1991 May: A Visit to Langkawi, the Land of Mahsuri
1991 Aug: Study tour to Medan, Indonesia
1994 May: First Asia Pacific Chitin and Chitosan Symposium (APCCS)
1995 Dec: Revisiting SAS
1997 Dec: Rally Nationwide Vision
1998 Apr MOU and Launching of Chito-Chem (M) Sdn Bhd
1999 Sep: The Officiation of Smart Technology Centre, UKM
1999 Sep 23: A Week on Leave
1999 Dec: Study Tour to Taiwan
2000 Jul: A MiniReunion of Class of 66
2000 Dec: Just An Unlucky Day
2001 Jul: 29th Covocation of UKM
2001 Dec: Digging Deep Into the Root: SKBT Revisited
Digging Deep Into the Root, Dec 20, 2001.
Rarely one is proud of being an alumni of a primary school. Exceptionally, I do, because I do believe in destiny. On this date, Thursday I sneaked into my alma mater's compound to see what had changed since I last 'aboded' here, roughly in August 1963. It was Sekolah Kebangsaan Bukit Tunggal, currently visible for travellers who are driving just past the Duyung Bridge on the left northward at Bukit Tunggal traffic light. In July 1963, in Std 6, I sat for my SSE, as did other standard-mates, the results of which would determine their hierachy in form one of secondary school the following year. The results was also used to fish out good pupils to fill up some quotas of orang kampung to fullboard prestigious federal schools like MCKK, MGC, STAR, SDAR, TFS, etc. All of these "terminologies" were non-existance to me in 1963 albeit after six years of my childhood life that I spent here. I learned to read and to write in this school, from dedicated teachers, many of them I remembered vividly and dearly to this day, and many of them had been destined to contribute to the mechanics of my destiny. I do not recall any incident within the six years in the school that I had to hate a teacher. They really were teachers, from the head master CheGu Tengku Muda, down to CheGu Salleh, the teacher who signed my leaving cert in a very early Jan 1964, on behalf of the HM. Throughout the six years tenure in this school, I never received any punishment from my teachers, nor did I eluded any punishment. My elder brother, and all my younger brothers and sisters learned to read and write in this school. My youngest (and the youngest) brother left this school in Dec 1984.
The picture taken perhaps in late 60's. I acquired it in late 2001, via a long time folkmate who has a staff staying near his home, who persuaded CheGu Ismail's wife, CheGu Kamariah, who I equally apreciated for her more than equal contribution in the mechanics of my destiny, especially at the end of my tenure in SKBT.
This is part of the road, then was already tarmac, through which I walked to the school for six years from Jan 1958 to about Aug 1963. The road (left picture) is facing south, and is a third of the journey, the middle third, about three km distance. The first one-third is behind it, facing north, and the final one-third (right picture - facing north) is right after the bend at the end of the middle third; all together making up about nine km one way, thus 18 km to and fro. The school gate was on the right of the right picture foreground. This was the trunk road of the east coast north-south "highway", Kuantan-K.Terengganu-Kota Bharu, until about 1962 when the Buluh Gading Bridge and Manir Bridge and the new road connecting them were built, the trunk road was diverted to the interior, and the closure of Bukit Datu ferry. Nowadays, this road functions as an access road. The unused pavements indicate that it is not used by many heavy vehicles. The light vehicles, including motocycles, and even bicycles are undisturbed by the heavy vehicles. When Duyung bridge was built in the 90's, the trunk road was rediverted, back to near the school, but on the other side (eastern side). One morning in 1959 or 1960, along both sides of this road (right picture - I stand on the left side facing north), the pupils of SKBT lined up to flag farewell to the Sultan Terengganu convoy on his way to Kota Bahru to take a plane to KL. That was the only such occasion during my tennure. However, perhaps in about the same year, we (the villegers) lined up the road in the left picture; this time eagerly to watch the parading circus animals (part of advertisement) on their way for a show in K. Terengganu. That was the first occasion I saw an elephant. The elephants were made to walk, whereas others were in the cage in lorries. It was unbelievably big and left their droppings all along the road. I saw the trainer used a long screw driver, jabbing the elephant's thigh to order it to behave when they strayed to eat the banana leaves offered by the bystanders. The elephant was bleeding.
