I have thought very hard whether I should write this, or whether by writing this it will prolong the agony and escalates what already a fiasco (albeit at a very microscopic level; yet what is minute to us could mean the world to others) into a full blown warfare for some of the issues are age old and sensitive in nature – yet I feel I owe it to the juniors (those who will come after us) to at least record the accounts, the thoughts and some key learning; of a series of unfortunate events which could have dampened their spirit to contribute to MCKK for many years to come.
On the background:
Since late 2003, a group of us were requested by MCKK teachers to coach the debating teams. MCKK has a long romantic history with debating tradition; so our planning and coaching for the debating team is quite matured compared to other schools.
Since then, each year the training regime is planned vigorously and systematically, starting with a workshop to launch the season (which usually last for one whole year, the teams competing in 7-8 nationwide tournaments) and followed by a series of activities; capped with an annual dinner at the end. There will be elections of new captains, induction for new debaters, specific training modules and depending on needs/requirements – they were jungle trekking/camping, physical activities etc. Our intention is to teach them to live, not just to win a debate competition.
There are a group of core trainers from mostly early 90s batches, which eventually were joined by the later batches of 2004, 2005 and 2006. Initially it was managed by the senior coaches all this while, but 2007 presents a new milestone with the junior coaches’ first attempt to conduct the training/workshop by themselves. They have spent the last 4 months planning, developing and preparing materials for the workshop; not to mention their own pocket money for it (I must point out these are 17 – 19 years old, so they either save from their allowances or in Haqqa’s case; use his hard-earned cash working in palm oil orchard for the workshop!). The idea is to prepare the new set of coaches to take over thus relieving us the senior ones with mainly providing financial and logistical supports.
MCKK’s approval was given in October 2006 – in fact it has been an annual event that it is a matter of customary and procedures to obtain permission. Simultaneously letters to each single debater were sent and received around the same time (October 2006).
On the fiasco/sandiwara “Ketam Mengajar Anak Berjalan”:
About less than one week before the workshop, one of the boys alerted me that he heard rumours on the possibility (I stress “possibility”) that a “Prefects Orientation Week” (POW); organised by MILES/MCOBA would be held around the same time. I first treated it as a non-issue because surely an absence of 5 participants during the last leg of the program (especially since 3 of them are senior prefects, two were prefects since they were in Form 3 so they had been through this program before anyway) would not have jeopardised it – however talented or important they are, koleq does not revolve around these five kids. On top of that, MCKK has agreed and slotted the weekend for the workshop and that was sealed in official communication – I would have thought it is common sense and a matter of professionalism that one would respect that the date was booked earlier by another party; or at worst some compromise could be reached so that both programs could run in parallel.
Nevertheless I did call each of the boys to confirm – while 2-3 of them confirmed that they too heard the “rumours”, one person was not aware of it completely; so he found out from me that there will be a program organised by this almighty, highly efficient and intellectual organisation that it (organisation) claims to be. (For the record, even as this account is being constructed, there was not a single formal communication with the participants confirming the program – all was done through sms sent to a few participants who the organisers knew, which was then forwarded to others. Maybe in this IT age people dispensed off formalities completely, I was quite marvelled at how these characters – who actually grew up in the pencil and paper age – bought the IT revolution wholesome to the point that even courtesy in the manner of formal, written communication is dispensed off completely).
The kids themselves thought it was not a big deal because in their mind they would have attended the POW for 2 days full before joining the debate workshop – so in a way it’s an equitable and fair solution. Since POW was informed late and it appeared to be rather disorganised in the manner it was communicated, the arrangement would have been fair to all parties.
I must also point out that the 2007 workshop was planned for selection for the future koleq debaters until 2010. The majority of the old boys (especially those who conducted POW) seemed to think that assembling a team of debaters capable of winning a national competition is as easy as finding a few boys who can speak and send them packing to face a hall packed with one thousand hostile audience (maybe because they think they are really good speakers and they found it easy themselves – so they assume it would have been easy to assemble a strong team); as I was given the impression that they really do not know from head to tail what we do during the workshop; not being a debater themselves (or even if they were; it was those era when they were only 3 schools which can assemble a full quorum debating team) and the sheer ignorance that stopped them from finding out what kind of activities carried out during the workshop.
