking up at odd hours will soon be over when I must return to a rigid routine of waking up to the ring of the alarm clock and dealing with loads of homework from school.

As my sisters and I outgrew our school uniforms and canvas shoes each year, my mum will buy us new sets of uniforms and shoes while our old uniforms were recycled among us as the second set of uniforms in our wardrobe.  In those days, the uniform of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Johor Baru comprised a white short-sleeved, front-buttoned blouse matched with a navy blue tunic designed with three box pleats on its front and rear, and was worn with a matching blue belt.  With a family of three daughters, my eldest sister’s tunic will be handed down to our middle sister while I will inherit hers.  

Peggy [Right] with my sisters, Ruby [Left]
and Pearly [Centre] ready for school 
Like most school-going kids back then, our shoes were bought from Bata.  I can recall wearing slip-on canvas shoes throughout my Primary School because I did not know how to tie shoelaces.  At that time, Velcro was unheard of and it was much later in upper Secondary School that I progressed to wearing the laced-up Bata Badminton Master which was then considered cool shoes!

I remember there were book lists for parents to buy our text books prior to the school year and there was usually a trip to the school bookshop to get the required books.  Sometimes when the school bookshop ran short of supply we had to go again or visit the book shops along Jalan Ibrahim like Johor Central Store or the Abdul Wahab Store that also stocked text books.  Then my dad would help us wrap the books in brown paper and write our names on the covers in his curly cursive handwriting.

Besides inheriting old school uniforms from my sisters, I also remember inheriting their used text books.  I didn’t mind it because they were in the classes above me and it was economical for me to use their old books.  But I must admit that I was always thrilled if there was a change in the school syllabus and I finally got one or two new books to enjoy the pleasure of smelling the pungent ink as I turned the clean, crisp pages!

1964 class photo of Standard Two Yellow taken
at the famous front steps of the JB Convent
Other than from a change in the syllabus, the only new books I can expect each year are the exercise books.  In Primary School, students should have at least one exercise book for each subject and I remember we had lined exercise books that had the school name and crest printed on its standard brown covers.  I cannot recall if the back cover was blank or had any prints but these days, most exercise books come with back covers printed with the Rukunegara or National Principles, our State anthem and helpful 2 to 12 times-tables!

With a year of going to kindergarten in St Joseph School, I was prepared to go into Standard One of the JB Convent’s Primary School.  I cannot forget the pride in finally wearing the school uniform and joining my older sisters to go to school as well as the excitement in meeting several familiar faces of kindergarten classmates in Standard One Green.  Back then, there were no organised Bas Sekolah services yet so my parents arranged from a Mr Tan who had a provision shop in Larkin Gardens and also provided school transport, to ferry us in his car.

Façade of the JB Convent with the iconic statue now
preserved within a glass case
Throughout my school years, the weekend in Johor was Friday and Saturday but mission schools like the JB Convent and St Joseph School maintained their weekend on Saturday and Sunday. 
Since 1994 the weekend in Johor was officially changed and all schools enjoyed Saturday and Sunday weekends but on Nov 22, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, declared that Johor’s weekend will revert to Fridays and Saturdays. 
So from 1 Jan 2014, the JB Convent will mark their first day of school and a milestone in its history with its weekend now changed for the very first time, to Friday and Saturday.

Every year the start of the new school term will be chaotic as parents usually take their first-year kids to school and inadvertently cause massive traffic jams near school zones.  If both or either of the parents worked in the private sector where their weekend is maintained on Saturday and Sunday, their family time is limited to only Saturday, their common day off.  With the busyness of modern families today, I just hope that this weekend change will impact the children positively and help them make fond memories of a new chapter in their school life.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 31 December 2013

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