Indians from The Muar High School Hostel in 1959
The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s. recent announcement that a multiracial hostel to foster better racial integration among pupils in secondary schools under the 1Malaysia spirit is in the works (NST 28.9.09) is a great idea. He also said the hostel would be built in Kuala Lumpur and students would attend schools in the city as part of a experimental project to help children from socially challenged backgrounds.
I support the idea generally and can vouch for the success of such a program as I myself was a hostel boy at the Muar High School from Standard I till Form V between 1951 and 1959. The hostel at the Muar High School was the probably the only hostel of the time to have a multiracial mix. It had Malay, Indian and Chinese boys from the estates and rural areas around Muar at the hostel. Most of us went on to do well in later lives having been fully immersed in Malaysian traditions. Perhaps the Federation Military College then situated at Port Dickson could have been the only other exception but that too happened only at the secondary level.
We lived and played together from young itself and assimilated ourselves well into being true Malaysians. Through first hand experiences we learnt of and also from each other. All of us experienced the spirit of Ramadan first hand. As hostel boys we often joined Hindu processions to receive free kacang kuda. We went to the Sikh temple for free capati and even to the Hindu temple for tasty vegetarian meals. We also followed the lion dances during Chinese New Year and received oranges – a treat at the time.
However, I believe that it would be better to start such a project from the primary level itself because by the time children reach the secondary level habits, attitudes and prejudices tend to be irreversibly entrenched in their young and impressionable minds in the early years itself.