Being a selection year, it was extremely important for them because if we had continued without them – we would have denied them opportunity to be in the team! And every debating team has its life-cycle too – you take them at a very young age (and other seniors would have to make the big sacrifice to make way for these junior debaters knowing by then that their contribution lies with the coaches; not in the team), expose them from early on so that after one or two years they reach their peak and can be twice better than other schools (because that’s the requirement if MCKK were to win any major tournament). It so happened that the life-cycle of the present teams has either ended or nearing its end – so if we were to screw up with this workshop; we screw up the next 3 years of MCKK debating performance! (But of course none of this registered with the “almighty talented, wise and knowledgeable” – hereinafter referred to ATWK but pronounced as ATOK – who conducted POW as in their minds we were ants of lower priority and caste; which I will explain later).
So given this backdrop, it should not be surprising why all of us – the teachers, coaches and the boys – were really serious about the workshop and why planning and approval began 4-5 months ago!
Anyway, in our own blissful ignorance and faith in elder generation’s goodwill (after all it’s the ATWKs), we did not anticipate anything untoward would happen. Planning proceeded as usual and I was told by MCKK that there was no problem.
Friday morning 5th January at 1.35 am (all of us were still awake making final preparation for the workshop), I received SMS from Izzat to tell that he got an SMS from Helman, who in turn received a call from one of our boys informing that they were barred from attending the workshop.
I called Helman at around 2 am to enquire what the fuss was all about – and suddenly many unrelated issues began to crop up. These were reasons cited by the ATWKs (although I was told it was mainly by ATWK Jr.) on why they were barred; which included us (meaning moi) did not go through the proper procedures to conduct our program, that our program is of lesser priority and the ATWK’s POW took precedent.
I sent an SMS to ATWK Jr. asking his consideration to grant the leave to the kids (around 2+ am) but he cited the priority issue (ATWK being ATWK, assumed they had the right to prioritise MCKK affairs in order of priority, although there is no million jackpot prize for guessing which affairs would get the topmost priority laa). When I SMS him that there is no procedure but through MCKK (implying that they should not bring up this nonsense about our not following procedures), I did not get any SMS. He did though ask me to contact ATWK Sr. (who I assume calls the shot) or HM, but I did not yet because it was nearly 4 am in the morning.
Sometimes around 10 am, Izzat gave me a call to tell me that the boys had the clearance from the school to attend the workshop. I also spoke to Cikgu Umi who also related the same message, in fact she was quite amused with all the brouhaha to the point that she assured me come what may, the boys would attend the workshop.
Having been assured by everyone, I thought everything was in order and there was no issue after all; a storm in a tea-cup. So we proceeded with our arrangement – the junior coaches (including Helman and Bucks who came from the flood-torn Johor and Seremban respectively) gathered at KLCC right after Friday prayers, while Zaim made his own way from Penang.
After a few shouting here and there as a result of my unshakeable control freak syndrome, we were on PLUS towards KK. It was a fun ride with Shahrol in one car challenging us once in a while to overtake him; or my leaving him and Canoe way behind.
The sandiwara began around 7-ish when we stopped at Tapah for Maghrib. Izzat received an SMS from one of the boys telling us that they were still barred and they were still trying. They also asked who was this Datuk Din something, which ATWK Jr. quoted as giving them the directive to attend the POW and not the workshop.
That was the moment I blew my top. I had built the team from scratch and spent the last four years becoming almost a father figure to these kids and no one – apart from the core team of early 90 coaches and the teachers – had ever even once menjenguk (don’t mention MCOBA lah!) or offer assistance; and suddenly whoever is this Datuk the ATWK Jr. was quoting had the audacity to decide on behalf of the team.
So I called the only Datuk from the debating circles (for we do keep a list and maintain contacts of debaters spanning 4 generations) I know of to clarify. Apparently he was the person being quoted as we rightly guessed, however he denied making those statements to ATWK Jr.
I did point out that with all due respect to his seniority and his contribution; it was ill-advised for ATWK Jr. to even consider by-passing the team for a decision and expected the team to abide to a ruling – for all of us are not bound by anyone’s counsel (let alone a directive) save Ben’s (Sdr Adlan Benan Omar, Class of 90) and the teachers’ only. Furthermore, he (Datuk) was not involved in the planning or the workshop at all, it is unfair if he were to decide on something he did not work a single minute on!
