I remember the day I first attended school. The school was not a big one. Not like the modern and state-of-the-art buildings that you have today. But to those staying in the surrounding areas, it is called and known as a school. A place where the village kids went to sharpen their skills and knowledge and to blend additional know-hows into their still fresh memory banks. The school was located at the perimeter of a small rural town.
I remember, though it is more than 70 years ago, that the ‘academic’ structure is a wooden building with rooms just enough to accommodate 5 class rooms, and a teachers’ corner. The interior of the building is very airy and bright. There are windows everywhere and there are no partitions in between the class rooms. In other words, even at that time the building designers then had put into practice ‘the open office concept’.
The school building was located by the side of the road … just a few yards to the roadside. There was no danger of children being involved in car accidents, as vehicles such as cars and motor cycles are hard to come by then. In front of the school building was a large area .. the assembly ground and next to it was some sort of a playing field. And behind the school building was an area where the teachers’ quarters were built.
Now, my first day at school … I was very excited. There were about a dozen kids like me. All, with the exception of me and a couple other kids, were holding tightly to their fathers’ or mothers’ hands. Most of them looked worried. Some would be hiding behind their parents. As for me, I was very relaxed and happy. I have been waiting impatiently for this day to come.
It was the beginning of the Japanese occupation of our country. I could see trucks upon trucks carrying troops – Japanese troops – passing by our school. I personally did not pay much attention to the sounds the convoy created. My attention was more on the happenings at school. I wanted to know then who would be my class mates, and who would be my class teacher. I wanted to know too how many books would I get to bring home. And what about the ‘papan batu’ or slates. Those days, the slates took the place of the exercise books of today.
All in all, it was an exciting occasion to a certain degree. Now let’s see what happened on the first day … that is after the student registration and distribution of books.
We were divided into groups and taken ot our respective class rooms. We were then shown to our tables. Just imagine me having a table of my own. It was indeed a great day. We were asked to sit down … and sit down quietly we did. Our class teacher was an elderly man … I believe he was around 40 years of age. He was very pleasant looking and always smiling. He introduced himself to us. And he called us by our names from the name list he was holding. I believe this was how he would know us. Much later he began giving instructions to us and explaining the things we would be learning.
It was a day full of excitement. We were excited and at the same time began to make friends. We began to talk, first to the kid next, and it went on until we know everyone in the class. The atmosphere was noisy, but it was in a controlled way.
Day one ended without any untoward incident. To my surprise, no one cried, not even when the parents left them at school in the morning. The bell rang for the end of school for the day. There was a loud commotion when everyone began running for the exit. After that, it was all quiet and peaceful.
In my next post, I would be relating my experience … my learning experience in the good old days.
I started school at the beginning of the Japanese occupation, through the 14 days the country was run by the communists, then when the British Military Administration took over from the surrendering Japanese authority.
I am proud to say that I went through three eras of education in our country. I left school in 1951 after completing my primary and secondary education.
My coming posts will tell of my experiences. I will try to give some sort of comparison to what we have today … in terms of education, that is.