The case of the missing boards
on 28 September 2011 - 04:24am
IN 10 days' time, old pupils of the Klang High School will meet at their annual dinner. As in the past, it will be a chance to meet old schoolmates and even teachers. This year, the old boys association is honouring all past head prefects. A diligent teacher, we have been told via email, is compiling the records.
Not that the school did not have any. In the school hall, there were several teak boards which listed the headmasters, the head prefects, the scholars of the year, the captains of teams and even the champion house. Each year, the boards would be taken down by the school mandore, one Chelliah, and his crew and the names for the year painted in gold on the brown boards.
This task was usually that of the art teacher, and during my time, it was the late Lloyd Tan Pao Chan. He would supervise the best pupils in art as they would meticulously finish the job.
The boards have all mysteriously disappeared. There are several versions on how they went missing. One is that "they were eaten by white ants", which is hard to believe, considering the maintenance culture of valuable history since the school started in 1927.
The second theory is that the boards were "lost" when the new hall was built which yet again shows the negligence culture which has permeated even our school system.
Another theory is that some overzealous cikgu felt that there were too many names of orang putih and pendatang that the records were ordered to be obliterated for good, which I find plausible but impossible to believe.
Among those whose names have disappeared are that of former Selangor mentri besar, Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar, who was our "Scholar of the Year" in 1956. The school also had among its pupils Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam who was the transport minister in the 70s. Others included his brother, Datuk V. L. Kandan, a prominent lawyer, Dr Pius Martin and Datuk Tong Kok Mau – all of whom served in the state executive council.
Besides, a number of pupils won honours in the sports arena, notably N. Sri Shanmuganathan who captained the Malaysian hockey team to fourth place in the 1975 World Cup. Others include captains of industry and most prominent of them is Tan Sri Krishnan Tan. High Court judge Varghese George is another product of the school and so are several members of the Bar.
With such a legacy, it is painful to note that even the appointment of the head prefect has become an issue between parents and the school authorities. During our time, half the prefects were elected by the pupils with the other half appointed. The appointment of the head prefect was always a Form Five pupil until Form Six classes started in 1968 and George was appointed captain and he was succeeded by Harjit Singh Labh Singh, an academic-turned-lawyer.
Two years ago, parents turned to me when the school banned non-Muslim clubs citing a circular from the Selangor Education Department, which later turned out to be outdated. No one accepted the responsibility, and as usual, it was business as usual and thereafter, everyone carried on as if nothing had happened.
The problem it seems is the choice of the head prefect, his deputy and the secretary of the board. On the surface, it may look as a case of favouritism, but below it is an example of the malaise that has afflicted some of our schools where rules and procedures are thrown out of the window and replaced by the will of one, or sometimes a few.
Why are we teaching our young about favouritism when they should be taught meritocracy? Why are minds of the young being ingrained with all things wrong? Why are they not being taught that success comes through hard work and discipline?
It is often said that "if it isn't broken, why fix it?" No one expects the school authorities to understand this nor will they comprehend the phrase "re-inventing the wheel". Need more be said?
R. Nadeswaran is sad that even the appointment of school prefects has degraded into an exercise to show clout and muscle. He is theSun's UK correspondent and can be reached at: email@example.com