But ATWK Jr.’s claim was denied; which incensed me even more because it gave the impression that ATWK Jr was beginning to tell made up stories (euphemism for lies) just to convince the boys that they were not required to attend the workshop. By now it was no longer about the boys attending the workshop, but it was about lies told to the boys.
Just as we were sitting down to contemplate the brewing mess that was escalating out of control (and utter disbelief of ATWK Jr’s behaviour); I received a call from ATWK Jr. (assuming the Datuk had called him that I confronted the former). One of the first thoughts that I was about to shout at ATWK Jr. was “what on Earth did you take us for? You told lies to these kids, expect them to swallow it and you expect us the elders not to check with all those people you dragged into this?”
But I did not and he began to spawn more explanation (which upon verification from all the sources he quoted; turned out to be more lies. If you want to enter an entry into Malaysian Books of Records of the record holder for most lies told in one and half hour, you should seriously consider ATWK Jr. He could go on for Guiness record as well, but then again he would have to compete with Bush Jr. and Olmert – that’s quite a challenge though).
He started with the procedural fuss – when it was pointed out that it is MCKK which has the sole right to grant permission, that point seemed to die out.
Then out of the blue, he “tai chi-ed” the whole affair to the HM and the school. He claimed it was the school’s inefficiencies and mismanagement. He claimed that it was the HM’s specific and strict directive that the 5 debaters who are prefects must go to POW and not debate workshop; and they (ATWK Sr. and ATWK Jr.) dared not go against him (oooo ATWKs dared not go against the poor little teachers’ order? Much logic into that; after all they did come back and as POW went along unilaterally extended or modified their program as they wished; that what should have ended on Saturday morning – then was extended all the way to Sunday with complete disregard of any other activities planned by the school; as related by one of the teachers).
On why the 5 were so important that POW must have them throughout; ATWK Jr. went on rambling about how they needed to complete the modules lest their training was incomplete (we fear another Anakin/Darth Vader did we? But maybe ATWKs won’t understand this after all); or how HM had instructed them (ATWKs and facilitators for POW) to select the Head Boy, President of KPKM, President of BANI and the High Council for the prefects. When I pointed out that KPKM president is elected by the boys and being a KPKM president myself once; I would have resigned if I was selected by the teachers (let alone ATWKs!) because I would not have any legitimacy – once again ATWK Jr. exercised what by now what his Holy Grail of Escapism: blame the teachers, time has changed and the teachers now wanted to select president of KPKM. As to how preposterous the claim that a bunch of outsiders who came to conduct a program for 3-4 days having the right insights to know the prefects enough to choose the Head Boy etc., I came to the point of not wanting to argue with ATWK Jr. anymore as he was sounding more like an SBPI or SM Sains debater drowned in their own weak arguments, rather than this almighty great collegian coming back to pass his wisdom, without which MCKK shall perish forever.
But we did agree on one thing, that the decision should rest with the HM (by now the whole fiasco has dragged for more than 18 hours! I was on the phone with ATWK Jr. for one and a half hours).
So while on the way to KK from Tapah, we called the HM. He denied ever making those statements or instructions quoted by ATWK Jr., in fact he claimed that the application did not even go through him as the organisers (all these wise people) went direct to the cikgu disiplin. But he did admit that as much as he wanted the debaters to go for the workshop, the overall tussle had put him and the school in a very difficult situation; because of the fear that MCOBA would use this as another excuse to come down hard on the administration. While I cannot tell by now who was lying; I do understand the implications should the HM take side, as some of these ATWKs might feel insulted that they lost out to a group of much junior old boys (in case I forgot to tell they were the almighty, talented, wise and knowledgeable so their ego is slightly smaller than the Sun itself) and in the process of licking their wounds they might drag everyone in its path and used it as a pretext to blame the school. After all they have been doing that all night – quoting people who were unrelated as if to give some authority to their claims; what they forgot was that I came from that dysfunctional batch which dismantled the prefects board and banned bicycles in 1994; so unlikely I would be cowed by any names but Allah himself!
In the end, the HM passed the decision to his assistance – by which time I knew if anyone would have to call the shot, it would have been me.
No news came from other side and we were already in Kuala Kangsar, Ben was preparing to leave early in the morning and so were Allen and Afiq. Nothing until 12 midnight, by which time; despite reservations from some others – I decided to take the moral high ground and called off the whole workshop. In doing so, all the hard work and preparation carried out by the junior coaches came to nothing that weekend, let alone their money and time. Izzat skived his classes and just now he received a final warning from his department that if he were to miss classes on Saturday again; he would be barred from the exams.
The boys (present debaters) had to frantically cancel all the Annual Dinner arrangement (to coincide with the election of the new captains); luckily they managed to recover the deposits they paid (close to RM400) although the caterer would have to figure out what to do with all the raw food they have purchased.
And so it is in that context, that I must write this – because I taught them not to yield when they know they are right; yet I yielded and in so doing put to waste much of their hard work.
But I also want them (and the boys) to know that we have to decide what is best for the team; and I had no intention to engage in an ego contest with a couple of ATWKs (some may even call them “Has Been”s) who will not yield even if the world ends for in their sheer arrogance and ignorance, refuse to understand the other side of the coins; blinded by their sense of self-importance.
If we were to continue with the ego contest, we would certainly win, I have no doubt of that. But was it worth it when after this they/MCOBA make a huge fuss of the whole thing, exerting pressure unnecessarily onto the school, souring the already bad relationship between the teachers and some of MCOBA representatives (on this point, the number of SMS I received from the teachers who expressed sympathy and explained how some of the ATWKs had long lost the goodwill of the teachers was telling) – judging from how childish they could become for the past 24 hours, I wasn’t surprised if they would burn the Big School if only to get their way to defend their ego.
We spent the night at Seri Kangsar. In those moments of disappointment, it was good to have had the debaters’ training after all. Because we were so used to injustice and unfairness, we learnt very quickly to bounce back from defeats and moved on that it was not long before we were grilling Bucks on his life as a jambu in koleq! Occasionally there were jibes and jokes about the ATWKs but generally it was a good team building time, because for once I was not worried about whether we were on time with this module, or whether the junior coaches know what to pre-brief and de-brief for each module.
But sadly, occasionally too (when we were in the rooms) you caught some people flipping through the folders containing all the workshop materials, or going through the Oath that the captains had to take; pondering on their hard work which was laid to waste by a bunch of egoistic ATWKs.
The next afternoon we met the boys and explained briefly. Once again the same claims made by ATWKs were related to us and we basically compared notes. We said good bye and now have to go back to the drawing board, as this setback derails us for a few months unless MCKK is willing to reschedule other programs to make way for us (which again would have been unfair to other parties).
On double standard and not walking the talk:
The ATWKs went big ways with this ERTI concept – empathy, respect, trust and integrity. They spent their time apparently hammering this into the kids’ mind. But I wonder whether they realise, their acts and behaviours throughout last week were observed by some of the very “padawan learner” they claim to train – and these boys do think for themselves.
On empathy, when the boys asked why ATWK Sr. did not call me to discuss this since we (the debaters) booked first so it was only polite that he (as late comer) called to discuss – his dismissal of that suggestion was telling: “Why should I call him, he should call me!”. So much for teaching the children on how to understand other people’s concerns, to empathise with where they are coming from etc!
On respect, there was no respect for other people’s field of work or areas of contribution. The intense sense of self-importance, perhaps cultivated over the years as the hairline recedes (part and parcel of the training to become a qualified ATWKs I guess), makes them blind to anything else that other small people do. In their mind, on their shoulders rest the salvation of MCKK and the Malay race, as these self-styled Malay warriors often write in their many postings on the web – so much so that if the 5 prefects lose 2 days of their training, MCKK would have been doomed. In their book any other things done by other people is of lesser priority compared to what they do.
On trust and integrity, I do not have to tell further – the amount of putar alam spawned in one night was very impressive. None of the claims was corroborated and was flatly denied by all the parties he cited. When I pointed this out to ATWK Jr., he now turned to the next victims he had not dragged yet i.e. the 5 prefects – now these boys did not tell the truth to me; to which I did raise my voice and asked “do you presume you know them better than I do, I having spent nearly 5 years with them?”. If there was only one account uncorroborated, then maybe it is right to give ATWK Jr. the benefit of the doubt. But when all accounts failed the verification test, it cannot be that ATWK Jr. was telling the truth and all the other adults lied.
I wish the ATWKs were there themselves to witness how some of their own participants rambled about how they promoted empathy and compromise, only to bully the junior old boys through their sheer arrogance. This complaint was repeated over and over again that I was getting quite amused after a while as this one boy kept on repeating “suruh orang timbang rasa, dia langsung tak leh tolak ansur”.
The irony of it all is that even if the POW had some positive effects on them, it was because the facilitators (ATWKs) demonstrated the exact opposite of what they preached and since the group which received the brunt of that arrogance was their own kin, it would have made them remember how it felt when dealing with people who cannot empathise, do not respect other people or cannot be trusted because they don’t have integrity. Perhaps that way, they will always have those virtues in their hearts because they don’t want to grow up to become the ATWKs.
On not going through MCOBA:
I feel I must touch on this point.
The whole episode convinced me now that I made the right decision by dealing directly with the school in all our activities; because going through MCOBA means subjecting ourselves to some self-styled ATWKs who more often than not were more concerned about their egos more than anything else; after all they are from the golden MCKK generation (malas laa nak point out that competition back then was no where near it is today that showing one striped tie with a 3rd grade SPM can still land you a job; lest you are branded kurang ajar – but I just did) who are prone to a sense of grandiose and self-importance.
They will assume the right to decide what is a priority and what is not, without even knowing the subject matter. They can also assume the knowledge of who they know as an expert in a particular field – unfortunately because of the delusional sense of self-importance, they would only see people they know (of the same worldview, same background, same era) as having the expertise.
In the end, it alienates the younger ones (except some people whose life DOES revolve around MCKK and MCOBA Penthouse!) and the years pass by – unintentionally it deprives MCOBA of young bloods, critical to resuscitate MCOBA from the perceived slumber state it currently is in.
I only pray that as I lose my hairs too in the future, I will reflect and God willing will not be trapped in the warped sense of self-importance, that I refused to bring myself down to the level of those who will come after me – for what is our life’s labour if not for people after us to reap the benefits. Insya Allah I will pray hard not to become the stereotype ATWKs of MCKK!
On the technicality of going through MCOBA, we were invited by the school to coach the teams and our dealings by right should only be with the school.
In fact, some time last year I wrote a concept paper on career counselling in MCKK to tap into old boys pool to bridge the expectation gap and sent a copy to ATWK Jr. (at that time I was still naïve). I guess he glanced it through or either he binned it or it is still sitting on his desk.
In the end, the school picked it up and we went on to implement anyway, working closely with the school and the teachers. For this is a symptom of some of our own old boys – they want to assume power but abdicate the responsibilities.
On not calling ATWK Sr.:
Although I did not call him personally because by 1 am Saturday morning I have lost complete trust in any single word coming from them, a colleague who was involved in Projek Sayong and a fellow ex-debater did call him. I was told he got the same answer i.e. the school instructed them to conduct and gave specific instruction that it was mandatory for the 5 boys to stay throughout – the same version given by ATWK Jr. which was repudiated by all other parties. So what’s the point of discussing with the almighty who seemed to be interested in getting his way (“I can talk, but I have my way” type of thing).
On the boys’ astuteness throughout:
In every difficulty, there is always a silver lining. That silver lining was in the manner the boys had carried out themselves throughout. They did not bow, they did not yield (in fact I made the call to yield) and if we had proceeded, they would have walked out of POW and joined us.
They thought and compared actions with words; so when ATWKs deflected their questions on why POW was disorganised and communications was late by giving an excuse that they (ATWKs) do not want to point fingers; thereafter blaming the debaters for not going through the so-called procedures and the school for alleged incompetencies – the boys can think for themselves of saying one thing and doing another.
I was pleasantly surprised that on Saturday’s afternoon when they dropped by to talk to us (and in so doing missed one session of the POW) and I asked them to return lest they would be scolded, one of the boys reprimanded me by telling me off that they have nothing to worry because they have the right to be there; as the POW was informed late.
Perhaps this e-mail can sum up what they themselves think of the events that took place:
Dear Abg XXXX
Salam. Good to have this opportunity to send e-mail to you after what had happened recently.
It saddened us (the debaters) for triggering the workshop to be canceled. Well, all of us really wanted to go for the workshop even though some of us had to join the Prefects' Programme. Well, as u said yesterday, after this no more talking about this issue. However, I think I need to express my personal feelings on what was going on through e-mail since I feel better expressing my feelings by words rather than talking like yesterday.
Talking about right, I am really really sure that the Debate Workshop deserved to be attended by us. Why? Because it was properly organised. We know how hard u tried to have this bengkel. Each of us got letter of invitation since last year and we had set our mind to be in the bengkel on this weekend and started to be excited to learn and improve many things. How about the Prefects' programme? Not organised! Although it was quite interesting but when I thought about how cruel the fasi were, my mood was becoming not good. At first I thought that they were diplomatic as they taught us to be 'HONEST' and other things which were needed by leaders. How convincing they were when they were giving their talks and I thought how lucky I was to be guided by them. But, it's a disappointment to know the real circumstances!
Empathy which means care about others' feelings was always emphasised by them since last year till this year. I wonder how come la they don't have this thing? Ajar orang pandai, tapi diri sendiri x betul. Frankly speaking, I do think you have this empathy and u are more matured and diplomatic than them. When u said that the workshop was cancelled, I was really touched (apart from disappointed). Why?Because u think about others. U think about the teachers and the prefect-debaters. U didn't want us to have conflicts with MCOBA (even though I didn't care if we would have). U could fight for ur right and of course we could support you 100 percent (I was thinking of running away from Prep School, haha). But, realising that it had no benefit of fighting, (especially with the undiplomatic people), Abg XXXX beralah. Those nonsense people syok sendiri, yelah bajet best.
I couldn't believe my eyes to know what they had lied - Datuk Saifuddin, about how we wanted to go to the prefects' programme etc. Rashad clearly told XXX that we wanted to go to the bengkel. Now, I realise rupanya ada jugak orang mcm ni.
Well for your information, the other non-debater prefects pity us because we couldn't go. They asked, klau postpone, boleh ke old boys nak dpt cuti? Don't worry, we didn't tell them about ur quarrel with them. They knew when XXXXX (according to his son at koleq, he wanted to be called XXXX XXX. XXX because he likes Jet Lee. His son quite shocked when I pronounced XXX) said to everyone that the prefect-debaters were not allowed to go for the bengkel.
When the night session ended on the first day, the debaters negotiated with him. He simply said that the facts changed dari semasa ke semasa. Maybe he thought debate is all about memorising the facts! How pelik! Haha.. I wanted to object and explain the real thing about debate but they were rushing to go back and seemed like not wanting to negotiate diplomatically (yelah,mmg diorang x dplomatik pun). So, the first night we slept at 2.35- discussing how to solve and sharing our feelings. The second day (a day before the bengkel should start), we also slept late. Discussing and sharing our feelings.
Debate is actually an activity which teaches everything in life especially when u and the other old boys come to koleq to guide us. Many programmes conducted by u (old boys) teach about life - not only how to debate but also living skills (in hutan) and so on.
I think that's all. Sorry for this disorganise e-mail. I don't know how to start according to the flow. I just type whatever enters my mind. Catch u later.
On why this piece has to be written and published:
Because it is only right that we should not allow this kind of things to repeat. There are a lot of lessons learnt especially for the junior coaches who when I am gone in the near future would have to put up with this.
But most importantly, because I owe it to all of them – the boys, the teachers, the junior coaches and Fazurin who spent a lot of his time coordinating from the US for some of the modules – that we should not take this kind of things and go quietly in the background.
In all likelihood there will be a chorus of complaints of the manner I raise my dissatisfaction, or the insinuations I make – most probably it will be written off by those involved (or who call the shots at MCOBA/MILES) as rambling of insignificant young punk (the same way they had treated us throughout last week).
But ignore us at your own peril, for if you continue like this, I wish everything that you want to establish “Good Luck”!
(in case some ATWKs somewhere begin to accuse me of baling batu sembunyi tangan!)
ps: If this is too long, you can also read Haqqa's version of events here.