The Roar Of A Tiger
Address by Encik Anwar Fazal at the Annual Speech Day of the King Edward VII School, Taiping, Perak, Malaysia on the 14th of May 1976.
I spent a whole decade in the King Edward VII School. My wife spent her school days at Treacher Methodist Girls' School which Edwardians used to claim as our 'protectorate' just as our major rival in Taiping, the St. George's Institution used to have a close and warm relationship with Taiping Convent. My wife also spent one year in the King Edward VII School.
This Tiger, and his Tigeress, are both delighted to visit our old school and Taiping again. We are grateful to my old master - I use 'old' as a term of affection - Mr. Quah Chiew Kooi, Secretary of the Old Edwardians Association for making this possible. We are also grateful to the Principal of the school for the kindness in accepting us and honouring us today. I was told that I was selected because I bridged the generation gap - I was too young to be old and too old to be young!
We are proud of being Old Edwardians. We are proud of the school because it gave us the best education that was possible in this country; because it was a school known for producing young citizens who have made major contributions in all walks of life in our country; it was unique in that it has a reputation for toughness - in spirit, in intellect and in muscle. The report of your Principal today showed that the school is keeping up its reputation and I must congratulate him, the staff and the students.
It is usual on such an occasion to talk of the 'good old days'. I remember my days in the school well. I remember how in primary school we feared most the music class which were conducted by the head-teacher herself. It was not because we disliked singing. It was because it commenced with a kind of military inspection - to see if we had socks on, white handkerchiefs and if we had cut our fingernails - and the full impact of the head-teacher's worn out ruler would bear heavily on those who did not meet the standards set.
I remember that the fences of the school had good bamboo for making pop guns
- and also the best fighting spiders. The main drain that ran behind the old
primary school was a haven for fighting fish. To get to the primary school and
the Sheffield hostel many of us took a short cut through this large area on
which the new buildings stand - then it was shrubs and lallang and the scene
of many boxing bouts between rival groups. All this wasteland was also the source
of a kind of berry that made your mouth purple! I remember how one teacher caught
two boys fighting - he took them by the ears to the field, brought out boxing
gloves and made them fight it out - it was as exciting as the Ali - Bugner fight!
I remember how I started playing my hockey. I happened to be hanging around
the school field waiting for a school hockey match to begin. One old teacher
shouted at me, "Hey - Are you a tiger?" I was terrified and in a state
of shock wondering what I had done wrong. When I said "yes" he told
me to put on the goal keeper's pads. I became a regular goal keeper for the
Under 16 and later the second team.
This was such a tough school that the girls were really terrified of the place. In fact I hope my wife will forgive me if I mention this - when she and six other of the LTGS girls were posted to KE for the sixth form they all cried. Just after a few weeks they all got an 'underground' letter asking all the schools to turn up at the Kota Bridge with ball bearings - they were going to ambush a bus from another school that had given our boys a rough time when we visited them. It was known subsequently as the "the Battle of the Bridge over the River Kota'. The only casualties were the boys who organized the raid- they were caned.
Whenever we visited other schools for games we used to go by an Education department lorry, canvas top and all. On the way back there was always a great deal of fun and frolic - every time the truck passed through one of the small towns that is asleep by 8.00pm, a scantily clad rugby player used to get out of the back of the truck and everyone would shout ' Tiger'. All the small towns remembered the school well.
It was an exciting and unusual period of our country's history:
i. It was a time when British headmasters were finally giving way to locals;
ii. When 'God Save the Queen' gave way to 'Negaraku';
iii. When the first girls joined the school - they were such a curiousity then like the first white men to land at Malacca;
iv. When Malaya became an independent sovereign nation.
In the worlds of a popular lyric I could say 'Those were the Days'. All of you have also the same opportunity - to be part of a community, a tradition, a sense of fellowship and to build on this foundation a better you and a better society, a happy, harmonious and progressive Malaysia.
Bigger classes, rapid change of staff, merciless examinations, frequent changes of routines - all these have taken their toll, creating insensitivity, anonymity and selfishness. Whether you allow such discontinuities to hold you back or whether you take on the new opportunities and challenges and build positively and constructively for the future is in your hands.
Schools often are said to teach the 3 'R' - Reading, 'Riting' and 'Rithmatic' - I think there is one other R that is most important and critical - that is 'Real Life'. All of you must understand the changes going on in the country. There is no better place for such understanding than the civics lessons - but unfortunately, civics is neglected, taught poorly and carelessly. I would urge the school to make civics teaching a 'live' subject with visits and speakers, films and practical meaningful projects so that all of you can inculcate a real sense of civics responsibility. In the school compound students will queue and not drop any litter but just view the first bus-stop outside most schools and you will see the Mr. Hyde of our students, rushing for the bus and littering the streets. There must be less duplicity.
Through the world too, now young people are becoming alert to new kinds of issues - about environment problems, about exploitation in the marketplace, about hypocrisy among world powers, about waste. There was a time when the Gross Nation Product (just production in money terms) was the measure of out progress. No more; now everywhere new kinds of measures are being developed - new socio economic indicators. Today the concern in Malaysia and many part of the world is in the enhancing the real quality of life, not just the gross national product.
I have visited some 20 countries and I can say that there are few countries in the world that I know which can give more opportunities and better quality of life than our own country. You have this wonderful opportunity to preserve our beauty and strength as to make a good life for yourself, your children and your children's children.
Tigers used to roar in the jungles of Malaysia. Now they are getting rare. Whether the KE spirit, the tiger spirit, will still be heard and felt will depend on all of you. What I have seen and heard today makes me believe that the school is in safe hands.
I wish all of you every success.