In my time, the front gate (left picture) faced west. Now it become the back gate. The new front gate (right picture - facing south) was previously the back gate, the road leading to it was only a foot-path with several inhibitant houses. The change is obvious, it reflected the changes around it. In my time the school compound was slightly raised, now it appeared to have been leveled. All the compound was white sandy land. Big trees were all 'tembusu', very big, that one class can sit under it in complete shadow. The compound was very big too, especially the field.
Immediately on entering the gate (the old one), the HM quarter greeted. In my time the quarter was the middle house in the picture. It was right at the foot of Bukit Tunggal; the house fence was the school fence. The new quarter (on the right) is new. The old one apparently was restored to full use, in the original architecture on stilt and white-washed in those days, and I was told that it is inhibited by a teacher. The compound looked very green, unlike in my time, it was barren. But along the perimeter there were bushes of 'kemunting'. The big 'tembusu' would shed its flowers in season and it was all yellow under it with black spot of rotting fruits later. In my later tenure, the HM was CheGu Tengku Muda, a slender, tall and cool; always dressed in all white with a necktie when in office. I enjoyed very much going to school. I normally arrived very early in the morning. With my bag still slinging on my shoulder, I would go near the window of the HM quarter and shouted to the HM for the class room keys. After a few shouts he would open the window, appeared, normally still in night dress, and threw the bunch of keys to me. I ran, many times with sliper, a few time bare-footed, and sometimes with shoes (after eid), to the class rooms and opened all the doors, ten classes all together in two buildings. I then ran to the office building (immediately after HM quarter - extreme left in the picture) and returned the keys to the HM who somehow by then was already in his office. I enjoyed very much helping the HM (there were no general workers, only teachers). The HM knew me, although he might not know my name and my class, for he never refused when I gave a shout for the keys every morning.
The original office building, imagine it, without the foreground structure, without the trees and grass, only a building with white soft sand. It is remarkably preserved. It had three compartments; extreme left was the HM office, the middle compartment was partitioned into two classes, all were for std one, and the third compartment was the office of Nazir (Inspectorate - we called the Nazir as CheGu Nazir, I did not know his real name, he was fat and big and drove a green Ford Prefect, the only car visible in the compound); each compartment had its own entrance stairs. The ground below the Nazir's office was enclosed to make the store for sports and games and PE hardwares. Teachers' bicycles were parked under the roof between the stairs, some of them were new and some were old, but all were "sporty"; the only motorbyke visible, a b/w Norton, was the one owned by CheGu Muhamad, an English teacher. He was big, dark skinned, and like HM, always all-white dressed. When I was in std 6, in the morning session, I used to borrow the teachers bicycle to go home for a break, to return back to the school for the extra class in preparation for the SSE. Most of the teachers who became my 'victim' were ladies teacher because their bicycles were mostly new bicycles; but most of all because asking the mercy of ladies techers was more plausible to be 'blessed'. CheGu Rokiah, CheGu Hawa (a few times), CheGu Kamariah (CheGu Ismail's wife) and CheGu Jamaliah; all were young (and beutiful too) lady-teachers, except CheGu Hawa (perhaps my std 4 teacher) who was rather aged and 'fierce'. It was amazing, that they were very unreluctant, and trusted the twelve years old boy so much. In return, I took a great care of their bicycles; sometimes I sparklingly-cleaned it for them. I borrowed different teachers bicycles on different days. I could not imagine how such a huge differential arrangement were made possible to happen.
