KLUANG: They not only educated us but also fed and nurtured us into successful role-model citizens.
These were the former teachers who had churned out success stories out of their students – tens of thousands who had passed out of Sekolah Menengah Tengku Aris Bendahara Kluang in Johor.
Paying tribute to his mentors, former student Ng Chai Hing recounted how dedicated teachers like Cheng Kong Fah took the initiative to provide free tuition classes for those weak in their studies.
“He was among those who went the extra mile to see to our needs, just like doting parents.
“Realising that most of us from poor families will skip meals at the school canteen during recess, Mr Cheng will make his rounds to offer snacks or even buy us a meal or two with his own meagre salary.
“Such was their compassion that they touch our hearts, even till today,” said organising committee member Ng, who is a financial consultant and the de facto DAP chairman for Terengganu.
Ng added that although some of the assistance provided by the teachers appeared small in nature, they were nevertheless very meaningful.
Cheng, who is now wheel-chair bound, taught them mathematics and English.
He was also the school’s Leo Club (Lions Club youths) adviser – grooming them to be disciplined, industrious and have integrity.
“Mr Cheng initiated fund-raising programmes to cater for the lesser fortunate students, to pay for their examination fees,” said Ng at the ‘Kluang Rats and Oxen Balik Kampung 50 Years (1973-2023)’ reunion at the Tiong Hwa Restaurant in Kampung Masjid Lama, Kluang in Johor.
Twenty former teachers joined 90 of their former male and female students – who came from all over the country, Taiwan, Singapore, China and the United States – at the reunion to also commemorate 66th Merdeka Day (Aug 31) and Malaysia Day (Sept 16).
Among the notable old boys were former Royal Malaysian Air Force logistics officer Capt (Rtd) Lee Nyuk Fah who played as a rugby prop for the RMAF Blackhawks and the national team between 1980 and 2000.
Reunion organising chairman Lee went on to become a national head coach after his playing days, and has been a national coaching director from 2018 till now.
Others include the ‘Batch of 1960-61’ old boys chairman and Fong Seng Cold Storage and Foodstuff managing director Fong Hae Leong, its founding chairman and GIIB Holdings chief executive officer Tai Boon Wee and Dancomech Holdings managing director Daniel Aik Sui Tong.
Tai said they were referred to as rats and oxen to reflect the Chinese zodiac in the year they were born – 1960 and 1961, respectively.
“We have been having annual reunions since 2015, except for three years from 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“The reunions are a great avenue to renew our acquaintances, foster greater bonding and fete our beloved teachers.
“The reunion is especially possible thanks to the advance mobile phone technology available today that allows us to communicate so conveniently,” said Tai.
Meanwhile, Lee Lai Ping, 80, on behalf of her fellow teachers described the reunion as a very special and significant event.
“We are very proud to have taught you.
“It was very thoughtful, kind and generous for you to remember and invite us (as special guests) for this reunion.
“Although we did not do much for you, you did it yourselves to achieve success and where you are today.
“We are very delighted and appreciate your contributions in cash, kind or any other form – like assisting in the healthcare of some of us ailing one,” said Lai Ping, who taught physical education, English and science. – airtimes.my