In my previous post, I mentioned that I was
hauled up summoned to the headmistress’s office when I was in Form 5 (Secondary 5). Here’s the story. This is going to be a very long post with no picture until the end. Ye’ be warned!
I studied in a private school throughout my primary and secondary school. It used to be called Sekolah Sang Suria and was located in Taman Cuepacs (Cheras) on 3 bungalows, and then moved to a proper school building in Hulu Langat and renamed as Sekolah Seri Suria. Nowadays I think they are known as R.E.A.L Schools Suria Campus or something like that, expanded into many buildings and houses 2 separate schools, one local and one international.
Now, before you make comments about how I must come from a rich family because I can afford to study in a private school, I have to stop you right here. My dad is not rich. At least not as far as I know. We were not poor, but definitely not rich. My school mates were mostly from rich families, but not me. I would say, the main reasons I studied there for so long were because my parents were attracted by the school being located in a remote area and the school had a reputation for being a peaceful school.
The school is located on top of a hill, nestled behind a housing area. To ponteng (escape from school), one would have to sneak out of the school compound, sneak through the housing area while avoid being seen by the residents, and then wait for the only public bus that comes every 2 hours at the nearby bus stop. The effort was too tedious that none of us really bothered to try, much. The reason I know how hard it is, is because my friends told me, I swear to God I have never attempted this before 😳 .
And my school was devoid of any bleeding incident. You know how in most schools, there would be gangsters and bad boys who get into fights over macho rights/girls/Counter Strike cheating/etc and end up whacking each other and getting bruised and bleeding? Well, not in my school. Because most of the students there were rich, we were all cowards. The furthest we ever got was shouting matches. Usually the 2 fighting guys would be all “COME LAH! SCARED YOU AH?! COME! COME!!” while smacking on tables and chairs but never really making any real moves on each other. And then us prefects (yeah, I was a prefect for a few years) would step in and they would put up token struggles while being dragged away. So.. nope, not much exciting actions going on in my school.
Oh gosh, I just deviated from the topic, didn’t I? Anyway, now you know, don’t comment about how rich my dad is, okay? Okay, now back to the topic.
So, my school was a relatively small school. Even when I was in Form 5, the school had about 1200 students in total. That’s from Standard 1 to Form 5. Each level had 4 to 6 classes, and each class had no more than 25 students. Because of the low number of students, the teachers treat all the top students as prized possessions, sort of. We were the ones who would be responsible to score straight As in UPSR, PMR and SPM.
And then, because the school was following Sekolah Kebangsaan (National School) syllabus, we did not get emphasis on studying the Mandarin language. In fact it was not a mandatory subject, and our results in this subject would not be accounted for in the final exam results. This was the only sour spot for my parents with this school. They were pretty traditional when it comes to maintaining our Chinese roots, and my dad was (and still is) member of various Chinese based associations. He insisted that I study Mandarin language despite the lack of support at school.
For my entire primary school duration, I had a home tuition teacher who teached me English, Maths and Mandarin. Home tuition was cheap back then, not like nowadays. My monthly tuition fees was RM 120 for 2 hours a day, 3 days a week. Then when I entered secondary school, I enrolled for Mandarin in a tuition centre called Pusat Tuisyen Kasturi. I was doing pretty okay I think. But I could not test myself. Somehow, for UPSR and PMR, we were not allowed to select the subjects that we want to take. The school made the decision for us. And naturally, none of us were allowed to take Mandarin in those government exams. I was frustrated. I was programmed to think that exams are the only way to prove my level in the subjects that I studied. I studied in Mandarin, and I was not allowed to prove myself. It felt like I was wasting my time studying a useless subject.
When I finished PMR and got into Form 4, I stopped studying Mandarin. My parents consented, as they think my level of proficiency should be good enough. I was allowed to focus on the tougher subjects like Chemistry and Physics.
Although I did squander some of those time playing Counter Strike in cyber cafes and Football Manager in my friends’ homes.
Then came Form 5, and we were given registration forms to fill in for SPM. I saw that check box beside Bahasa Cina. I had mixed feelings then. Am I allowed to select this subject? And I have missed 1 whole year of studying this subject. If I select it, I will have to cram 2 years of Mandarin language text books in 1 year. Will I be able to catch up and do well?
