Mr Surjit, favourite teacher for 50 years

Surjit Bakan Singh taught for 27 years at SMK King George V in Seremban, Malaysia, before retiring.

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The Malay Mail | Seremban, Malaysia | 12 Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |

Surjit Bakan Singh taught for 27 years at SMK King George V in Seremban, Malaysia, before retiring. The Kirkby-trained teacher was recently feted by former students. They included Malaysia air force chief General (Rtd) Nik Ismail Nik Mohamed and Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency former director-general Nik Nasruddin Mahmood.

Surjit receives a token of appreciation from Nik Ismail at the reunion event. - PHOTO THE MALAY MAIL
Surjit receives a token of appreciation from Nik Ismail at the reunion event. – PHOTO THE MALAY MAIL

TEACHERS log long hours to enlighten and mould future generations. There are teachers who maintain the momentum of learning while in the classroom, and use the time out of classroom as a judgment-free, matter-of-fact way to respond to a student’s misbehaviour.

And then there are teachers like Surjit Bakan Singh, 77, who spent his career as a favourite teacher — even when he first started teaching in 1960.

“I loved my job. If you don’t love your job, you will not do it well. If you think it is only a way to make money, then you are in the wrong profession,” he said. “As teachers, we influence the lives of so many and if it’s just a job, then you are not going to help anybody.”

Surjit was particularly popular because he was also the scout master who would take his students on camping trips and excursions.

“I always wanted to spend time with my students. As a scout master, we would eat, cook and spend time together. I would not let them down. Even when they cooked something, I would comment and let them know where they went wrong.”

Upon graduating from the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool, Surjit was posted to Sultan Ismail Primary School 1 (SIPS 1) in Kota Baru, Kelantan.

He taught all subjects and held several portfolios which included form teacher, prefects’ teacher and also secretary of the Kelantan Combined Schools Sports Council.

He left Kota Baru in February 1966 and returned to his hometown of Seremban where he taught at SMK King George V for 27 years before his retirement.

“When I joined the secondary school, it was difficult for me in the beginning. Primary school pupils would listen to you whereas secondary students are bigger and smarter.

“I had to adjust to their ways. There is also a certain element of rebellion among teenagers. So I dealt with them by talking to them in private because when they are rebellious, you cannot reprimand them in public.

“I talked to them, explained to them where things have gone wrong. I even had cases where parents would come to my house seeking for help to advise their children. I would then take the time to speak to the student and discuss his problems.”

His teaching style was different because he was keen on inspiring his students to learn, not just for the sake of passing exams. When it came to studies, he was a stern teacher as he only wanted to motivate his students to do better.

Even after retirement, Surjit did not give up his passion in teaching. He taught at teaching centres for a few years.

These days, he keeps himself busy as a treasurer for the Diabetes Malaysia Negri Sembilan branch. He also enjoys gardening and going for walks.

Recently, the pupils of Standard 6A of SIPS 1, class of ‘63 organised a reunion bash to honour their favourite teacher. They came all the way to Seremban from Penang, Selangor, Kelantan and Kedah to reminisce the good old days with their beloved teacher at the Klana Resort.

In his six-year tenure at the school, 1963 was the most memorable class as the pupils have forged a close relationship and still hold Surjit in the highest regard as a teacher, adviser, friend and mentor.

The pupils are mostly retired now and had not met Surjit for more than five decades. Most of them have achieved their ambitions as entrepreneurs, doctors, lecturers, researchers, pilots, teachers, managers and government officers.

Also present were former Royal Malaysian Air Force chief Gen (Rtd) Tan Sri Nik Ismail Nik Mohamed, and Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency former director-general Datuk Nik Nasruddin Mahmood.

“Mr Surjit was very friendly yet stern. I still remember going to his house for tuition; he didn’t treat us as students but more as guests,” said Nik Ismail. “He contributed to who I am today as he taught me well in Mathematics and Science, otherwise I would not have been a pilot.”

“I remember Mr Surjit being enthusiastic and concerned for us,” said Dr Abed Onn, an occupational health physician from Kuala Lumpur.

“He was not strict but firm in class. However, he was friendly and warm outside of the classroom.

“I remember him taking us camping and treating us like one of his brothers. He was a good teacher and out of all the teachers I had, I remember him the most.”

Nik Nasruddin, who organised the event, said: “Mr Surjit was a special teacher and I’ve not met any other teacher like him.

“He always wanted everyone to do extremely well, always above average. At the same time, he was very open and friendly. Even though he only taught me for one year, he touched my heart tremendously. That made a difference to me.”

The room flowed with memories, hugs and friendship, as the former classmates reconnected.

“It feels great to see all my students again, although they don’t look like students now,” laughed Surjit.

 

The article was adapted from the Facebook page of The Malay Mail. Author: Sonia Belani. Date posted: 9 Aug 2015

 

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