In this building was my std one class, in 1958, the first one in the middle compartment. There were no chairs and desk, not even for the teacher. We sat cross-legged, in blue short and white shirt, with our bag of slate beside us. There were not many girls in my class. I could not remember any of them in std one. We started the writing lesson on a slate, not in a book.The 'pencil' was also made from slate stone, it was costly, 5 cents each, but lasted many months. It was sharpened by grinding against a stone, and I had the best grinding tool: my father's grinding stone which he used to sharpen his carpentering tools. It was a tip of talk at that time of how to make the slate as soft as possible, so that the writing would be very easy: exposing the slate to the morning dew. So every thursday evening, I would take my slate to the padi field closest to my home, and left (hiding) on the barn divider untill friday morning. The teacher was CheGu Wahab, also a big built. Below the floor of the class was our playground during recess, after a meal, if I was provided one. In the sandy ground, there were many holes (like a volcano) of wingless mole-like insect, "cecurut", which fight each other (perhaps for the hole). We caught one by digging it out, then use a piece of hair to tie at its neck; lower it into the hole of other to fishout its inhibitant. It was very much a fun when I was in std one. During recess, one could see many pupil playing so under the floor of the class.
There was a radio in the class, and the antenna was raised high above the roof of the building on a bamboo pole erected outside the HM office. When I was in std 2, we came to this class to learn singing in front of the radio which was tuning to perhaps RTM's School Division. The timing must be sharp, which was about ten in the morning. I remembered we learned singging a few times only. Perhaps later, the radio was not functioning and it was not possible to repair.
The former site of the canteen, seen here occupied by the 'ketapang'. The house on the background (outside the school compound) apparently has replaced the scattered rubber trees on the foot of huge Bukit Tunggal hill.
Viewing the HM quarter from the open space in front of the canteen. It was not visible last time, obscured bu scattered rubber trees with bushes in between.
The original school two-blocks classroms, viewed southeastern from the canteen compound - those days without the greens; the ground was sandy, soft and white, just like on the beach.
The same two-blocks viewed from current front gate (previously back gate). The classroom facing the tree on the foreground is my classroom when I was in std 6 in 1963.
The right side corridor of block-1. The class on the foreground was my std 2 class.
The left side corridor of the same block-1. Running parallel to this corridor was the 'main road' (foot-path) from the front gate to the back gate; and the empty lawn next to the road was the assembly area. There were no drains surrounding the corridor; the end of the corridor diffused into the sand. Between the road and the corridor were 'agricultural plots', with a knee-high wooden-fenced path leading to each class. I ran a lot along these two corridors, up and down the block, and around the block, especially during recess, or before the class began each morning.
The same corridor, viewed from opposite direction. The classroom on the foreground was my std 6 classroom.
In lower std classes, the black board were seated on a leaning stilt holder. We started using books from std 2. In std 4 and 5 classes, the black board were fixed to the wall without sandwiching soft board like these days. There were a pair of cupboard in each class. The teachers used these cupboard to keep teaching aid materials, like manila cards, model objects, etc. When I was in std 2 my class teacher was CheGu Mohd Zain (besar), a slow voiced medium built. At one time I was very scared to go to school and I refused to go to school, and I told my mother so because a std 3 or 4 boy always bullied me. After a few days or so my mother took me to the school, met CheGu Mohd Zain and told him. CheGu Mohd Zain asked me to show the boy; I did and he dragged the boy into the cupboard and 'locked' him until he cried and admitted not to harm me any more. Since that day, the boy distanced himself, even ran away when he saw me; and I continued to study in the school 'happily ever after'. My std 3 teacher was CheGu Mohd Zain (kecil); so nicked because he was much smaller than the other CheGu Mohd Zain (besar); a high-pitch voiced. In std 3 we wrote in print letter, in std 4 we would learn writing the script letter. At one time in std 3, out of my eagerness, I asked CheGu Mohd Zain (kecil) to let me write in script. He did let me so. In std 4, to my amusement, I learned that all my script writing in std 3 were all wrong.
