Sunday, October 17, 2004

We Screwed Up MCKK’s Tradition?

I picked this up from a notice board for budak koleq. There has always been discussions on the future of koleq and how things are run (mostly criticisms of the current way of running the school – deemed to be doing the school and the kids harm by not teaching them the “tradition”). Sometimes, out of boredom I would usually pick up the gauntlet thrown and give my opinions, although I noticed I had a knack for ending a thread of discussion. Each time I put forward my thought on an issue (especially MCKK-related issue), the discussion suddenly ends prematurely. So after a while, in order not to do a disservice to MCKK by ending any discussions on it, I refrain myself from participating (I can hear at the back a loud “yeah right!”)

Anyway, read this – quite interesting reading:

Idris House
Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2004 10:56 pm
Post subject: Is Losing Tradition A Threat

Sorry guys but i have to let this one out... of late, i am beginning to fear that the new hm is revamping the school...becoming more like an ordinary school. A lot of our beloved tradition which had been practised for so many years would be erased. I know, some of you guys think that time changes... so let us follow the flow. But isn't traditions supposed to be kept and taken care of? Coleq flourishes partly due to its age old traditions. If we take this away, what will be the things that differentiate us from the other schools? Below are some of the facts and the rumours, (remember! still rumours) that are quite rampant:

1. FACT - some of the present form 2's had been elected PREFECTS
2. RUMOUR - some of these F3s (in 2005) will be in Prep School
3. RUMOUR - some F2s will stay at Prep School next year
4. FACT - there will be 60 PREFECTS next year; F5, F4 and F3. Traditionally only 30+
5. RUMOUR - there would be no more cubes for the PREFECTS. Only the Custodians (Prep School & New Hostel) will get cubes. Reason: The PREFECTS would become like katak bawah tempurung and don't know about the welfare of the other boys in his dorm.
6. RUMOUR - The cubes would be turned into stores for luggage.
7. FACT - As of last week, Duty PREFECTS cannot go to town anymore
8. FACT - No more college rounds during Prep for the Duty PREFECTS. Reason: It interferes with their study
9. FACT - The Juniors don't recognize the PREFECTS due to #8 above
10. RUMOUR - As there is the Majlis Perlantikan Prefects, there will also be a Majlis Perlucutan Jawatan Prefects later this year or early next year for those who had been newly elected but do not perform...BUT the PREFECTS were not told about the criteria of what's considered 'performing'
11. RUMOUR - There will not be another Prefects Orientation Week (POW) (which had been carried on for years by MILES and MCOBA). The orientation will be done by BTN
12. FACT - The HM said that he doesn't like traditions
13. FACT - The HM doesn't like POW
14. FACT - Lunch is not compulsory (not sure when this started)
15. FACT - Duty Wardens must stay in school till the next morning (Warden room's at our ping pong room and furnished with beds and a fridge)
16. FACT - Some of these PREFECTS will take care of the Canteen, Dining Hall, Surau etc. They will be PREFECT CANTEEN, PREFECT SURAU and all those F**** Sh***
17. FACT - The use of bicycle had long been limited. There's a quota for each block.
18. FACT - The HM wants to abolish 'Seniority Complex'.
19. FACT - The HM still has 2 stickers of SDAR on his Unser but only 1 sticker coleq(OK...this item is purely sentiment...)
20. FACT - The school does not recognize Cinema Club as an organisation
21. FACT - Town leave is only on Saturday after inspection. Sunday needs permission.
22. FACT - There is a Sunday morning assembly with Games attire.
23. FACT - There is Sunday morning Prep after assembly till noon.
24. FACT - The Prefects cannot give punishment while the boys are a. sleeping 2.studying 3.eating.
25. FACT - Any physical punishment ( if there's any) to be given only during Games Hour
26. RUMOUR - The HM doesn't like Old Boys (to me, based on my interactions with him, this is a FACT)

Well, there are many others but these are the current ones and since the new Prefects had just been elected last Friday, obviously they take center stage.

Guys, please tell me that I am wrong...

Sulaiman House
Posted: Tue Oct 12, 2004 11:01 pm

imho, giving the new hm time to implement the new codes and suppressing the old ones is not the right way. it's harder to resurrect a dormant tradition. the main problem would be because the ones who should know the traditions aka seniors don't know them anymore. then, how can the traditions be resurrected again, i wonder? worser still, due to the absence of it, the boys would no longer identify with the traditions and that would make the resurrection that much more harder.

then, the only ones who would still be able to reinstill the traditions would be us the old boys. but we can only do so much. when the love for koleq, the speret koleq is no longer there, or at least not as strong as it has always been for generations of budak koleq, all our efforts would be futile. love is like a plant see, if it's not nurtured it would wither and die slowly.

just my 2 cents
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.

