I wrote and compiled a piece on my old primary school. It was a Sekolah Melayu when I began that long journey of being schooled. While writing, and viewed from a different century, I realised the long and illustrious history the school has. It was the first school to be established in that Malay settlement that predated the town and district of Batu Pahat.
The kampung has been established at least a good fifty years before the first school was established. That was amazingly too long. Considering the fact that only in the colonial outposts, the Straits settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore, were the only places you could find schools before the turn of the 20th century, you could conclude that the tradition of schooling had yet to be embraced by the migrants and the powers that be in the old Malay States or sultanates.
It took a visionary Sultan, Sir sultan Abu Bakar, to transform the land hungry migrants to look beyond land and beyond the archipelago. His travels and acquintence with Queen Victoria obviously had an influence on him. By now we would have realised the role and influence leaders have on our life. It is therefore not surprising, in the prayers and sermons of the mosques in Johore you will hear this prayer,” O Almighty, endow us with good leaders, give him guidance… ‘ to that effect.
The other point I wish to make here is that, before 1963, there were Malay schools that have been established all over the country. They were the pride of the Malays. The teachers were the products of the coveted Sultan Idris Teachers Training College. They were amazing in the manner they transformed the migrants to embrace the culture of education through schooling, besides off course their influnce on the political consciousness. The schools were very Malay but worldly or to use the present day term secular. English was introduced early at standard one. It was cikgu Ismail Yusof who taught me the first word of english, Humpty Dumpty,….The morning session was the normal secular schooling and in the afternoon, it became a religious school. Two different schools using the same infrastructure.
In 1963, the Malay schools dissappeared. It became co-educational. From Sekolah Melayu Bagan It became Sekolah Kebangsaan Bagan.
The funny thing was, the Chinese school in the kampung continue to be Sekolah Cina spelled as china.
Even with the change in name, none of the chinese has ever sent the children to my old sekolah. I do not think, the sekolah has ever recieved any student from the chinese community.
At a time when Sekolah Kebangsaan are under heavy scrutiny for being too Malay, too Islamic, I find it to be grossly one sided and unfair to solely blame the sekolah kebangsaan, without understanding and looking at the history of the schools.
In 1963, The Malay schools were hijacked, a word purposely chosen, yet it is still devoid of participation from the other communities. Again after sekolah melayu became Sekolah Kebangsaan, numerous hijackings took place by half baked educationists, narrow minded nationalists and islamists, chauvinist vernacular educationists, capitalising on the apathetic majority and spineless politicians.
Isn’t it actually chauvinism that is raring its ugly heads? I say, Yes. I say blame it on the “could not care less, silent majority” in all communities for allowing the chauvinists and ultras in their midst to manage their destiny. As the middle class is usually considered as the conscience of societies or communities I say blame it on the irresponsible, apathetic, “misbehaving” middle class for the predicament we are in today.
Note: I wrote a piece ” the misbehaving middle class” about 10 years ago. Watch out for its posting.