I was about to become part of the school when I was in std 4. Around that time my elder brother finished his SKBT tenure, and because of family needs, he did not continue his schooling, and joined the folks in kampung to begin his trial of life. My younger brother, in turn, joined in his std 1. My family hardship got worse, and for many periods we were totally in the hands of nature. As I grew up, my feeling became mixed up between the natural desire to become a good pupil in being able to flex all the possible mental and physical muscles and the inferiority of being unable to have the physical matters to do so because my mother could not afford them. My std 4 year was almost detested from the school. And it prolonged to Std 5. I do not have many anecdotes in std 4 and 5 carved in my memory, nothing of that sort compared to that in std 1, 2 3, and 6. There are more about myself at home than at school. Whenever possible, I helped my father and my mother at home. Perhaps I did not go to school for many days. During this period also, perhaps as a natural defense mechanism, I became enrolled in the famous 'pondok', pondok Haji Abas, in Tok Jiring, and commute in the afternoon, either walking or getting a ride from classmate. It turned out that my classmates were older boys, many years olders than me, and some of them were closer to my father than to myself. Perhaps, acquinting them had given an inner strength in me, which unconsciously had driven me through the later stage in the school. The schooling in the 'Pondok' lasted only a few months. I did not know what had stopped me, but I remembered I simply did not want to go to the school anymore. The Mudir (HM - Ustaz Abdullah) even came to my house and talked to my father (while I was hiding inside the house, 'scared' to see him) because he knew that I could be made a good student; a ten years old boy reading already half of the Quran. I did not know what my father said; he never turned to me about it.
Through the glass shutters, I poked into my std 6 class room. Wow! could not describe the nostalgic feeling, I was here for almost a year, in 1963, almost forty years ago. Facing the black board, my seat was in the second column from right, third seat from the front. My right neighbour was Syed Mahabar of Pak Katak who always 'hired' me for a few cents to write jawi note in his book. On my left was Nordin Mahmud of Banggul Pauh, a son of a HM in another school. My other class mates were Mohamad Embong of Tanjung Bunut, Ismail Embong who stayed very near to school along the way to my home. In SSE, Ismail was the other one who scored 'A' (he went to English school, SS or TB, but did not make to the end). When I had a chance to ride my father's old, big, and red-rusty bicycle to school, I left the bicycle at Ismail's house; I was afraid to take it right to the school because it was too old and not a boy's bicycle. Wan Abdul Latif who also stayed just outside the school compound (back gate), Aziz Mohamad of Bukit Kandis, Azizah Ismail also from the same area (the only girl I remembered in std 6), Razali Yusof of Pak Katak, Mokhtar Che Man of Seberang Bukit Tumbuh. The teacher table was on the right corner. My std teacher was CheGu Hashim, a new teacher, a thin, slender and a smoker, riding to school on a newly marketed Honda Cub, with visor screen in front. On the subject of 'Ilmu Kesihatan', he purchased for each of us a text book out of his salary money, because the book was new, and yet to be listed in loan scheme. He left the school before SSE, rumour said to Pasir Nering in Hulu Terengganu. I had no idea who paid my SSE fees of 3 ringgit, CheGu Hashim, or the next class-teacher, CheGu Manan, but for sure I did not pay it; I could never raise the three ringgit in one piece any way.
It was an "activity of the time", the pupil write letters to ask for informations. It culminated from Bahasa Melayu Lesson's "Menulis Surat Kiriman", and we were taught to write official letters. I took it further by writing to the Embassys for booklets. I was very proud indeed when teachers took the reply (in parcels) to the class for me. I received such parcels from Australian High Comm, German Embassy (West) (at that time they were in hot cold war with the East - and the never missed picture I remembered were the Berlin Wall and the victims of the East Germans trying to escape the wall); and throughout to the last of my tenure in the school, I received the weekly "Berita Indonesia" from Indonesian Embassy in which the issue of that time was The Irian Barat (perhaps they thought I was a teacher of the school). Obviously the hot circular of the time was the Embassy's address (the easiest to memorise was the Australian Embassy: 44 Ampang Road, Kuala Lumpur; and Indonesian Embassy: 132, Circular Road, Kuala Lumpur). Other pupils were also doing the same, but I believed they stopped at putting the stamps on the envelope; it cost ten cents for the mail, that was a day pocket money. I used my pocket money to buy the stamp at Kedai Mahmud down the Bukit Tunggal junction.
