Speech at the 131st Anniversary of the founding of St Joseph’s School, Kuching 23rd Nov 2013

The Proud History And Traditions Of St Joseph’s School – Tonight is indeed a historical occasion for all of us here. The “School Rally” took me back to the memory lanes on the times when I was in St Joseph’s School in 1955.

Good evening,

Tonight is indeed a historical occasion for all of us here. The “School Rally” took me back to the memory lanes on the times when I was in St Joseph`s School in 1955.

In fact, in 1897, the first St Joseph’s School Band then made its debut in the prize giving day and toured Mukah in 1907 where it played before a large appreciative audience.

Indeed, I am so happy to see so many of my classmates and schoolmates here tonight around me.

Over the years from 1932 to1960s St Joseph’s School was the most prominent institution of learning in Sarawak. The credit goes to the De La Salle Brothers from Ireland, who nourished the School, set up by the Mill Hill Mission of the Roman Catholic Church in 1882. Father Aloysius Goossens founded the original St Joseph’s School for boys in a wooden shack measuring 60 feet by 20 feet starting with 20 students.

Then Father Anthony Hadegger became the Principal for 48 years. Achievements were on the way. In 1895, Rajah Charles Brooke declared open the “biggest building in Sarawak at that time”, according to the Sarawak Gazette, that is the center of the building called Mill Hill Block which has been renovated; and it is still standing there today, tall and proud.

In 1926, St Joseph’s emerged as the champion in the inter-school sports, although St Thomas was founded earlier. In 1932 the first 3 students from St Joseph’s sat for and passed the Cambridge Junior Examination.

Datuk Polycarp Sim and Mr. Poh Chin Hang, the two pillars of the School, reinforced the staff in helping thousands of students to excel in geography and mathematics, giving extra free tuition.

My School Days In St Joseph’s

I vividly can recall my memorable days in the School. Every morning, we have “Moral Instruction”, a special book dedicated to non-Catholics and non-Christians. Somehow, I enjoyed reading it with ease because in many ways the Moral Instruction and message would be quite similar in many ways to Quran.

Oraet Labora, Pray and Work, is the motto of St Joseph`s School. I would say that that is exactly one should have, namely the balance in one’s life and philosophy, always remembering on the daily basis also the spiritual aspect and values of our existence on this Mother Earth for which we should be very thankful in the hustle and bustle of our lives.

Over the decades, there was an addition to Pray and Work, that is, Play. “Ludere”, the Latin word for play. Why?

Because academic excellence demands all-rounded development of a character, and to be competitive not only in the classrooms but also in the athletic fields, foot fields, basketball courts and other activities such as producing the famous school Magazine, the Ad Astra (meaning “To The Stars”), forming of St Joseph`s Literary and Debating Society, engaging in Sports and Athletics, the Boys Scouts, the Interact Club, the Drama Club, the Music Club and the Art Club and Annual Funfairs. I learned about these subsequent meaningful developments of the School.

Indeed, these all-rounded education is not only required by the Universities, but for applications of jobs and maintenance of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, that is, Prayer, Work And Play, otherwise it would make Jack and Jill a dull man and a dull lady.

History of St. Jopseph’s Academic Excellence And Extra-curricular Activities

Education is the best investment that the parents can give to their children. Everyone in our country deserves education, even in the most remote locations in Sarawak or Malaysia. “Education is the debt of the present generation to the future generations”, said a well known American educationist.

Indeed, I was amazed when I read an article written by a Form 6 student on “Democracy”, an article published in the School magazine called “AD ASTRA”(“To The Stars”) in 1964. The writer quote Sir Winston Churchill’s famous saying:

“Democracy is the worst system of government in the world, except the others”

The writer concluded that whatever imperfection and shortcoming existing in the democratic government, it is still the best form of government in any country. That deep thinking writer is none other than Tan Sri Adenan Bin Satem, one of my Cabinet Ministers. I saw that he and predecessor, Tan Sri Linggi Jugah, were in the Editorial Board of that school Magazine; and they should be congratulated for their contributions.

