Just lepaking in this room and listening to radio.
Don't know why, just that suddenly I remember my schooldays.
I always thought I hated those memories. Those five years at the boarding school in Seremban were not the best years of my life. I was a weird kid that not many would want to befriend.
Nonetheless, I did manage to make a few friends then. But they all drifted away after school. I did go to a school reunion once, but decided that I didn't really like it that much. It was the only time I attended such a function.
Still, there were occasions when I remember the school and feel that I miss it. I miss walking under the shades of the trees at its ground and sitting quietly in a corner watching the others jovially going about doing their things. I had wished I was like them, but I was not.
And whenever it was mentioned in the news that its students have done well, I would feel this unexplainable sense of pride. I know it's a bit foolish, but I do believe that despite the not so sweet memories when I was a student, deep down inside I do love my school.
For further reading
TKC: Erasing History, Traditions and Values
Written by Hasnah Mohd Ali
BEFORE World War II, the British, at the request of the Malay rulers, established a fully residential secondary school called the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar, in Perak for Malay boys of royal birth and sons of high ranking officials from all states in Malaya. The students were prepared for higher education and groomed to be future rulers and administrators in the Malayan Civil Service.
Then, in 1939, the rulers felt that a similar school should be set up for Malay girls and run along parallel lines to the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar.
Their first intention was to prepare girls for the role of future wives to those students from Malay College, Kuala Kangsar, assuming they would meet somehow or marriages could be arranged.
So the girls' college, like the boys' one, was opened for girls of royal birth and daughters of state officials. The authorities planned for a very small enrolment to begin with once the school opened in 1942. However, the idea was shelved when World War II broke out and Malaya was occupied by the Japanese.
When the war ended and Malaya returned to British rule, the Education Ministry decided to revive the project - but only after making some drastic changes to the original policies. Among the changes was the decision to increase enrolment by admitting girls from all walks of life based entirely on educational merit.
The first building
In 1947 the Malay Girls' College, Kuala Lumpur (MGC), opened. It had quite a humble beginning, being housed in an old double-storey bungalow at milestone two-and-a-half at Jalan Damansara.
Standing on a hillock and surrounded by rubber plantations and secondary forest, the building was large enough to house a hall, an office, a staff room, the principal's residence, a dining hall and a kitchen, two classrooms, a library, a student recreation room and a home science room on the ground floor; four dormitories, staff quarters, a prayer room, a sickbay and bathrooms on the first floor.
Except for the badminton and netball courts, the grounds simply consisted of grassy slopes where the students would sit or play on in the evenings. There was a garage at the foot of the hill and servants' quarters were built nearby. There was hardly any traffic on the narrow road that meandered from the city to the college.
The first admission
The first admission of 40 students arrived in October 1947. They came from all over the country and from various walks of life, though the majority were from middle class families.
A quota system was followed with all states except Perlis and Penang allocated four students each, two from English schools and two from Malay schools. Perlis
and Penang sent two students each. All the students were selected by each state's Education Department which looked for good academic performance.
In addition to the 40 students, special consideration was given to the daughter of the Sultan of Selangor to join the college as a day scholar.
The students were divided into two groups. Those from Malay schools were placed in Form X, which was equivalent to Special Malay One in English schools; these students were expected to complete Form Five in 1954. Those from English schools were placed in Form V, which was equivalent to Special Malay Two, and were expected to complete Form Five in 1953.
The age range in Form X was from 10 to 12 years old and that in Form V was from 12 to 14 years old.
The opening ceremony
Right from its beginning the Education Ministry placed great importance on the college. As befitting its status, it was officially opened on Nov 1, 1947, by Lady Gent, wife of Sir Edward Gent, Governor of the Malayan Union. The Governor had accompanied his wife for the occasion. The ceremony was also attended by the Sultan of Selangor and his consort and several other dignitaries.
In his speech, the governor stressed the importance of learning and advised the young students: "When you have homes and families of your own, keep the ideal of learning and searching for the truth in everything like a bright lamp in your own homes.''
Administration and staffing
As befitting its status and importance, the college was administered directly by the Director of Education in Kuala Lumpur. Principals and teachers were appointed by him. He was assisted by a Board of Advisers that met annually to draw up policies and guidelines for the administration of the college.