The current view from my former class, std 6. Two new buildings, double-storey, post-70 architecture, have been erected. These are the prominant additions apart from other scattered structures, including a wooden surau not far from the original HM office, and a new canteen single-storey building. I guessed, the new HM office and staff room were in either of these new buildings. It is totally different view; there is no 1963 trace at all. In those years, this view would be fill with white sandy open ground, punctuated regularly with giant tembusu trees. Across the view would be a football ground, with barbed freely permeable wire-fence background. The right goalpost was totally in the sand, giving many advantages to the keeper for extra actions. The left area was on rather harder ground. But around the footbal parameter there were bushes of kemunting, raised among dying 'rumput bedil'. In my later years in the school I participate too in the stempede football during recess. Adult football games were also sometimes played here, normally they were on Friday evening. In std 5 and 6, somehow, I managed to fullfill my wish to become a scout boy. The scout master was CheGu Ismail. And we had the weekly evening meeting on this field around the bush. I remembered one binding song which CheGu Ismail taught us the cubs, ".. Don Nne Nne, Don Kket Kket, Chit Ku Chit, Jemelih Bet Bet.." which I did not know what was the meaning and where did it come from. We also learned some knotting, the simplest one being "ikat kaki ayam". Some time we practiced 'searching' along the school parameter: one group left some "mission", other groups, one by one in about ten minutes span, tried to follow, quitely, based on the coded and hidden mark deliberately left along the path, untill all had reached the secret rendezvous point.
Our 'contigent' went to All-Terengganu Jamboree in Batu Buruk, Kuala Terengganu one, on a Saturday, perhaps in June or something, and I had a very sweet unforgetable memory during this occasion with CheGu Ismail, and with his wife, CheGu Kamariah, at his home in Losong (in exchange for my mother's and my brother's sleepless night and madly worry). I tagged behind CheGu Ismail after the day Jamboree because there were no transportation to go back to school (from the school I could walk home, at whatever time, mid-day or mid-night). He took me to his home, and put up there. I had my bath at the well in the house compound. Then we had dinner, rice plus mushroom soup, the first time I eat such a 'rare' dish. CheGu Ismail returned me to the school the next day, but only up to the ferry Bukit Losong when he met CheGu Nazir who was on the way to the school. CheGu Nazir took me in his car to the school, and from there I walked home (missed the school that day - Sunday). At home I was told that My mother and my brother could not sleep that night worrying about my safety. They even cycled up to Pengkalan Batu searching for my classmate they could find out to ask about my whereabout since I did not return home in time. Sports were obviously held on this field too. The track were on the sandy ground. The pupil were racing on the sandy track. I did not take part in any of the sports events, altough I wish very much to run or to go through; apparently because I rarely went to practice in the evening, so the teachers could not spot how good I was. However, when I was in std 5 or 6, once, I took part as a cub scout in helping the school to provide drinks to the parents, and the guest. I was also picked up once by the school to participate in the inter-school sports held in Tok Jiring Primary School. I was in the thug-of-war team. All of us were carried from the school to Tok Jiring in the Nazir's car, perhaps fifteen of us, packed like what!! On arrival in the evening, I remembered I had my left thumb clutched between the door of the car, and the pain (and the swelling) lasted for weeks.
The left picture, the final bit piece of Bukit Tunggal is being salvaged; viewed from the junction, roughly north-east (those days there was a sundries shop: Kedai Mahmud, selling stationeries, stamps, etc). To view from the opposite side would be from inside the school compound (right picture). The site of the house was the foot of the hill (outside the school compound). The owner of the hill must have made a lot of money selling the earth, measured by lorry-load. The hill was the highest point in the area, perhaps 400 feet high, the 'corner stone' of the so-called bukit tunggal junction. The road was a little concaved around the foot of the hill. When I was a boy the area was said to be 'ghostly'; understable for the boys. The side facing Kg Bukit Tunggal was rather clear, I used to climb it one evening, with local friends, supposedly to search for 'ibu getah', the very tough rubber seed which would not break in 'the fighting' game we used to play. On the way down, I was very careless. I did not realised that the gravity was actually very strong, I was almost unable to stop during the downward pacing that I could possibly be plaunged or hit a rock or a big tree; in that critical moment, I decided to catch a tree branch, its springy action deccelarated my uncontrollable decent. I was saved by the branch. Since then I never braved myself to climb the hill again; the hill was really 'ghostly'.