Idris House
Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 7:01 am

It's true...due to some reasons. There seems to be a blackout period where such traditions had not been passed down or perhaps even though passed down, but not practised. I can see that one of the culprits could be Hassan Hashim.

Now you see why I just have to comment on this one despite my earlier remark that I usually exercise restraint – that blackout period inarguably includes 1994. In fact some people would have been more forthright in pointing out that 1994 was THE blackout period.

Most of the grouses or so-called threats against the “tradition” in the above posting revolve around the Prefects Board, of which some members in the 90s claimed to be the “Guardian of Tradition” (I had even seen an ex-prefect’s card given to juniors under his ‘guardianship’ with the “Guardian of Tradition” in bold). I was never a prefect or a biawak or anything in koleq – a mere budak biasa with no allegiance to anything but the memory and experience of Malay College. Some may point out that I therefore have an axe to grind, although if I were still obsessed with events in secondary school after all these years, frankly speaking I am quite ashamed of myself.

But it is important to scrutinise the Prefects Board, its strengths and weaknesses and its relationship with the general body of student in koleq, before we jump on the bandwagon of this “extinction of koleq’s tradition”.

When we were at the end of our Form 3 (end of 1992), the age old tradition of prefect selection was changed. Whereas previously prefects were selected by the teachers and the outgoing F5 prefects, a new system of “selection” was introduced. This is where the flaw first appeared, and this flaw continued to dog (no pun intended ha ha) the Prefects Board for many years to come.

When I was in my junior years, prefectship was considered of having some value, commanding a certain respect since the holder of that red badge, maroon blazer and maroon tie was appointed after a careful selection process by the teachers, wardens and the outgoing Form 5 prefects. Even this, however, did not guarantee that each student who by criteria should have been a prefect; became a prefect. There were a lot of examples – Raja Mohd Ariff Shah (Ayih of 91), highly respected and well regarded by teachers and juniors alike, chose not to become a prefect but a KPKM president. Likewise Zamir of 92, chose a similar “career” in koleq.

To put things in perspective, Malay College had long practised a dual-party system with each side (being the Prefects Board and Students Union – KPKM) presenting credible candidates and leaders - hence a stable albeit sometimes fragile balance of power was ever maintained each year.

This was set to change when the new system of selection was introduced at the end of our third year in koleq. For the first time, aspiring would-be prefects were required to submit application form and CV in order to be short-listed for selection. In retrospect, the intention was (and is, since it is still being practised) noble. It wanted to train MCKK would-be leaders to be able to write CVs and present themselves nicely on paper. However, whoever came up with this idea, never considered (or underestimated) the effect of such a system on prefects’ credibility for years to come.

The effect on the Class of 94 was plain enough – the number of applicants was extremely low with most people who were expected to become a prefect, abstained from applying. Leadership is an issue of recognition and respect – and Malay College boys have long been indoctrinated that respect is earned, not given. As such a lot of people – egoistic as they were, but budak koleq by nature are egoistic – thought it was unnatural for “leaders” to go and seek recognition and respect. Recognition should be accorded to these “leaders” as a mark of respect – either by being appointed to a prefectship, or elected as a KPKM Exco. Either means has its own legitimacy in MCKK.

The resulting Prefects Board therefore was made up of motley crew of people - who sometimes did not entirely gain the respect that should have been accorded to a prefect that to a certain extent, they became the butt of certain people’s jokes during our time. It was unfair for them since they paid a high price for that opportunity to be leaders in MCKK – the majority of those appointed this way from my batch either lost their job (i.e. got the boot out – so this Majlis Perlucutan Jawatan is not particularly a new thing in MCKK) or left MCKK completely at the end of 1993. The repercussions are sometimes too harsh and cruel to mere 16 year olds.

I got the impression that this is still happening this year in MCKK. The so-called “Guardians of the Tradition”, as a result of flawed selection process, are not entirely the typical excellent students you would expect to become a prefect. I was told that many of them have academic problems, or that they are mostly made up of those who excel in sports (which by tradition fare a little bit worse in study) since they were the ones who did apply and so on. Gone are the days when a prefect commanded such a respect that he constantly received a standing ovation during the assembly, like Adlan Benan of 1990 (despite being a burung, MCKK’s euphemism for a new Form 4).

