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Friday June 22, 2007

Reunion dinner for former La Salle students


WHEN I interviewed Brother Cassian Pappu at his De La Salle Institute office in Jalan Bukit Nanas recently, it was like a walk down memory lane. 

The meeting evoked a feeling of nostalgia as La Salle Sentul was where I had my primary and lower secondary education before moving to Setapak High School.  

“The feelings of nostalgia often haunts me but I am saddened by the reality of the schools losing the La Sallian spirit after the La Salle Brothers have served the country as educationists for more than 150 years,’’ Cassian said.  

The former principal of SMK St John’s Institution joined the Catholic Order in 1950 and never looked back.  

His first posting was to St Xavier’s Institution in Penang from 1954 to 1961. 

He had his first introduction to the Catholic Order when he was 12, delivering food cooked by his mother to a group of La Salle Brothers in need. The experience left a deep impression on him. 

Cassian considers himself a true La Sallian and while recalling the good old days he said it was sad the authorities were not appreciative of the value of conservation. 

“Brothers in those days were clad in white robes and lived in quarters located in one section of the school,’’ he said. He also recalled the brothers’ impeccable conduct, dedication and their caring attitude towards all. 

Cassian said the La Salle brothers’ selfless contributions to Malaysian schoolchildren and the good values taught in the mission schools then should be emulated.  

The La Sallian bond has been strong since the early 50s, but partly due to unsubstantiated fears that these schools were more interested in conversion than education, the brothers were no longer needed and 1988 was the turning point of the country’s education landscape. 

There has been a radical change in the education system since the brothers and sisters (nuns) were replaced and today they remain merely as partners and work together to uphold the La Sallian aim of providing good education. 

“Even now as we speak, it evokes a certain sentiment and brings to mind many memories, whether good or bad. We have lost our identity but the La Sallian spirit can live on if the government could replicate all the features of these schools which were the premier schools then,’’ said Cassian, who also served as a principal at St Francis Institution in Malacca from 1972 to 1977 and the principal of La Salle School in Klang for five years from 1977 to 1982. 

Cassian also spent time at Tuticorin in India, where he started a La Salle High School.  

Returning to Malaysia in 1966, he was posted to teach in Malacca before leaving to become an English and music lecturer at the St La Salle University in the Philippines in 1969. 

“Today, although the brothers do not have direct access to the education system, the vision for these schools are still the same,’’ said Cassian, who at 80 years still harbours the La Sallian aim of providing good education. 

Relating an incident, he said old boys of the Brother’s era had proposed to him that they would like to take over the schools and the La Sallian convention in August could address this issue. 

“The old boys want to bring back the good glory days but my question is in what form are we going to revive the La Sallian spirit. It should not be mere talk or it would end up whipping the horse for the last race.  

“The La Sallian presence is fading with the present generation who do not have the heart and soul like their predecessors of the brother’s generation,” Cassian said, adding that the older generation wants to do a lot of things but the question is how and when. 

The La Salle brothers, whose missionaries first arrived in the region from France with the Infant Jesus Sisters in 1852, have done a lot for the education of Malaysian children for generations and Penang was then the only place where people from places such as Myanmar (then Burma), Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and the Philippines were trained to become La Salle Brothers. 

Founded at Reims in France by John Baptist de La Salle in 1680, the De La Salle Christian Brothers is the largest Order of the religious Brothers in the Roman Catholic Church and is dedicated exclusively to education, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. 

The La Salle convention and dinner for all former La Sallians will be held on Aug 4 at the Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya.  

Organised by the Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Associations, the convention will also feature successful old boys including Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Prof Dr Syed Jalaludin Syed Salim, former Finance Ministry secretary general Tan Sri Clifford F. Herbert and Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim of Universiti Malaya. 

Tickets for the convention are priced at RM60 each while the dinner will be at RM80 per person. 

The federation is an umbrella organisation for all La Salle former students’ associations in Malaysia and has been in existence since 1976. 

It has 19 member associations with the latest additions of St. Michael’s Institution Alumni Association Klang Valley, La Salle Sentul Old Boys’ Association, Muar Andreans Associations and the Franciscan Club Kuala Lumpur. 

For details and registration, call 03-7960 4108 or e-mail mfolsa@tm.net.my 

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