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Saturday, October 26, 2013

St. David's High School, Melaka: A teacher's recollection

St. David’s High School, Melaka: A teacher’s 

By Wan Chwee Seng

As the car glides to a halt at the gentle gradient, I peer through the car’s windscreen at the building to my right.

Pupils milling about in the canteen

Above a locked school gates, the words: ‘Sekolah Menengah Tinggi St. David’ are prominently displayed on  a  walkway awning that leads to a canteen where boys and girls can be seen milling about in happy confusion.

We are here, my wife and I, to look at the school where I used to teach in the mid-1960s. The school looks different_ nostalgically different. Back then, it was a boys’ school and was known as St. David’s High School, as English was then the medium of instruction.

The half-obscured building

Behind the canteen, half-obscured by a thick foliage of Golden Shower trees and a row of parked cars, I can make out a brick building with russet roofs and glass louvre windows.

Remove Class

 As I look at the building, which used to house three Remove Classes,ten years of teaching in the old building flashes before my eyes.  It was then a single storey, semi-brick building with wire mesh for windows and the classrooms were partitioned off with plain soft-boards. Such an inconsequential item as a soft-board would have slipped clean from my memory, had it not been for an incident in the classroom.

One morning we were in the midst of an English lesson, when the class was startled into silence by a loud crash from the back of the classroom. All eyes gravitated toward the direction of the sound and were greeted by a clenched fist that protruded from a freshly- punched hole in the soft-board. I strode gingerly to the back of the class and waited expectantly. A few minutes later, a clenched fist ripped through another hole. I caught hold of the wrist and  sent the class monitor to identify the owner of the hand. The culprit was identified and marched off to the principal’s office. I found out the class teacher had gone to the office for some official duty and the culprit had taken the opportunity to vent his frustration on the soft-board or was trying to show off his karate skill.

Barring the morning’s incident, the pupils were generally well- behaved and hard- working.  All the pupils in the Remove Classes were from the non-English primary schools with the majority coming from SRJK ( C) Ping Ming and SRJK ( C) Keh Seng  while the rest were from SRJK (C ) Bukit Beruang,   Durian Tunggal, and Batang Melaka and we also had a few pupils from   Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan.

With the Remove Class students

 The pupils English Language proficiency level varied from school to school with pupils from the urban schools, generally, having a better grasp of the language than those from the rural schools.  While some of the new pupils could converse reasonably well in English, there were many whose English was limited to “Good morning, sir!” or “May I go to the toilet?”

Loud chorus of voices would soon reverberate through the classrooms as the new pupils were put through the various language drills or participated in choral reading.

 After a year of intensive course with the bulk of the time allocated to the teaching of English most of the pupils had acquired sufficient English to enable them to continue their study in Form One.

Bahasa Malaysia; Art and Craft

I remember, besides teaching English in the Remove Class, I had to teach Bahasa Malayia in the lower forms, and Art and Craft in the upper forms. For both English and Bahasa Malaysia, other than providing grammar and comprehension exercises, the language teachers had to assign at least one composition per month and hence the  teachers’ tables were usually stacked high with the various exercise books. I would often eye dejectedly at the pile of composition books as marking the compositions and karangan not only required deciphering some of the pupil's  handwriting , but when compelled to write a composition, the pupils kindly obliged by filling the pages with ' cryptic messages’ for us to unravel.

After hours of conducting language drills and choral reading, until the voice was hoarse and dry, the Art lesson provided a welcome change and relief. The pupils too, after being confined  to their seats, relished the freedom of being able stand up and move  around the room.

With some of my students in the Upper Forms

With the school prefects

 I enjoyed going from table to table to see that the pupils were able to apply the concepts they had learned and also provide individual’s advice and assistance. Sometimes, I would take the pupils to the nearby village at Paya Ikan for outdoor sketches or paintings. Then there were weekends when we would climb the nearby hill at Taman Sentosa and scour the area for burnt-out roots to be used as material for wood sculpture.

 Open Day:Explaining the art of sculpting a burnt-out root to a distinguished guest

Principal and teachers

The car hums its way up the slope and we stop briefly at the main entrance to take a snapshot of the school from the main entrance.

The school main entrance

 I remember the school’s office was located just after the main entrance and next to it was the principal’s office.

