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Saturday July 28, 2007

Preserving honour and tradition


sario@thestar.com.my 

IT has been thirty years since Ho Kin Wong left his alma mater, the La Salle secondary school in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. 

But like thousands of the school's alumni, the chartered quantity surveyor maintained strong links with the school and now serves as the chairman for the La Salle board of management. 

To him maintaining the link came naturally as he and his peers developed strong bond with the school due to the major part played by the La Salle Brothers who administered the institution half a century ago. 

A much needed break: Students during their rugby match.
Whenever they gathered, the talk among former La Salle students will inevitably drift to the La Salle Brothers who taught them such as Bro Raphael Egan, Bro Brendan Dunne, Bro Peter Phelan, Bro Charles O' Leary, and Bro Justin Mobilik. 

“I used to hang around after class hours and sometimes Bro Charles or Bro Peter would invite me to have lunch with them,” said Ho who lived in Kota Kinabalu at that time. He left his family and home town of Lahad Datu to do his fourth form in science stream.  

After completing his upper six studies, Ho said that Bro Charles arranged for him to meet the late Tan Sri Ben Stephens who was then the Yayasan Sabah director to apply for a study loan so he could pursue his tertiary education in Britain. 

“The Brothers genuinely cared for us and now it is our turn to care for La Salle,” said Ho. 

Over the past 40 years, the former La Lalle students have raised more than RM10 mil for the continuous development of the school. 

Starting young: In action during the campaign for their school election
From a single block with wooden plank walls and attap roof, La Salle has evolved into Kota Kinabalu's only two-campus school with the junior (Form 1 to form 3) and senior (Form 4 to Upper Six) blocks. 

Brother Charles' retirement as the principal in 1986 marked the end of an era that began some 30 years earlier when the La Salle brothers took over the school's administration from the Catholic Mission. 

The La Salle secondary school can trace its beginnings to the Sacred Heart primary school set up by Father Van Der Heyden in July 1903. From just a handful of students, the school's enrolment went up to 50 by June 1913 and 10 years later increased to 213. 

Between 1941 and 1945, a wooden school building with eight classes was built on the site where the current site of the Sacred Heart primary school stands just adjacent to the Sacred Heart cathedral in Karamunsing. 

In the early 1950's the Catholic Mission established the Sacred Heart secondary school with Father Bernard Davies who served as its first Principal. In 1953, the Catholic Mission obtained a 3ha of land in Tanjung Aru and moved the school to the present site. 

Still standing tall: The junior block of the school.
By 1958, the La Salle Brothers took over the management of the school that was renamed La Salle secondary with Bro Raphael as its first Principal. 

Despite the end of the Brothers' era in 1986, the holistic approach to education as espoused by the La Salle brothers was maintained. 

“Our approach gives equal attention to academic achievement as well as character building or character education,” said current senior principal Julia Willie Jock. 

Apart from getting students to be the best they can be academically, La Salle also ensured their participation in a variety of extra curricula activities. 

The school was also the first in the country to set up its own archive and with the students' involvement and technical advice from the Sabah Archive it has preserved volumes of its records. 

La Salle was also the first school in Sabah to set up a buy back system for recyclable materials such as paper and plastic items. During recess, counters were set up and people turned up and sold their materials to the students.  

With such a holistic approach to education, it is no surprise that La Salle turned out students like Mohd Hazli Japar, 18. 

Down memory lane: Students looking at the Old Boys’ photos at the school's archives.
Mohd Hazli who scored 14As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination last year was presented the Sabah Youth Outstanding Award by the Yang DiPertua Negri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah recently. 

The La Salle Convention and Dinner for all former La Sallians will be held on Aug 4 at Holiday Villa Subang in Subang Jaya. Tickets for the convention are priced at RM60 each while the dinner is priced at RM80 per person.  

For details, registration, call Margaret Cheong at 03-7118 2062/64, James Sia at 019-667 8297 and Pragna at 03-27322988 or e-mail mfolsa@tm.net.my 

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