Thus the first thing to do, in order to combat this so-called “extinction of traditions” is to tackle root causes of the problem. Ensure that the prefects selected have natural calibre i.e. those who would have been the natural leaders of his batch with or without that red badge, maroon tie and blazer. In each batch there will be a group of these “natural leaders”, to whom his batch mates will eventually gravitate to and become separate groups within the batch. It is usually these natural leaders who determine the direction of one’s batch and subsequently MCKK’s in a particular year.

So long as the majority of prefects are viewed with amusement or badmouthed behind their back for not commanding the respect of their peers, this problem is here to stay. It is not enough to indoctrinate them during each POW (not Prisoners of War, but the MCOBA-organised Prefects Orientation Week) with this grand vision that they are the guardian of this sacred tradition – they must have the natural talent to be a leader in the first place before they can carry out their job. It is even more dangerous if prefects of shoddy personal qualities are overloaded with this grand vision, because it is usually them who tend to be gung ho at “guarding” the legacy to the point of provoking their teachers and peers.

Which brings us back to the original theme – did we screw up the so-called MCKK traditions in 1994?

(I feel as if I am looking at the issue too seriously, as if I was a youth from the China’s Cultural Revolution generation discussing what went on in their teens, or a youth from Nahdatul Ulama in 1966 discussing the purge of communism in Indonesia which killed hundreds of thousands. Ha ha to think that I am only talking about a prank in school...)

It is true that many things did change briefly in that short period of 1994, some were permanent, but others were brief only to be reversed by the people after us.

Prefects Orientation Week was organised by the teachers instead of MCOBA (although not BTN), but it was not even a Prefects Orientation Week. It was a Student Leaders Orientation, combining would-be prefects and KPKM Excos. The rationale was very simple – the whole of college witnessed the deterioration of goodwill and relationship between the teachers and prefects and students (each at each others’ throat) in 1993. One prominent prefect from that year gloatingly told us once how still managed to get a very good SPM results despite boycotting the class for a good part of the year, to give an example of the prevailing mood at the end of the year (what I failed to tell him was that he could have got 10A1s if he had not lost the teachers’ goodwill!). The atmosphere was not really pleasant – recently a friend from the batch related how he felt sad that his final year in college was overshadowed by the minority groups – prefects, baddies etc.

Which was why the first instinct of anyone coming back to be a Form 5 in 1994 was not to repeat 1993 (although I would not mind having the Latoque’s fame of taking the bus for a ride, that was classic). For that to happen, the extreme right-wing nature of Prefects Board needed to be neutralised so that it did not provoke the general body of students again. Likewise, those at the left-wing extreme had to be brought to the centre, so as to create a fragile compromise yet firm enough to maintain order and avoid provocation. I can speak for myself that it was quite simple, the lay pupils like me with no allegiance to either side needed to reclaim our stake in the livelihood of the school, because we did not want one minority group spoiled our final year in MCKK.

That fragile compromise ensured peace for the rest of our months in MCKK. No detention class was ever given to anyone in that year, no big disciplinary cases, no deteriorating relationship with the teachers or among ourselves.

But it came with a price – many compromises had to be made.

Prefects had to forego the right to roam college grounds and Kuala Kangsar on their bikes. I had always been left wing in my political opinions (although I only realised this after I left MCKK), never had I viewed positively the phenomenon whereby a minority group of students stands higher than the rest of us because they were allowed to cycle when all the rest had to walk. It might sound trivial, but the bikes had to go (or limited to one bike for each block, restricted to certain uses only) if the compromise was to be maintained. So that’s one tradition gone, and I admit it started with our year.

It was also in 1994 that F1 stopped wearing a pair of shorts with the long stocking. I was never privy to the real story, although bits and pieces that emerged sound close enough. As a result of the process to “assimilate” prefects into the mainstream, MCKK in 1994 (by MCKK I mean the teachers as well as the F5s) agreed that Prep School and New Hostel would no longer be taken care of by prefects. They were replaced with student representatives. Initially it was KPKM Excos who were supposed to go to these two outposts, but they proved to be too remote for them who had spent a lifetime in Big School, that at the end other people were sent in as replacement, including a few F3s (in Prep School there was Ayul of 96, in New Hostel there was Che Gap of 96 etc.)