Fortunately, I remembered the thought that I always had even when I was just a little kid. You know we grew up in a multi ethnic country. I have seen the Malays being proficient in Malay language by default, I have seen the Indians being proficient in Tamil language by default. The Chinese being proficient in Mandarin language? No, that was NOT a default. I always thought it was a rather sad scenario. I have seen many Chinese who cannot speak and read Mandarin properly, and to make matters worse, they were proud of it. Surely this is not right? I don’t want to be one of these people. I want to embrace my mother tongue, be good at it, and be proud of it!
So, I ticked on that check box, Bahasa Cina. I would have known it would not be an easy process. When my class teacher saw what I selected, he came to me and exclaimed: “Hoi, you accidentally selected a wrong subject!”, in which I replied: “No, I did not. I selected Bahasa Cina. I am well aware of that.”
Soon the barrage of concerns and accusations came from almost all the teachers I knew, and I ended up in the headmistress’s office, again. She was furious. She spent an entire hour persuading, accusing, berating, pleading and using whatever tricks known to mankind to get me to drop that subject. If I remember correctly, we were not supposed to alter the forms with crossing out or with liquid paper (or correction pen, or whatever those white liquid stuff are called), she would have to go through a troublesome process to apply for a new set of forms for me, and she was prepared to do that. But I was insufferable. I refused to drop that subject. She even called up my dad to discuss this issue with him, but to her dismay, my dad was delighted with my decision 😀 . Once she realized my dad supported me, there was nothing she can do about it anymore, and I was dismissed from her office.
Well some of the words from Mrs Headmistress that I remember clearly were “You are not going to score an A in Mandarin! You do not have background like those students who transferred here from Chinese schools!“, “You are throwing away your straight As!” and “Don’t just think about yourself! Think about the school! We need you to get straight As!”
What she didn’t understand was, I had no interest in scoring straight As. The only thing I was interested in was to challenge myself and prove to myself that I can do what everyone thought was impossible. I was a nerd, but a courageous nerd!
I cannot remember how many of us took Mandarin in SPM, there were quite a number of students who transferred to my school from Chinese schools and some of them persisted with the exams. I was the only one who grew up with this private school with no formal Mandarin language education in their midst.
I enrolled in Mandarin language again in Kasturi. I had to travel to their branch in Kelana Jaya for lessons because they only offered SPM Mandarin classes in that branch. For my entire SPM year, I studied Form 5 Mandarin in Kasturi and self studied Form 4 Mandarin at home. Fortunately the teacher in Kasturi knew of my situation. He agreed with my guts and helped me a lot along the way.
It was this tuition teacher that reminded me of another reason why I studied Mandarin. Mandarin language is a beautiful language! Let me quote his words in class one day:
你们知道吗，学华文追女孩子会比较容易。你们如果只会讲英文，每次只会 [I love you. Do you love me? Yes I love you too.]，讲来讲去都是一样的，久了女孩子不跟你分手才怪。华文就不一样，她问你 [Do you love me?] 你可以回答说 [我对妳的爱 就好比那浩瀚的海洋] 或者是 [我会爱妳爱到天涯海角 海枯石烂 至死不渝]，你们看，哇，多浪漫！她不 Lum 死你都不能啦！
Do you guys know, learning Mandarin makes courting girls easier. If all you guys can speak is English, every time it will be [I love you. Do you love me? Yes I love you too.], every time you repeat the same things, it would be strange if the girl does not break up with you eventually. It is different with Mandarin, when she asks you [Do you love me?] you can respond with [My love to you is equal to the that vast ocean] or [I will love you until the end of the world, until the ocean dries up and the rock breaks, and will endure even death], you see, wow, how romantic! It would be impossible for her not to be mesmerized with you!
Well, my headmistress was right. I did not manage to score an A in Mandarin. But then, I also did not manage to score As in 2 other subjects. In fact that 2 subjects were killer subjects that year. The school used to have 10 or more students with straight As in SPM every year, that year I think we only had 5, all thanks to Bahasa Melayu (Malay language) and Pengetahuan Moral (Moral studies). The point is, with or without Bahasa Cina, I would have disappointed her anyway.
It did not matter to me though, I was glad that I took this subject 😀 .