If you want to go to a place you have never been before, you have to ask questions you have never asked before. Don’t feel shy to ask questions about things you don’t know!
– Israelmore Ayivor, author
In our discussion recently among ex-colleagues at Rajang Teachers College, (now IPG Rajang) Bintangor, we heard from ex-RTC principal Encharang Agas that he became SMK Saratok school principal aged 28 years five months on January 1, 1972. I was then in Form Five A and he taught us English Language.
So, he was around my age when I reported for duty as SMK Sedaya (Sekolah Datuk Abdul Rahman Yaakub) in Kanowit on May 3, 1983. But we were very much older than Gerald Lee who became SMK Marudi principal aged only 23 in the late 1960s. Lee (now retired) later made a name by becoming St Joseph and Lodge School principal. We came to know each other when serving as executive committee members of Sarawak Secondary School Principals Association between 1989 and 1993.
Encharang pointed out there were others who started becoming principal younger than him such as Reggie Tersan and the late Hillary Nyambau. Others who landed into the school head job aged between 26 and 28 and above included the likes of Iban/Dayak men such as Oliver Kati Dobbi, the late Jimmy Donald, Leonard Martin Uning (now Datuk), Gendin Wood, Jelaing Mersat, the late Lugom Mangkil, Stephen Engkabi, Gramong Juna (now Datuk), Edward Gella Baul, Christopher Sawan Jiram (an educator turned lawyer), Rijeng Jahet, Michael Manyin Jawong (now Datuk Amar) and many more. My Kelabit friend and ex-colleague Carter Ballang Kapong also became school principal aged 27 plus as we graduated together in 1979 but he was just 23 plus then while I was 25.
In fact, I turned into a good boy when Encharang became school principal unlike a year earlier when studying in Form Four under principal Voon Teck Min who had good reason to give me final warning for having rendezvouses outside school compound with a senior girl (Form Five) – I met Voon again when he was St Thomas’ senior assistant in 1987 and I was senior assistant but acting SMK Serian school principal when we both attended a school management course held at SMK St Joseph, Kuching.
I learned a lot from Encharang, especially when getting employed as a lecturer from 1979 till May 1983 at Rajang Teachers College, Bintangor (now known as IPG Rajang). In 1983 I was made head of department (Humanities and Social Science) but was transferred on promotion as school principal to SMK SEDAYA (Sekolah Datuk Abdul Rahman Yaakub), Kanowit in May that year.
My closest model in MPR was Michael Manyin Jawong (now Datuk Amar), who was Encharang’s deputy and then just graduated with Majestor of Artibus better known as Masters of Art (MA) from Manchester University, England. We used to sit together over dinner and had beer while having discussions over topics from A to Z. Another colleague Carter was always in accompaniment for we were flatmates. One evening during such session Manyin said about Sarawak having so many classes of Datuk.
“We have so many Datuks, that if one evening you are dining on a first-floor restaurant and you throw a fishbone outside the window it will fall on a Datuk,” he pointed out. I used to call him Tan Sri and he called me Datuk in jest. So, when I met him in 2002 during the launch of Sarawak Dayak Graduate Association in a hotel in Santubong – he was already decorated with his first Datukship, namely PGBK (Panglima Gemilang Bintang Kenyalang) – I just played the joke on him by asking how many fish bones have fallen on him thrown out of the first-floor restaurant. He just laughed it off.
Manyin was vital in giving me tips on school admin. When I left MPR for SMK Sedaya, I used to consult him on various matters by phone calls. I used to check from him on finance and related matters. We met again when I was made a committee member of the Sarawak Secondary School Principals Association – I was then heading SMK Julau while he was principal of Kolej Datu Patinggi Abang Haji Abdillah. I repeated the joke on him via WhatsApp when he was awarded the Datuk Amar. We both laughed it off again.
Another interesting character that I befriended was Christopher Sawan. Having been both principal of SMK Sedaya, we had so much to share when we first met in Miri on Aug 31, 1997 at a Miri pub and saw Queen E addressing on TV about Diana’s death. The next day we both proceeded to Brunei – he to Bandar Seri Begawan while I stopped at Kuala Belait. When I was finally stationed in BSB in Dec 1997, I looked for him at a law firm where he was attached.
We bonded well due to our common interest in music. We used to jam together and he used to attend my Saturday Night Elvis show at Crowne Princess Hotel between 1999 and 2001. He also said he used to consult others when faced with school problems – just like I did.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.
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