I was told this enraged MCOBA, which understandably looked at the whole thing as Haji Hassan’s attempt to undo MCKK’s tradition (although the fact that the majority of students was a party to this so-called effort to undo MCKK’s tradition had always been ignored – somehow it is easy to be xenophobic and attack outsider than to look at reasons why MCKK-bred students agreed to the initiatives in the first place). A compromise was reached, whereby F1 students would be allowed to wear long pants (Ustaz in MCKK had long campaigned for the abolishment of shorts for F1) in exchange for prefects reinstated in Prep School and New Hostel.

But although a much more neutralised group of prefects were reinstated in New Hostel, it was not the same case in Prep School. MCKK chose to appoint those student representatives, who by heart and belief would never qualify as prefects for they were fiercely independent and liberal even back then (conservatism is not in their dictionary), as prefects. I would have thought MCOBA would have been even more enraged after that, feeling that they have been short changed by Haji Hassan.

So that’s another tradition gone, although it only managed to hold on for one year (the people after us were not as crazy as us).

Sunday morning prep also started during our year, although protest was actually raised (college boys would unite if they were compelled to do more work!).

So if the theme of this fear of “extinction of MCKK traditions” revolves around prefects, it is true that there was a black out of tradition during Haji Hassan’s time, especially in 1994 since the teachers and HM especially relied more on KPKM than Prefects Board. Prefects Board’s role was somewhat eclipsed in 1994 – although I bet no one from the Class of 1994 would complain about that, we left MCKK happily ever after.

But there were also additions to traditions that came from our year in the field of cheering. Banners were introduced and it survived till this day with the slogan “For Honour We Stand, With Valour We Fight”. Likewise, we swapped school uniform with a cheering T-Shirt, something which has lasted till this very day.

All in all, to a certain extent, I think the writer’s concern (whoever Nul is) is valid, although I prefer if we do not become too dogmatic and rigid with this concept of maintaining the tradition. Because tradition, as a loose combination of practices from yesteryears, is a fluid thing – one day it is a tradition, tomorrow it is not.

The guiding principle of MCKK (in fact of any school) should have been to bring out the best out of every student, so that they become an exceptional man in their own field of expertise. In this respect, I do agree with the general view of old boys of MCKK that scoring straight As in SPM is not the same with being an all-rounder and it does not guarantee future (although it does guarantee immediate future). But one has to balance this over-arching desire to produce a well-rounder according to MCKK’s mould with parents’ expectation that their children obtain a good SPM result to enable them to compete with other excellent students (from other schools) in getting scholarships. Ministry’s expectation compounds the situation.

In the end, it is not easy to balance it all and I don’t envy anyone who becomes MCKK’s headmaster. I would not necessarily agree with everything that he does, but I appreciate the challenge and would not talk of the task as if it is a kacang goreng. There is no prescribed ways to bring out the best out of a group of egoistic, know it all and stubborn 17 year olds that budak koleq have always been and yet still remain within the expectations of MCOBA, parents and the nation.

To those involved in reviving MCKK’s dwindling fortune, I wish them luck, my prayers are with you.

(I obviously did not have much to do this weekend since vice activities are strictly prohibited during Ramadhan – that leaves me patah kaki, hence this long blog)


  1. Anonymous1:51 PM

    gawd. u koleqians never fail to amaze me.

  2. Rough,
    On behalf of Ayul, I think you got the wrong name for Form 3 94 rep in prep school.. I pretty damn sure that Ayul stayed in Dorm 2 Big School with Sumali, Jita and others..

  3. Ooh dear! Yeah I remember Ayul from Ahmad House, kecik-kecik with tahi lalat and from Kelantan.

    Then it must be Ayin kot, Sulaiman house, badminton player, who stayed at Dorm E in 1994.

  4. Anonymous10:24 PM

    Bacalah...very's a petikan

    ...tradition always incorporates power, whether they are constructed in a deliberate way or not. Kings, emperors, priests and others have long invented traditions to suit themselves and to legitimate their rule.

    It is a myth to think of traditions as impervious to change. Traditions evolve over time, but also can be quite suddenly altered or transformed. If I can put it this way, they are invented and reinvented...

  5. Ha ha I've come across Anthony Giddens once. I've always viewed the question of "tradition" as the question of conservatism versus liberalisme/non-conversatism, although there are a lot of koleq's so-called "traditions" which are good e.g. the culture of respect, independence, politicking atmosphere which creates politicians at a very young age etc.

    Nevertheless I do agree with some of what Giddens said, more often than not, when it comes to MCKK, it is actually the clash of 2 sides - MCOBA and teachers/HM who both want to exert influence on how things should be running, both feels the other's grip on the school is at their expense.

    Sad really....