I noted that Mr. Denis Chang Kheng Lee, a brilliant scholar, probably the best arts students in Sarawak so far, has become a Queen Counsel (QC) in Hong Kong at the age of 35. That is not a mean feat to achieve by any standard, especially in Hong Kong where he now handles most of the most high-profile cases in Hong Kong as a Barrister.

Boarding House For Harmonious And Multi-Racial Students

I understand that when St Joseph’s School had the space, they had a boarding house on the 3rd floor next to the Mill Hill Block to accommodate students from Limbang, Miri, Bintulu. Sibu, Sri Aman and even Bau – Ibans, Chinese, Bidayuh and Indian, staying together and lived together in the harmonious, multi-racial fashion.

That was indeed most commendable, helpful. With the accommodations there, the School had also produced outstanding students such as Tan Sri Leo Moggie, Dato Manyin, Tan Sri Linggi Jugah, Datuk Wilfred Nissom, Professor Ling Chung Ho, a brilliant student who won the top prize in Imperial College, London and obtained the University`s scholarship for his PhD, and others.

Over the century,St Joseph’s School has not only produced scholars, but politicians, doctors and other professionals who have returned to serve our state. In the field of sports I recall that whatever happened, St Joseph`s School must win in athletics, basketball, and football against St Thomas’, “the school down the road”. Of course St Thomas’ also has produced high-caliber professionals and others.

St Joseph’s must be congratulated for opening the doors to the students from St Teresa’ School more than half a century ago!

The Impact Of The Second World War

Unfortunately, St Joseph’s also had a hard time in the 2nd World War when the Japanese occupied the Mill Hill Block and the Japanese Navy used it for their living quarters.

The De La Salle Brothers were interned in the notorious Batu Lintang Concentration Camp. The School was closed. After the liberation of Sarawak from the Japanese Occupation, St Joseph’s School was the first school to re-open its door to enroll students – an indomitable spirit to re-commence its mission not only to teach but also educate Sarawakians of the values of education, the development of academic excellence as well as building the characters of the students who one day would become the leaders of our state.

Bro Albinus, one of the last De La Salle pillars of St Joseph’s School left us recently. I am sure many of his students are proud to have associated with him not only as a great teacher but also a mentor.

Moreover, the setting up of the The Yayasan Lasallian Kuching under Brother Albinus which helps the students who need extra tuition in the rural schools, deserves the highest admiration. For that Yayasan Sarawak has given an annual grant of RM50,000. He has become a legend in his own way.

The Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

Now over the last 2 years, St Joseph’s Private School, that is, the Primary as well as Secondary, have returned from the ashes of the phoenix to regain the leadership, and produce the best academic excellence with all rounded students in Sarawak, as St Joseph’s did between 1940s to the 1960s. I’m sure with the dedication of the school teachers and the legacies of the Mill Hill Fathers, St Joseph’s will thrive and become the icon of learning in Sarawak again for Primary and Secondary education.

Today we have here one of the last surviving “Mohicans” – of the De La Salle Brothers, that is, Datuk Brother Charles O`Leary. He is 85 years old.

Would Bro O’Leary please stand up so everybody can see how fit and strong you are? Your parents must have very strong and robust DNAs? Incidentally, he left St Joseph’s Kuching before 1960 for Sabah where he is residing now. Let`s give an applause for Bro O’Leary!

Let me congratulate St. Joseph’s on its historical achievements and traditions, undying efforts and success stories of St Joseph’s School under the School’s motto of Pray And Work, which would now include Play (Ludere) in the wider sense, so that the students leaving the school will know and appreciate the price of everything and the value of everything avoiding the witty and fearful pitfalls of Oscar Wilde of:

“knowing the prices of everything but not the value of anything”.

Thank you.

YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister of Sarawak

YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud’s Speech at the 131st Anniversary of St Joseph’s School.

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