The teachers would usually use the side gates and park their cars under the trees beside the canteen, but for the late comers they were forced to park their cars on the road shoulder and use the main entrance, as the side gates would be locked.

The sight of the main entrance, reminds me of an incident that an ex-colleague, Joe (not his real name ) related to me. One morning Joe happened to be late and as he walked through the main entrance, he saw the principal waiting on the steps in front of his office. As he walked past him, the principal slowly raised his hand, stared at his watch and without uttering a word, strode into his office. The silence spoke louder than words.

Then one morning Joe arrived rather early and decided to wait in front of the principal’s office. Coincidentally, the principal who lived a stone’s throw away from the school was late that morning. When he saw the principal walking through the gates, he waited until he was within hearing distance, then he slowly lifted his hand and peered closely at his watch. As he turned and headed towards the staff room,  he noticed the smile that flitted at the corner of the lips.

Although the school was well known for its discipline system, the spontaneous laughter that emanated from the staff room was clear testimony that it was not all work in the school. Pockets of conversations could often be heard from the various tables: the Industrial Arts teachers (Mah, Michael, Lee, Gan and others ) talking and discussing their projects; the lady teachers ( Nellie, Mrs. Oh, Nancy,  Gan, Magdalene, Wee Neo and others ) talking in low whispers; the other subject teachers ( Peter,John, Chandran, Alex and others) filling the room with their more animated conversations. 

Besides our daily teaching routine, we had to take charge of at least one co-curricular activity and there were always other school events such as Sports Day, Annual Concert, Open Day and fund-raising activities like Walkathon and Fun Fair that kept us occupied.

School Sports Day (Lto R) Mr,.Jesudasan, the writer, Mr. Oh Kim Hin

Open Day: The teachers lining up to welcome our guest of honour, Tun Tan Siew Sin  

When I reflect on my teaching days in the school, my fondest memories are  the few precious moments that we shared after school hours:


_working with my colleagues and students until mid-night to finish a project for a Fun Fair or a backdrop for the school concert

- playing tennis with Ng, Peter, Michael, Neelakandan, Lee and others at the tennis court behind the Ramsay Pavilion. A game that began when the sun was still high in the afternoon sky and only ended when the balls became a blur in the gathering darkness.

_the late night game of scrabble with David and John which sometimes extended into the wee hour of the morning

Today, more than thirty years on, although I have lost contact with most of my colleagues, I will always remember and cherish the friendship and the happy moments we shared together.

SDHS Staff Photos 1960s / 1970s

From Left to Right:
Sitting: Mrs. Nancy Dossan, Mrs. Nellie Khoo, Ms. Magdalene Lim, Mrs. Oh, Mr. P. V. Jacob ( principal)
Mr. David Gunaratnam ( V. P.), Ms. Annie Tan, (             ), Mrs. Chong
Middle Row: Mr. Chandran, Mr. Ong, Mr. Patrick Chen, Mr. Alex Ho, Mr. Jesudasan, Mr. Neelakandan,
Mr. Sakhtianathan, Mr. Ang Chui Beng, Mr. Oh Kim Hin, En. Osman Ahmad
Back Row: Mr. Wan Chwee Seng, Mr. Lai Yoon Sen, Mr. Lee Kam Whye, Mr. Michael Rodrigues, Mr. Chua Ah Lek.
En. Aziz

Photo courtesy of Jee Kim Joon

The below video ( courtesy of Li Chowan Hock and Chong Song Choi) is certain to evoke nostalgic memories  for former teachers and students of St. David's High School, Melaka.


Related article:
Click below link and scroll down.

 SDHS: A Yam Cha Rendezvous

Melaka to Muar: A culinary trip down memory lane

Two dollars and fifty cents   



  1. A blog posting that brings back wonderful memories of the school, which is also my alma mater. Hope that I get to enjoy the results of the heritage project soon!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Chan Kong Art (chankongart@hotmail.comDecember 24, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Is David Gunaratnam still living...so many years ago he taught me in Butterworth, would like to have his contact. Planning a class reunion, and would be great if he is still living and would like him to grace the occasion.

