Friday, March 03, 2006

Saving Penang Free School

For the past few days, I've been repeatedly introduced to an online forum created by a (group of) young Old Free(s) to highlight the recent problems faced by our alma mater, Penang Free School and hopefully garner enough support to make things right again. To be fair, this is not the first time such an effort has been initiated by an Old Free and I truly doubt it will be the last one either.

Every now and then, the school will face some daunting challenges but so far, she has succeeded in weathering the storm mostly unscathed and emerge stronger even. This time however, her enemies are a tougher lot and bent on destroying her (literally). Without a concerted effort to fight this menace, it will be quite an impossible task indeed overcoming these challenges.

I applaud such efforts to ensure our alma mater does not wither from existence, especially not without a fight. However, it is important to do it the right way and to fight the right battles. I did mention in the comments of one of my earlier posts that I cannot take the forum seriously. One of the reasons being the forum does not require you to be a member before replying. Of course your IP address is being logged and all even if you reply as a guest but it does not reflect a forum that is serious about handling the issues at hand with members who are articulate, mature and responsible enough to voice their opinions confidently without fear or prejudice. I mean come on, who can take a forum seriously when you have people with nicks such as doink, fuckface and ihatefreesnow?

I understand visitors to the forum might want to remain anonymous for apparent reasons but it's people like these with the type of comments they make that actually discredit the efforts of the majority who are serious at tackling the problems. The moderator might have other ideas in mind and opted for a more open forum instead which I totally understand. Not everyone enjoys being restricted in such a way and that might actually scare many away from commenting which will also defeat the purpose of the forum.

I actually feel at home when I'm at the forum because not often are you able to read in forums members who are able to articulate their views so well. I guess birds of a feather do flock together, no? It is obvious the comments did come from Old Frees who are of rationale minds and mature enough to discuss the issues professionally. This will truly help the cause in a lot of ways.

Initially when I visited the forum when it was at its infancy, some of the comments were just posted out of anger and really not helpful. They focused on the wrong issues. They chose to fight the wrong battles. They were barking up the wrong tree. I actually lost hope that this could actually turn out to be a credible challenge to the menace at the The Grand Old Lady now but I still left a window of opportunity open, hoping others who would later discover this forum will not follow the same route as some of the early birds. My patience did pay off soon enough as people started to grasp the crux of the situation and realise the real battle lies elsewhere (with the help of some of my proxies though).

Some battles are meant for us to fight and some for others to fight. We have to pick the right battles in order to triumph. As Old Frees, the hair and badge issue is not one for us to fight. That should be left to the current Frees to do battle. It does not concern us at all and we will not be of any help whatsoever if we were to get involved however hurt or insulted we are concerning the issue. We might actually hurt their efforts instead! Same goes to the parking issue. We are only outsiders when it comes to such matters. We can offer our advice and moral support but we can't fight the battle for them. Who are we to get involved? We have to choose the right battles and the decline of Penang Free School as a premier school is one battle we can fight on. The mismanagement of the school will be our battleground. The dessecration of school traditions can also be an area of contention if it affects the school negatively. The alleged racial discrimination is definitely a major battle we can fight against. We have to choose to fight the right battles if we intend to win.

The actual reason behind the implementation of all these silly rules and regulations is quite simple but many just do not see it. The school administration is on a warpath with the Board of Prefects and they are bent on making them worthless in the school through the implementation of such rules. The Board has been a pebble in their shoe for a very long time now and finally they have struck hard to get rid of the irritant. They had tried many times to quash the supremacy of the Board of Prefects but failed time and again. In recent years however, they have finally made inroads.

In my time as a school prefect, the school had planned to implement the hair ruling on TWO different occasions. How is it then that the students still managed to enjoy long luscious hair until recently? It is all down to the Board of Prefects standing up on behalf of the students to voice their concerns over the ruling and succeeded on both occasions that Penang Free School students was able to keep their hair although the school administration was very insistent on pushing forward. We struck hard and fast that word did not even manage to get out that such a ruling was planned for implementation.

It is only right that the prefects stood up to protect the welfare of the students since they are representatives of the students, no? Students just fail to see such behind the door scenes and we are always lambasted to be proxies of the school administration and bent on making the schooling lives of students as miserable as possible. How wrong they were. How short-sighted they were. Shouldn't the students be happy now that the prefects are powerless? So powerless that they are unable to do anything now? After all, this is what they had wished for all this while, no? Ironic isn't it that after finally achieving their ultimate goal of seeing prefects powerless, they realise it's not what they want after all! A bit too late, no?

Penang Free School has always been known for its student leaders and I truly believe the nurturing of capable student leaders is the best sustainable way to return our alma mater to its former glory. It's the best way to ensure the school will remain competitive and in good hands. It's the passion and love of Frees that keep the school spirit alive to this day. It's this very passion and love for the school that will ensure her enemies are kept at bay and the interests of the school served at all times. As such, I call upon the teachers, students and Old Frees to realise the importance of nurturing student leaders, the importance of not restricting them in what they do, the importance of giving them trust and freedom at being able to manage things while being their guiding light, the importance of cultivating the true Frees spirit.

A good first step would be to reestablish the Board of Prefects as what they should be. It is after all the epitome of student leadership in every school, no? Let's start realising the real issues at hand and start fighting the right battles. Let's ensure the Saving Penang Free School campaign does not end up to be just another Saving Private Ryan campaign. I just hope it is still not too late although the forum is already getting less and less active by the day. Let's return the Frees spirit to where it belongs, in the hearts and soul of all Frees, be it students, teachers, parents, staff or administrators. Fortis Atque Fidelis.

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