The Advisory Committee was chaired by the Deputy Director of Education, with the principal acting as the secretary. It had as its members a representative from every state, the principal of Malay College, Kuala Kangsar, a woman medical officer and other members elected by the chairman.
Prior to Independence, the principals were all British graduates and residents. A large number of the teaching staff were also English. A few Malay teachers were appointed, among whom was the first Malay woman graduate from Raffles College, Hawa Abdullah.
Curriculum and extracurricular activities
MGC followed the British secondary school curriculum. Students spent their first year or so learning the English language, so much so that they were required by rule to speak the language at all times except during Malay lessons and on Fridays.
As they improved they were introduced to other subjects like English literature, geography, history, mathematics, general science, home science, art, and physical and health education; this was in addition to the Malay language which was a compulsory subject second to English. Religious instruction was conducted on Fridays.
In keeping with the original policy intention of preparing the students for their future roles as educated wives and moth-
ers, great emphasis was placed on home science. Apart from cookery and needlework, the girls were taught housekeeping, knitting and embroidery as well.
Following the British system, the college was examination orientated. The medium of instruction was English and lessons were made interesting by the latest techniques available at the time such as film shows, View Master (a means of viewing slides), play-acting and visits to various places of interest.
The college also thrived on extracurricular activities. The students were encouraged to play most of the games popular at the time, such as netball, hockey, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton and swimming.
They played on borrowed fields and courts, and were taken to the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur for swimming lessons. They had eurhythmics (movement set to music) and folk dancing to improve posture, and singing lessons to improve pronunciation. They were very active in societies such as guiding, the Red Cross, drama, debating, puppet club and gardening.
On the serious side, there were the student council and the prefectorial board. The college practised the house system in which students were instilled with loyalty to their respective houses. On Sundays they had house cleaning where every corner of the college building was thoroughly cleaned and inspected with marks being given to the four houses.
Soon after the opening ceremony, a new wing was added to the original building to accommodate more students. The extension included two science laboratories, dormitories, and the principal's residence beneath the senior dormitory.
However, as enrolment soon increased to about 150 students, this was found to be insufficient and a neighbouring building was acquired and turned into more classrooms, dormitories and staff quarters. The college remained in this situation for several years.
By 1955 plans were afoot for a new school on 8ha of state land situated on Bukit Merbah, Jalan Cemetery (now Jalan Tunku Kurshiah), Seremban. When completed, the new premises were well spread out and had all the facilities of an ideal secondary school. The dormitories were built in four blocks which became the four Houses of the college; the administrative block, the classrooms, the dining hall and kitchen, and the sickbay were located conveniently, too. The principal's residence was built near the main entrance. There was a playing field and ample room for all kinds of games and outdoor activities.
In April 1962, the entire college at Damansara moved to the new premises in Seremban and was renamed the Tunku Kurshiah College after the first Raja Permaisuri Agong.
Although situated in Seremban the college was, and still is, administered directly by the Education Ministry in Kuala Lumpur; in fact, the change of name was also decided by the ministry.
The original college buildings in Damansara were handed to one institution after another until, finally, they were demolished in 1989 to make way for the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation.
At the end of 1952, the first batch of three students who had had double promotion
from Form Three to Form Five sat for the Cambridge School Certificate examination. All three passed, with two of them obtaining grade one. Eventually all three continued their studies at the University of Malaya in Singapore.
As mentioned before, the MGC girls were very active in societies. In 1952 a Queen's Guide from the college was selected to represent Malaya at an international jamboree in Britain; in 1953 another member of the movement won the Juliett Low Scholarship for a camping trip in Switzerland. And a member of the MGC Red Cross Society was selected to travel to London to participate in the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth's coronation.
By 1954, all the pioneer girls completed their studies at the college and all did well for themselves, later training as teachers, social workers, and nurses, while some became housewives. A few went on for further studies at universities.
This tradition of producing achievers has remained from those early days till the present, making the Tunku Kurshiah College one of the premier schools in the country today.
* Hasnah Mohd Ali is one of three former students of the Malay Girls' College who co-wrote Warisan Puteri Melayu: Dari MGC ke TKC; she was in the college's first intake, returning to teach there from 1965 to 1969 before serving as headmistress from 1977 to 1982. She is currently working on her autobiography.