Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hostel life - Part 3 The Final Year

The final year in school and also meant the final year in the hostel. It was 1968 and the school received its first intake of 6th formers. Since there was already form 6 classes in Sultan Ismail College in Kota Bharu for the English medium classes, our school Sultan Ibrahim Secondary School started its form six to cater for the Malay medium students from all over Kelantan. If I were to join the 6th form classes for my Higher School Certificate, I will have to go to Sultan Ismail College.

This was the year my class of fifth formers was facing the School Certificate of Examination as well as the Malaysian Certificate of Examination. Two certificates in one examination sitting. (I am still vague about the concept but what I know is that if you fail the English subject you wont get the School Certificate).

Due to peer pressure among the hostelites, we studied hard for the examination. Most of us studied late into the night. Towards the end of the year we could discern each others sunken eyes due to lack of sleep. Particularly noticeable was Gani Senik's skin which became so loose that it could be pulled against the flesh. That is really hardwork. I took a much less strenuous approach and didn't burn the midnight oil too much until very near the examination itself. I was too busy with my co curriculum activities.

The teachers had abandoned their boycott of the extracurricular activities and we seemed to be making up for lost times. The calendar was full of activities. All school societies were moving at full speed. Every weekends were slated for at least an activity, sometimes two. So much so that we were hard up for a place to hold our activities and even the hostel canteen was made a venue.

The hostel was located within the school fenced up compound and just next to the school field. Most of the hostelites were active in sports and were represented in every almost sport. An obvious sportsman was the late Abas Akbar. He was an icon of a sportsman and excelled in almost every sport, be it athletics or team games.

Once a week we had free nights where we were free to do our own things. We could opt not to study on that particular night. One particular free night we had nothing better to do and we were hungry. Some of us decided to collect unripe 'bachang' fruits (a poor cousin of the mango with thick skin and large seed. Half of the pulp is fibrous nevertheless quite nice to eat when ripe) on a tree at the fringe of the school field. The field is a common field shared together with the primary school. It so happened that the particular 'bachang' tree was more on the primary school side and almost immediately infront of the semi-detached quarters occupied by both the primary and secondary school headmasters.

Mr. Ahmad Rahman, the primary school headmaster was the first to notice our group of raiders and he informed our headmaster of what we were doing. The late Mr Yusoff Ghouse was our headmaster (He was the father of Puan Marina Yusoff the famous lawyer cum politician). He came towards us and told us to go back to the hostel. He told us there were ghosts on the 'bachang' tree which of course we didnt believe. Out of respect we backed off carrying with us the few fruits that were plucked down by the climbers. Everything would have gone off peacefully if not for the realization that one of the three climbers was still on the tree. He was Ibrahim Hussein.

Some of us decided to go and look him up. Instead of just a few, almost all of the 60 hostelites followed and the noise made was so loud that Mr Yusoff Ghouse thought we were defying his orders to leave the fruit tree alone. Ibrahim Hussein was indeed still on the tree shaking with fright and couldnt climb down. He was coaxed to climb down from the tree. By then Mr Yusoff Ghouse was already running after us. Pandemonium broke loose and we ran helter skelter in every directions. He angrily chased us. He tried to catch one of us but we were too fast for an old man of his age. The school compound was our home and even in the darkness of the night we could run away and hide from him behind the many school buildings. At one point he was banging on the door of one of the classrooms thinking that we were hiding in one, where as we were actually hiding behind the building. He finally went back to the hostel building and surprise of all surprises he managed to catch hold of one of us by the name of Nik Hasan Nik Mat. (Nik Hassan's last post was a DSP at Shah Alam Police Contingent). Nik Hassan could have easily eascaped from the HM's hold had he wanted to but out of respect he apologized to him and followed him.

With Nik Hasan in his hold he called the hostel master Mr. G. Thanda and asked us to gather in the school teacher's common room. Prior to the gathering, Mr. Thanda asked us to meet in the hostel's canteen as he wanted to know the reason for all the fracas. He called on me to speak up. I told him that 'it was sheer panic' that we ran away when the headmaster came after us after we went to rescue Ibrahim Hussein from the tree. He gave us his fatherly smile and we know that he wasn't angry with us. After all we were a bunch of hungry young boys on a free night and we didnt mean any harm. The noticeable absence in the meeting with the hostel master was Aziz Ahmad (Major retired) who chose to escape by climbing over the school fence to avoid being caught. Aziz Ahmad was one of the hostel's prefect. There and then Mr. Thanda stripped him of the hostel's prefect-ship.

We were gathered in the teacher's common room at the school. It was almost midnight. One by one we were made to bend over and had our butt caned by Mr. Thanda. The number of strokes depended on the age and size of the boy. The smallest and youngest from the primary school received one stroke depending on the command from the headmaster. The bigger ones received 5 strokes. When it came to Abbas Akbar's turn the HM said "that boy is a big bull, give him five". We know Mr. Thanda was pulling the punches because he was using the middle of the cane instead of the tip of it and the blow was not at full strength. The HM realized it and he wanted to take over the caning. "If you dont know how to cane, let me cane them myself". Of course Mr. Thanda wouldn't let him but instead made it appear that he was hitting us harder.

If the Malaysian Guinness Book of records was in existence then, this could have easily be entered as a record as the largest number of pupils (more than 50) being caned in one session for the same offense. I dare say that this record will never ever be bettered anywhere anytime.

At the school assembly the next Sunday, the HM announced what happened but he obviously omitted telling the real cause of the pandemonium. He told the assembly that he had never been made to run that much in his life. Other than the hostel students, the rest of the assembly was very vague on what really happened on that night.

That was the most memorable event in my hostel life. I would like to put this as a record for all who were involved to cherish and maybe relive the event with their children or even the grand children. Since Mr. Ahmad Rahman who hailed from Penang chose to reside in Pasir Mas after his retirement, I will meet him to tell the whole story before the coming Hari Raya.

The exam came at the end of the year. When the result was released at the early part of 1969, 13 of us from the hostel passed the exam with a grade one in at least one both the SC and MCE. Quite an achievement for students who were very active in sports and other extra curricular activities.

The old wooden hostel was later demolished after a double storey new building was built to replace it. To many of us and the former teachers, the old hostel building was home for some years of our life. Camaraderie and brotherhood was instilled among us as a family away from home. Memories of our life then will forever be cherished.

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