  3. Hi Chan,
    Thanks for visiting this blog. Will try to get contact No.

  4. Hi
    Thanks for your blog. I have good memories of Jacob, Oh KH, Jesudasan and Nancy Dossan but not too good of impressions of Chandran and Chua ah Lek.
    Anyone knows where is Ms Nellie Khoo (my former class teacher) ? At every class reunion, her name always crop up

    best wishes

    chua ee kiam (simplyfocused@gmail.com)

  5. Thanks for visiting the blog. I've heard that she's still in Malacca, perhaps others could provide you with more information.

  6. Oh wow... So many great memories! Although I only left it less than a decade ago (8 years this year) it's still holds some of the fondest times of my life. You said that the principal is working on a project and would like photos from way back when, I have a ton and would be happy to share, do you probably have an email address I would use to send the photos to him? I'm assuming Mr Chay is still the principle?

  7. Hi Jian Zhen,
    Glad to share the memories with you. You can submit the photos to the following email address:

  8. What a nice surprise to stumble upon this blog. I was a student at SDHS from 1970-75, and although you never actually taught any of my subjects, I do remember you. I loved to join in the inter-house soccer games and you used to referee some of them.
    It was a time of firsts when I was there. I remember the first school walkathon. I was part of the first group to join the tennis club and the brass band, and I was one of the first batch of three prefects to be chosen from Form 3.
    (Incidentally, my hairs tingled when I saw that photo of Tun Tan that you put up. He was my godfather, and after that Speech Day visit, he and his entourage stopped by my house .. which was just round the corner from the school .. and clogged up the entire roadway.)
    Cliched as it may sound, those were really some of my happiest days. I remember many of my classmates well, some of whom I reconnected with a couple of years ago. There was a little article from me in that year's school magazine.
    I also recall many in your cohort of teachers .. Chandran, Gan, Ng, Mak, Mah, Oh (Mr and Mrs), Lim, etc, etc. What became of Mr Oh? Incidentally, the current principal was one of my classmates.
    If there's anything lacking at the old school, it's an Old Boys Association. I'd love to be part of it and catch up with former colleagues.
    These days, I live across the waters in Australia, where I am a newspaper editor. But I'll never forget those great times at Bukit Bahru.

    Ray Chan

    1. Chan, i will inform the secretary of the old boys' association about your intentions. He's also the chief clerk in the school ! Time flies and we are left with memories of the past. I used to walk to school and back home then. As i drive along those roads now, i could myself walking up and down those steep and narrow roads leading to the school. The housing garden in which the school is located is still the same; only there are new residents now as the old ones are no more or have moved away. Mr Oh had moved on in late 2012 survived by his wife and children. We now have a new 3 storey block built on the old tennis courts due to increase in students' enrolment.

  9. Hi Mr. Wan,
    My name is Mr. Low Kian Chye. I study in St. David's High School, Melaka from 1972-1976. Currently I am working in St. David's High School noe known as Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tinggi St. David, Melaka as Chief Administrative Assistant. I am now the Secretary of the St. David's High School Old Pupils Association. My contact no is 012-2091187. We would like to hear from you sir.

  10. Hi Everyone !

    It is Annual General Meeting time again !

    Please share this information and get as many ex-student or ex-teacher to come for our AGM schedule as follows :

    Date : 29 March 2014
    Time : 9.30 am
    Place : Dewan Lee Kuo Chuan,
    SMK Tinggi St. David,

    Ex-teacher Mr, Jee Kim Joon, Mr. Teo Boon Khoo & Ms Gan Chui Peng will be with us.

    Refreshments will be served.

    Thank you.

    St. David's High School Old Pupils Association

  11. Hi Kian Chye,
    It is really nice to hear from you. Thanks for providing me with your contact number and the information about the AGM. Although, I am not free to attend this year AGM, I wish you all a very successful and productive meeting. Extend my regards to the Principal, ex-colleagues and ex-students.

    1. Thank you Sir. Probably one of these days, you can drop by SDHS office and we can chat about old times.

  12. Dear Sir,
    The Old Boys would like to invite you and any ex-teachers, student to our Reunion Gathering scheduled on 3rd. May 2014 @ 8.00 pm in Dewan Lee Kuo Chuan, SMK Tinggi St. David, Melaka. Your presence will definitely brighten up the evening.

