By Haresh Deol
February 1, 2018
JUST as the mock cheque was presented, the school bell rang – a sign of approval from the 82-year-old Methodist Boys School (MBS) Sentul.
On stage stood banking icon Tan Sri Azman Hashim, as he had on January 30, handed a whopping RM10 million on behalf of his Azman Hashim Foundation to the Methodist Council of Education (MCE).
Earlier, Azman and the guests – who included several former MBS Sentul principals – were entertained by students from the Methodist Boys Primary School, MBS Sentul and Wesley Methodist School, Kuala Lumpur.
The three schools sit on the plot of land owned by MCE. The money will be distributed to the Methodist schools.
Azman is clearly one of MBS Sentul’s finest products. He needs no introduction. And the AmBank chairman, who turns 79 in July, is ever grateful to his alma mater.
“I have to thank this school for allowing me to skip grades thrice as I sat for my Senior Cambridge Examination when I was 15,” said Azman in his typical off-the-cuff speech.
“I remember writing an essay once and my school teacher remarked that I wrote like Ernest Hemingway. I had no clue who Ernest Hemingway was and went to the library to find out more, only to realise the wonders of the American novelist. And that was how I improved speaking and writing the English Language – by reading a lot.”
Nearing the end of the ceremony, Azman was presented a portrait of himself by the school. The artist: MBS Sentul teacher N. Kathiravan whose artwork left many in awe.
It was a modest affair given the generous donation. Politicians, on the other hand, would have called for a press conference and made a big deal of their contribution, even if it was just RM10,000.
Azman was not the only former student at the event. I was also present and joined several teachers at the back of the hall.
Many of them were new faces. One recognised me from my 12-day SEA Games stint with Astro Arena last year.
But it was a joy meeting the likes of Choo Chee Seng, T. Manikavaasagam and Ng Aik Huey who saw me grow in my teenage years.
MBS Sentul, now with a new coat of paint and the words Bangunan Azman Hashim plastered on the main building fondly known as the clock tower, was founded by American missionary Rev. P.L. Peach.
The first class was held on February 10, 1936 with only seven pupils – Ah Loy, Jegaraj, Chan Weng Chiu, Ahmad, Ng Sing Kong, Punchacharam and Gurubachan Singh. It was an amazing composition of students from different backgrounds and beliefs led by a man of faith in the land of Malaya.
The school, had in 1940, served as the military headquarters for the Australian Imperial Forces.
The Japanese invaded Malaya and the school reopened on July 1, 1942 as Sentul Boys’ Gakko. The end of World War II saw MBS Sentul resuscitated. Then on, the school grew – literally. Over the decades it has seen additional new blocks, with the latest opened in 2001.
The new block, also named Bangunan Azman Hashim, is also a result of Azman’s generosity. It houses the canteen for the secondary school students below and the Old Boys’ Association’s office upstairs.
The number of students has dwindled over the years since I left MBS Sentul close to two decades ago. Now there are only 400-odd students in the single session school.
However, the spirit of MBS Sentul brotherhood seems to have remained.
I’m glad that I grew up with classmates – of various faiths and backgrounds – who were colour blind. The strong bond among us remains till this very day. They are my brothers.
And on Tuesday, I saw a similar relationship among the students. They sat together, they teased each other and sang the Negaraku and the school song with their hearts out.
Azman, through his commitment and generosity, symbolises the true MBS Sentul spirit. He sees us as Malaysians who deserve to receive education in a conducive environment. He sees beyond creed and background.
He sees himself as just another former student trying to help his former school.
To Tan Sri Azman,
As a former Peach Scholar, head prefect and school captain (1999), I on behalf of the students would like to salute you.
Ora et Labora.
Haresh is a multi-award winning journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @HareshDeol