Sunday, September 6, 2015

In the year 1979, a headmaster I became

Friendly football match between school teachers and members of Bintulu public at the school football field.  I am standing 6th from right (back row)
In the year 1979, a headmaster I became.  It was one of the most challenging times in my life.  For one thing I was given very short notice about the appointment.  Immediately after a midnight fire leveled down the school’s main administrative office - cum staff room, I received a call from the Education Department to see the Director of Education.  I was then working at the Educational Mass Media Office in Kuching.  When I reached headquarters, I was instead directed to a room and met the Deputy Minister of Education Malaysia,  Salleh Jafaruddin.  We had an hour of discussion after which he said, “Tomorrow you go to Bintulu and take over the administration of the school.  The letter of appointment as Headmaster will follow later.”  Upon checking in at the school (which happened to be the school I attended in the 60's)  I found the Headmaster’s office, clerk’s office and the staff room in ashes.  That’s how I started administering the school.  I had no records, no files, no office etc..  That incident meant that all the school records since it started in 1963 turned to ashes. 

 As the principal of SMK Bintulu (Sekolah Menengah Kerajaan Bintulu) or  previously known as BGSS (Bintulu Government Secondary School),   I had to perform many official, semi-official and non-official duties related to the school.   In order to track my daily work schedule and  keep record of the events happening each day, I devised a ‘Travellogue” ( see inset).  Even as the headmaster I find time to mix around with the teachers.  One way was to play football with them.  (see top picture)   Often I would join them in the staff room during morning or afternoon break and night study time, chatting and getting to know them better.  One of the many activities that brought me to town often was to collect mail from the post office, bank in money to the local treasury, visit students in the hospital or attend official meetings with other government departments.  In those days, the school was the main source of "flower girls" and I had teachers responsible to get ready these girls in time and transport them whenever VIP's were to be officially welcomed at the airport.  Being the Principal of the only secondary school in a small town of Bintulu then, the post was a very high profile one.  You get to know people quickly and it worked both ways.  The public would  normally address you as "Cikgu" or teacher.  In Malaysian society being a teacher is one of the most respectable job, not to mention the Headmaster.  I was at the SMK Bintulu for about two years and by the time I finished my five years bond or scholarship contract with the government,  I decided to move into greener pastures and joined a newly formed statutory body specific for Bintulu called BDA ( Bintulu Development Authority) in November, 1980.

Thank you SMK Bintulu for the rare and challenging experience you gave me.

Happy Malaysia Day, Sarawak.

(Note: This is the 6th of my post on what it is meant to be a Malaysian as part of my writing contribution to Malaysia Day which will  to be celebrated on the 16th of September.)

Arrival of Prime Minister, Hussein Onn at Bintulu Airport.
Note the flower girls in traditional costume.
" Flower girls" from SMK Bintulu

Typed manuscript of Principal's message in the School Magazine, 1980.

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