STUDENTS from Sarawak’s interior had to rely on cargo boats and ships to make the almost week-long journey from their longhouses and villages whenever the new term began in the state’s only upper secondary school, more than 50 years ago.
Some had to travel on foot for several days before boarding the boats to Miri, where the Tanjung Lobang Government Secondary School was located.
The Forms Four and Five students from the remote areas of Betong, Kapit, Sibu and the deep interior of the Baram district were the school’s pioneer batch.
“It wasn’t easy. The trunk road from Kuching to Miri was not constructed then, so students had to depend on passing boats and small ships to ferry them across the waterways to the school.
“The distance and the sometimes arduous journey did not deter them. If anything, they were determined to get to school, work hard and excel in their studies,” said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, a former student who had to endure the long days of travelling and hardship.
He was speaking on behalf of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem at a reunion dinner of the school’s former students in Kuching recently. The school has over the years seen numerous changes and is now known as Kolej Tun Datuk Tuanku Haji Bujang.
He added that it was “the students’ sheer dedication, focus and great passion for learning that eventually paid dividends.”
“Some of them are politicians at state and federal level while others have become professionals, corporate leaders and businessmen,” Jabu said.
Sharing his experiences, Jabu, said former federal minister Tan Sri Leo Moggie Irok, now Tenaga National Berhad chairman, was one of his classmates.
The Tanjung Lobang school was at that time the first government school to offer Forms Four and Five classes in the state.
He said that both he and Moggie had to travel about five days to get to Miri, while deputy State Secretary Datuk Ose Murang had to trek through the jungle for eight days from upper Baram before reaching the school.
While tuition classes were unheard of then, Jabu said students took it upon themselves to pore over their books apart from taking their co-curricular activities seriously.
“Some of us were later offered the Colombo Plan Scholarship to study abroad,” he added.
He said the stoic dedication of this batch of students should be emulated by the present generation of school-going children.
“You can do very well but you have to put your heart and soul into the one task that you have – to study seriously and listen to your teachers in class,” he said. – Bernama