WE now live in an era of never- ending challenges. Conflicts between nations have not shown signs of abating and the peace that many crave continues to remain elusive.
As a nation, we have done our share through dialogue and diplomacy to promote global unity. At home, after more than 60 years of independence, the issue of national unity still looms large among our major concerns.
We have invested in all kinds of programmes to promote national unity but it remains a stubborn issue. Song after song has been composed and sung, but the situation has changed only a little. Some blame divisive politics for the worsening situation. In this age of the Internet, the spread of fake news is also to blame.
It is time we look at other options. The school may hold some promise. Most of us would remember our school years, especially in secondary school, as truly the best times in our life. Those were the years when we truly discovered the joy of building camaraderie not only with colleagues but also with teachers and the communities around us.
Those years can be described as innocent years. Ethnic animosity was not in our vocabulary even though some feeling of statehood may have been there. Those from Kelantan and Terengganu harboured some of that parochial state feeling probably because of the longer distance to reach our school in Kuala Kangsar.
The train journey and the ferries we had to take may have contributed to such feelings but other than that, we felt like we were all friends exploring new experiences together. Furthermore, the time spent in class and the many extracurricular activities, which were common in those years, sapped most of our energy, leaving little opportunity to think about anything else. A full boarding school environment provided those positive vibes.
This is exactly what my classmates and I experienced. There were about 130 of us. We left home at the tender age of 12 or 13 to live and study at Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), going home only for short durations during the term breaks. Otherwise we had to eat and sleep in the dormitories where we each had a bed and a locker.
The situation was not much different from the army except we were at a tender age.
We call ourselves the Class of 1966 in MCKK after the year we sat for our Form 5 exam. We are fortunate because there are a few individuals in our group who are passionate about organising events, which have helped to keep us in close touch until now. We normally meet up at the wedding receptions of our children where tables are specially reserved for us.
The bonding is not limited among classmates either. We have also established strong bonds with our former teachers.
Although the students in MCKK are all Malays, the teachers are mostly non-Malays.
That difference was never a problem for us. Many of our former teachers never hesitate to join and celebrate with us.
In 2016, we celebrated our golden jubilee. All who were still around came for the event, and so did the teachers.
Through the efforts of a few diehards among us, we produced a book compiling not just nostalgic pictures but also narratives of the many years of growing up in the college. This was recently submitted to the National Library for safe keeping.
There is no denying the positive power of school alumni in building brotherhood and promoting unity in the process.
I am sure that in the more multi-ethnic boarding schools like the Royal Military College, the impact would be much deeper.
It may be worthwhile for the Government to allocate some budget to encourage more school alumni to undertake activities which bring together members for such reunions.
Perhaps a national conference can be organised to bring together all the school alumni to deliberate on strategies for national unity.
After all, national unity is an important prerequisite for sustainable prosperity!
PROFESSOR DATUK DR AHMAD IBRAHIM