Students of all races stick together by one language

JOHOR BARU: Despite leaving college more than 40 years ago, the former students of Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, better known as English College, easily picked up from where they left off.

The 1968-1972 alumni members revisited their alma mater on Malaysia Day, hugging each other and shedding tears of joy, after having reunited for the first time since leaving the college.

One of them, First Admiral Datuk Ahmad Murad Omar (Rtd), 63, said the college taught students that unity is life’s most important aspect.

“We never saw each other as Malay, Chinese or Indian but as our fellows.

“This college binds us together and since it is an English-language school, our teachers always emphasised the importance of using English as a form of communication, and we practised it a lot back then,” he said.

Another former student, tax consultant Beh Kok Guan, 63, said he was very proud that the ties between the ex-students continued to stay strong.

“We are more than friends, we are like brothers in one huge family. Back then, we were able to get along easily regardless of our backgrounds,” he added.

Manager P. Madanal, 63, thanked technology for helping to keep them together.

“We formed a WhatsApp group because some of us have migrated. Through this, we kept in close contact with everyone,” he said.

Madanal said he could not make it to a gathering in Kuala Lumpur last year, so he did not want to miss this reunion.

The former students were given a surprise when their ex-mathematics teacher Yusof Karto, 83, came by during the reunion at the school canteen.

“I taught at the school between 1964 and 1993. Although I could not remember their names because I had so many students, I still remember their faces despite the fact they have grown up. To me, they still have their baby faces,” he said.

The college, established in 1914, is one of the 10 oldest English-language institutions in the country and is the oldest school in Johor.

It was known for its distinguished alumni, including influential figures in the country’s rich history, such as Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin, Malaysia’s third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn and former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam.