Wong pays tribute to friends and teachers at SXI for making him the person he is today

WHEN Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai visited his alma mater St Xavier’s Institution (SXI) in Penang, one of the first stops he made was the chapel, where he said a little prayer.

It had been 37 years since he left SXI, and the veteran newsman, currently chief executive officer and group managing director of Star Media Group, couldn’t hold back the stream of flashbacks.

“Every time I come back it’s always a flood of memories. I stepped in the corridor and immediately I’m recollecting both the good and the not-so-pleasant times. It’s surreal how it all comes back at once,” he said on Monday.

Wong was back at the historic school to support R.AGE and SP Setia’s #StandTogether campaign, which aims to end bullying in schools through an annual National Kindness Week.

He was welcomed with a guard of honour comprising a marching band with bagpipes, leading the way to the school assembly, where he gave a speech about kindness.

“My friends and teachers at SXI grounded me to be the person I am today. I learnt a lot about loyalty and betrayal; and I learnt how to bully and was even bullied,” said Wong, who could be seen singing along to the school anthem, Alma Mater’s Call, still remembering all the words.

Current principal Dr Sim Hock Keat then took Wong on a tour of the school, where even more memories came flooding back.

Wong sharing his thoughts with students at St Xavier’s Institution in Farquhar Street, Penang.
Wong sharing his thoughts with students at St Xavier’s Institution in Farquhar Street, Penang.  

At the canteen, Wong was surprised to see a familiar face, an elderly man behind the counter by the name of Anthony, who recognised Wong from his school days.

“Anthony was around during my time! He’s seen it all. He was a strong man, and look — he’s still going strong!” said Wong, to which Anthony replied that he regularly reads Wong’s articles in The Star.

The visit, however, was more than just a walk down memory lane. Wong is one of several prominent personalities who will be going back to their schools to drum up support for the #StandTogether campaign.

Last Monday, YouTube star Jinnyboy visited his alma mater, SM Stella Maris Pudu, to promote the cause. SP Setia chairman Tan Sri Dr Wan Zahid Mohd Noordin and Chief Operating Officer Datuk Wong Tuck Wai will be the next, visiting SMK King Edward VII and SMK St Michael’s Institution respectively.

#StandTogether was developed by R.AGE and SP Setia in response to the spate of deadly bullying and school violence cases last year, starting with the tragic death of teenager T. Nhaveen in Gelugor, Penang.

Schools keen on creating a kinder and more positive environment can download the #StandTogether programme, which includes a Kindness Challenge and simple classroom activities, at www.standtogether.my. The programme has been approved by the Education Ministry, so all schools are encouraged to implement it during the first school week of April.

Speaking about bullying was not easy for Wong, who admitted to being both a victim and a bully at different points of his schooling years, and said he regrets not doing enough to help his fellow students back then.

Wong talking about his schooling years to a group of prefects at the school. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star
Wong talking about his schooling years to a group of prefects at the school. — Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

Though Wong spoke glowingly about the supportive culture SXI upheld during his time, bullying still happened.

“After spending 10 years together (in SXI), you will tend to protect each other — but there was still bullying. It’s something that happens everywhere, even in the workplace.

“I could’ve been stronger or louder in helping the students who needed it. In hindsight, staying quiet was not the best way to solve bullying, so we need to speak up now, especially for those in more vulnerable positions,” Wong said.

Wong now hopes that his beloved home state of Penang will take up the #StandTogether campaign challenge of creating a culture of kindness — starting with his school.

“St Xavier’s needs to be an example, not just in Penang, but a model to all Malaysian schools,” he said.

“And I hope Convent Light Street School, our sister school just across the street, will be the next ones to sign up for the campaign!”

Find out more about the #StandTogether campaign at www.standtogether.my.

Schools can register for the programme on the website, or by emailing R.AGE at alltherage@thestar.com.my.