    Low Kian Chye

  13. Say hi to Mr Jee and Ms Gan for me. I bet they don't remember me :)

    Ray Chan (same year as Mr Chay)

    1. Hi, Chan, will convey your regards when I see them

  14. Hi, Mr. Wan Chwee Seng, Appreciate it very much if you would grant us your permission to use the photos for our school purpose. TQVM.

    1. Hi,On Chew, you are most welcome to use the photos for your school project. Wish you every success.

  15. Though school days reflected a fragment of experience , they certainly remained the fondest moments in time . Remove class 1971 Mr Wan , your English pronunciation was the most soothing .

  16. Mr . Wan , hope my memories did not fail me . Do remember you , Mrs .Dossan later immigrated to Australia , Mr . Ang Chui Beng . From pupils Ping Ming primary you had taken good care of us . Siew Kevin .

    1. Hi Kevin, it's nice to hear fro you. Yes, both Nancy and John Dossan, as well as Mr Ang have all migrated to Australia. Although, Mr and Mrs Dossan paid me a visit some time back, I have not heard from Mr Ang. Are you still in Melaka? Always nice to hear from my ex-students and ex-colleagues. Do keep in touch. Best regards to you.

  17. Heyyyy Sir Mrs.Dossan was my English teacher in Form 1X . Always on my mind she wanted us from chinese primary to pick up and enhanced both written and spoken English . Very caring teacher ,downunder where do the Dossans reside ? My family remained in Malacca while I work in KL . Mr. Wan you in Malacca too . Siew Kevin

    1. Hi, Kevin,
      The Dossans are currently in Sydney. I am sure Mrs. Nancy Dossan will be glad to know you still remember her caring nature after all these years. I am still staying in the old house at Taman Sentosa, Melaka.
      Best regards to you and family.

  18. Sir , in any event how would I be able to communicate with the Dossans ? You already retired I presumed .

    1. Hi Kevin,
      I will try to get their Sydney's address. To protect their privacy, perhaps it is better if you can give me your email address.

  19. Sir , in the quest of mutual privacy perhaps you could add me in whatapps account . Mobile phone number 018-2053868 . Thanking in anticipation . Siew Kevin

  20. Hi Kamaruzzaman,
    Thanks for visiting this Blog. I hope your ex-classmates and ex-schoolmates will be able to reconnect with you through this blog.

  21. Hi Wan, great blog with many wonderful memories. I was there 1965 to 1968 with Majorie Chong as my form teacher throughout the four years, Nacy Dossan for English, Mr. Dossan or was it Dawson for maths, Jesudasa for History, Miss Tam, Miss Seet and Chua Lek. Here's a link to some photos https://sdhsmelaka.wordpress.com/

  22. Hi, Thanks for visiting this blog and glad the article has helped to rekindle fond memories of your days at SDHS. Thanks for sharing the photos of your classmates and hopefully some readers may be able to identify some of the individuals in the photos. For your info I am currently staying at Taman Sentosa, Melaka and your Form teacher Majorie Chong, as well as John and Nancy Dossan used to stay in the same Taman. John and Nancy Dossan have migrated to Australia while Majorie has moved to the US.

    1. Thanks Wan. I have been living in Perth, Australia for the last 20 years. There's one other classmate, Patrick Wilson living here too. He now goes by the name Patrick Foo. We would love to get in contact with Jerry Tan if you know where he is.

  23. Im so glad i found this page. I was shocked to see some of the old photos preserved in mint condition. I studied in st davids and both my elder brothers too. My dad taught in st davids and was shocked to see his photos above. Mr Jesudasan is my dad. He is very old but always recalls fond memories of st davids and PV Jacob.


    1. Hi Luke, thanks for visiting this blog.
      Glad to know the article on SDHS has brought back fond memories of your dad's teaching days at St. David's. Is your dad still staying at the house near the church? Please convey my best regards to your dad.

    2. Hi wan, yes he is still there in bukit baru. Retired from teaching and is a pastor. I will convey your regards to him. did you go by any other specific name? It would help him remember you.

  24. Dear Cikgu Wan, the above write up brings back sweet memories of St David's HS and I was here from 1973 to 1976 i.e. Form 1 to Form 4. This school is special to me 'What would we do without you in our life'...
    Regards, Ben H

    1. Dear Ben, we are now enjoying the reward of teaching you wonderful guys. Am really touch by the care, love and kindness extended to the teachers during the many get-together you have all organised.