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 Chinese. This is an all boys group. We had to walk a few miles for our field assignment since not all members could  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 unhealthy 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 information on how pig was reared in the traditional ways and the economics of it from the farmers experience and perspective. We realized 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 exercise? I didn't 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 everyone. We didn't whine a bit 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment