My colleagues and I (those who are involved with the coaching of the debaters and managing the career/scholarship programs) went back to koleq twice over the space of the last three weeks.
The Scholarship Workshop was held on 22nd and 23rd September in the very hot Hargreaves Hall during Ramadhan. Kudos to the boys who stayed throughout despite the heat and being 17, I am sure the temptation to skive was very great. Apart from the malfunctioning Hargreaves Hall’s air conditioning system, everything was OK. Some of the boys really enjoyed it since we had a few games in store, some were more confused than anything else ha ha, the rest you just can’t tell.
Last weekend we had to be back again for the debaters’ Annual Dinner and Election – quite an important milestone each year as this is the time they elect the next year’s captains and complete the handover ceremony from the present captains to the next (this was after the Annual Sahur Reunion at PJ Hilton that lasted from 11.30 pm to 5 am, and after I have done nearly an 18 hours in office non-stop, but will blog about that once I get the photos from Fadli.)
The food at Safari was lousy as the boys didn’t have sufficient time to organize a proper one in Ipoh like they normally do (it’s exam time and Ramadhan), but the proceedings went well. The new captains were well elected – I take comfort that they are good captains who will look after the team well and I can leave them to their own devices. We spent the next day completing the training for the teams 2008 – 2011 so that when the season begins next January, we can concentrate on the tournaments and not the trainings.
I’ll post some of the pictures and videos later, but this post is not about the two events. It’s a reflection of the journeys and observations that I made during the two events that I thought was worth sharing here.
My colleagues and I are clocking our fifth year as the coaches and the third year looking after the career/scholarship functions at MCKK. Along the years we have met many boys whom we took under our wings and spent a lot of our time grooming them for the sole purpose of making them worthy of MCKK. I used to tell this to them:
“…..In them we pour our hopes and dreams that for every little failure we have, they shall succeed. For every mistake we make, they will avoid it. For every opportunity that we were denied, they will have access to. For all the things that we wanted to change but couldn't, they will finish the job. I can only pray and hope that in your own ways you will grow up and become people worthy of the MCKK heritage that you often wear too proudly…”
Everything happened without any plans but it stemmed from the desire to see that those who come after us will always be better than us – that though we may not choose the mainstream way to contribute, we leave our marks in the littlest way possible. When our days are numbered and we transcend through that journey to meet God, we can look back and take comfort that we have not sat idle. Life, after all as Lennon famously pointed out, is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.
Along the way too you meet many challenges and hindrances that tested your patience, without which you would have wondered why you have to put up. I still have to put up with the constant nagging of one individual (a fellow old boy in fact) who for 3 times had tried to convince the school to ban me from running activities allegedly for fear I would instigate the boys to be anti-government and anti-school administration (ha ha) given my rather less than conventional opinions on many national issues (and my involvement during my student activism days). The school administration has to put up with the constant nagging (or to be more precise “interference”) of parties who want to dictate who can and who cannot have access to the boys, let alone when the administration has to defend a character like me.
That doesn’t include the holier-than-thou comments sometimes made by parties related to MCKK. In the last PIBG meeting, a parent who went on to become Deputy Chairman of PIBG (and an elected MP at that no less) easily lashed out at the debating team teachers for our “embarrassing failure” at losing to SBPI Gombak from his constituency in the 2006 UIA National Competition; mocking the quality of our debating team and by extension the commitment made by the teachers and school. What he failed to see in the mirror was that MCKK is one of the very few SBPs now which do not have paid coaches; compared to most other schools (including that one SBPI from his constituency) which hire full time coaches and fully paid for by PIBG (including the often quoted TKC!). What he missed was that these unpaid teachers and coaches sometimes spent more time with the debaters than their own parents (and if his son happened to be a debater, it would have been him too). And what he should have apologized publicly to the boys and the teachers is his failure to realize that the very same SBPI from his constituency won that year in the most controversial manner, as the paid coach eventually judged the final debate – hence the narrow margin by which we lost (but then what do you expect, he is a Malaysian MP after all!)
I wish as adults and responsible citizens, we ask first what have we put on the table before we point fingers. Until then we do not have the right to wiggle our fingers or stick our noses easily – and this goes to all bodies at all levels when it comes to MCKK. Perhaps the question that should have been asked – what have WE done to assist, rather than questioning the demoralized teaching staff; already over burdened with work and underpaid; of their level of commitments.
There are many other challenges. As an outsider, we also have to navigate the suspicion and negativity attached to old boys who want to run programs in MCKK – from some past experiences it seems MCKK old boys like to promise but do not honour the pledges. So it is inevitable that some teachers do have suspicion – though I do not discount that a very small minority just need to grow up!
