Sunday, November 24, 2013

Long live SMK King George

 SMK King George students sit for an examination in the school hall.

TIME TESTED: Longest serving principal and former student recall the history of the venerable institution

SEREMBAN: SMK King George (KGV) is more than a school; it is a time capsule. After 90 years, the original structure of the pre-colonial building is still intact, as are its arched windows and clock tower.

Its architecture and history are the pride of its students, who are proud to declare themselves Georgians.

Samsudin Hamidan, 63, is one of them. He was seven years a student and eight years the principal of the school.

He was, in fact, the longest serving principal in the history of KGV, who made extensive adjustment and changes without altering the old school spirit.

"It was hard to preserve KGV in that manner, considering the all-round development happening at that time.

"But I took it as a challenge, with the efforts of the teachers and the help lent by the government for the heritage status accorded to the school during that time," he told New Straits Times at his residence in Paroi, here, recently.

Samsudin graduated in 1971 and returned to serve the school as its principal in Oct 15, 1999, for eight years, until March 1, 2007.

In 2001, he made the decision to turn KGV into a single session school.

The school had been a double session school for almost 50 years.

"I remember the students breathing a sigh of relief upon hearing the announcement, as that meant they could spend more evenings on the school field instead of burying their noses in voluminous textbooks," he said with a grin.

The school field, known as the Georgian green, was connected to the school by a tunnel built during British rule.

When KGV was first launched on Jan 15, 1923, in a train station building, it was known as Government English School.

"However, the school was officially constructed in 1926, and later carried the name King George V name two years later in a building worth about RM220,000," he said.

On April 23, 1928, the school was opened by the then secretary of the Imperial British Colony, W. G. Ormsbygore.

The opening was witnessed by the then Negri Sembilan Yang di-Pertuan Besar Tuanku Muhammad Tuanku Antah and British leaders.

KGV was named after the reigning monarch of Britain (King George V).

The school, Samsudin said, was well known at the time because of its clock tower, which was imported from England and the most famous landmark in Seremban back then.

"The chiming of the clock was audible for as far as 2km away, it was like half of Seremban town was forced to shut up every time it rang.

"Since it chimed hourly, Muslims used it to determine prayer times as it was too expensive to own a clock at home," he said.

He said the clock worked wonders to awaken the townsfolk every morning and fast became the town's drawcard.

"However, the historical timepiece chimed its last in 1978. It stopped functioning and there has been no repair work done until now," he said.

The main blocks of SMK King George, among these the clock tower, was accorded National Heritage Site status in 2010.

In 1941, the school was taken over by the Australian Imperial Forces.

During the Japanese occupation, the school became the Japanese Military Police Headquarters of the Miyazaki Butai regiment.

"There were rumours that the dressing room beside the stage in the school hall was used as torture chambers, but there was no evidence to support them," he said.

However, human bones and skulls were discovered underneath the school canteen during construction work to upgrade the facility.

"That has remained a mystery until now," he said.

Meanwhile, 86-year-old ex-Georgian Mohd Ali Azizan Ahmad recalled the time the school was occupied by the British forces as being nerve-racking.

The pensioner, who worked as an administrative and diplomatic officer, said his heart would fill with overwhelming sentiments every time he set his eyes on the school.

When the school was turned into a British military base in 1946, Azizan attended Japanese Kotoko Gatko in Seri Menanti.

"When I returned to KGV the following year, I could still see many British soldiers in school. It took more than a year for things to return to normal," he said.

He was clearing the bushes at the school hostel, which was about to be re-opened, when he discovered human skulls hidden among the shrubbery.

"Rumours were rife that one of the rooms in the boys' hostel was where hundreds or possibly thousands were beheaded during the Japanese occupation.

"Although that was never verified, we accepted it as 'almost true' because of the skulls," he said.

He said he still got goose bumps every time he heard the school song.

"KGV has given birth to many intellectuals and well-known leaders and I hope that the tradition will continue for years to come," he said.

Among the famous former Georgians are badminton legend the late Datuk Punch Gunalan, former Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Fong Chan Onn, Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan and Negri Sembilan police chief Datuk Osman Salleh.

The former students keep in contact with one another through the Old Georgians Association (OGA), headed by Osman.

*Taken from NST ONline

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