Despite all this and the dent it takes on our pockets, we went on. The only reason why we went on is because most of the time we felt the boys are worth it; they have earned our presence. The teachers put up with the unpaid commitment and sacrifices because they love these kids as if they are their own.
But what happens when some of the kids break your heart with their misdemeanours or complete disregard for courtesy?
I observe an increasing trend of our youngsters not paying the right respect and deference to elders, especially their teachers. This apply in general to kids from as young as 13 to young old boys as old as 20.
Last weekend, I had a chat with some of the teachers and nearly dropped dead to find out that one of the kids wrote the most vulgar and hurtful letter to one of the teachers – which include comparing her to a Zionist. It was a long list of quite venomous expression of frustration. In her 20 years teaching at MCKK, this is the first time it happens.
Another teacher confided in me how she has loved the school and kids as her own all these 20 years she was teaching and never ever had she called any of the boys “biadap” – but recently she did because she could not stand the utter disregard for manners that some of the boys displayed.
If I had not known better, I could have jumped and said it was unbecoming of teachers to use those words on children. But I do understand as many of us (the coaches) are not dissimilar to the teachers – as coaches, our role is almost the same albeit in an unofficial capacity.
There were many times that I felt slighted, or shocked observing the manners of a small number of the boys I have had encounters with. Even in the course of doing our work with koleq managing these teams, there have been instances that the boys broke our hearts with their indifference and lack of manners. Some of the young old boys, on the other hand, just see us as nothing more than an opportunity for a free ride – free trip, free food, free everything; without ever understanding why adults do certain things so that what is wrong at present will be right in the future (and that task is to fall on their shoulders).
I have to admit that it is a small minority, but it is growing at an alarming rate. When it’s the junior boys who usually have problems, you have to wonder what leads us into this.
At a relatively young age, we are all building our young family. I pray that we do not lose sight and always opt to see both sides of the story. I’ve always believed that part of the reason that kids nowadays are less economical with their venomous words and indifference is because they are pampered so much. They always take things for granted as whatever is invested in them is taken as their God's given right hence the obvious lack of courtesy from some of these boys.
I also pray that should one day I have a child in a boarding school, I will try to see where the teachers are coming. For the meager pay they are earning, it really does not commensurate with the amount of headache they have to put up with some of the boys; because for the voluntary work I have been doing with MCKK for the past 4 years – there have been too many instances of unnecessary heart ache that I have to navigate because of the boys’ lack of tactfulness, indifference and sometimes outright rudeness.
And to all my batchmates who are parents out there, always remember that it is easy to point finger – but never forget that the children is a mirror image of ourselves. I looked back and wondered where I inherited this patience to tolerate young people and take them under our wings, only to remember that while growing up there had always been young people around my house whom my parents looked after (either because their parents were dead, or as a new graduate starting a job in an alien part of Malaysia etc.) from time to time – so we are always the creature who our parents shaped us to be. We have the biggest role to shape our kids to be whatever we want them to be; so do not outsource that job to anyone else.
As to the final reflection of how do you cope and maintain your focus when one or two of the boys really let you down – well it’s never good to focus on the bad apples; when you have an orchard full of good harvest to look forward to in the future. Investments made in people are extremely risky, speculative, volatile and most of the time you never recoup your investment – hence why most people or organization do not want to invest in people. But just like any other risky investments, when you do make your return it is so big all your previous losses will be recouped. The thought of seeing one of these boys grows up to go to the top universities and becomes prominent in whatever they choose to do is the biggest impetus of all despite the occasional heartache.
So I am telling myself and everyone in the team that we should not despair when once in a while we hit rock bottom with these kids – they, after all, are kids and it’s in their nature. Do not despair because our despair is nothing compared to the lost opportunities of seeing these kids growing up to do magnificent things beyond our imagination. After all as we always tell them – what we invest in other people’s children, others will invest in ours.
Selamat Hari Raya and drive carefully!
PS: More pictures @ Album Berisi
PPS: We had a small "pot luck" bukak puasa tonight, between yours truly, Allen, Jita, Chamat and Shahrol (yes of 8993 ha ha), beginning with the sweeping of any food we could find at the pasar ramadhan. At this age, the simplest thing in life like berbuka puasa and looking for food with friends just like the old days walking around Lembah - is one of the best pleasures in life. The night was ended with *ehem ehem* (too scandalous to announce here) but suffice to say that Jita has finally beaten the prediction and is getting married soon, so we had to do something that fit the occasion (ooh yes Jita I will be the first one to steal the thunder and tell the world). People get ready - it's another wedding of the year maaaa (and opportunity for reunion too!)