Monday, April 11, 2011
Checks begin on termite woes at MCKK
KUALA KANGSAR: The Education Ministry, Perak Works Department and Taiping Heritage Department yesterday inspected the termite-infested century-old Malay College Kuala Kangsar.
Several ministry and department officers were sent to check the condition of the school building and its safety, and to find solutions to save the landmark building.
The New Sunday Times reported that the school's Greco-Roman building and hostel -- fondly referred to as the Big School -- had been declared unsafe for habitation. The affected main block houses 10 dormitories.
The officers were seen walking together, taking notes and taking photographs accompanied by school head Anand Baharuddin.
However, they declined to comment on their findings after a three-hour inspection.
It was learnt the team was sent to verify the reports regarding the school's termite-infested condition, as highlighted by the New Sunday Times.
It is believed the officers found the problem not irredeemable and measures would be taken to repair the affected school buildings.
Perak Education and Higher Learning Committee chairman Datuk Mohammad Zahir Abdul Khalid said the state government had appealed for a RM1.5 million allocation from the ministry for MCKK to eradicate its termite infestation problem.
He advised parents not to worry as the school had taken the necessary precautions to ensure students' safety.
The iconic Big School and its hostel were closed since the start of the school year after termites damaged its wooden roofs, ceilings and floors.
The block was deemed unsafe for habitation and at least 100 students housed within five dormitories were evacuated to other hostel blocks.
Subsequent inspection by a pest control company revealed that almost the entire Big School, which has 21 dormitories accommodating about 500 students, was badly infested.
Even the school's iconic grand old raintree, fondly known as the Big Tree, appeared to be dying as a result of the termite attack.
The Big School building was officially declared a national heritage in March 2009.
MCKK, established in 1905, is a premier boarding school with a famous alumni that include Perak's ruler Sultan Azlan Shah and Umno founder the late Datuk Onn Jaafar.
Mighty MCKK falls to humble termites
The anxiety is real. Even the swift response from Education director-general Datuk Abdul Ghafar Mahmud yesterday that the matter would be rectified immediately would do little to ease the exasperation.
Said one of the old boys, Federal Court judge Datuk Abdull Hamid Embong, a member of the school board, in a text message: "It is a heritage building and the government must save it. Historical significance too important to ignore. Even Queen Elizabeth and Emperor Hirohito visited it a few years ago. I wonder what they would say if they come to know that the Big School is left to rot, that our heritage has become a meal to the humble termites."
Another, Azizul Kallahan, executive chairman of communications consultants Spencer Azizul, called in to express his deepest concern about the state of affairs and said he would rally support to set things right.
Indeed, the alarm bells have sounded. First, it was the school's declining achievements. Now even the physical structure is crumbling away at MCKK.
And something must be done fast to save the century-old fully-residential school that has produced the cream of the country's who's who.
The Big School, the landmark hostel section that looks so majestic from the outside, is crumbling and creaky on the inside after being eaten away by termites.
It is now unoccupied, the students having been moved out of the dormitories for safety reasons.
This actually has made it worse because the desolation has turned the whole section into a horrible scene: an abandoned ghostly building waiting to fall to pieces.
News about the termite infestation has been around for a while and it was not until I saw the situation for myself that I realised how bad it was and how seriously the school has sunk.
This was last Tuesday when, together with four old boys from the Class of '71, I set out on a sentimental journey to Kuala Kangsar to see for myself the sad state of my alma mater.
No matter how jovial and upbeat T.K., Vic, Zin and Azhair have always been and no matter how many times they have visited MCKK the past two years, we couldn't hold back our tears when we saw the deterioration that had taken place, particularly at the Big School.
Some dormitories were empty and in a very sorry state. Parts of the ceiling and floorboards were rotting away, having been eaten by the pests.
What used to be Dorms 7 to 16 were dark and empty, with dust gathering all over the place. The balconies were unkempt and the Roman pillars very rough at the edges with signs of the termite trail. The common rooms and the sick bay on the lower floor were also not there anymore.
This was the place we grew up in and we stood there gasping at what had become of it.
No doubts at all, something has got to be done to save this heritage.
The reactions are understandable. Another old boy, Datuk Mohd Shukri Hussin, executive director of CIMB Group, said he found it hard to understand why the pest problem was not addressed earlier.
"Why must the matter come to a head like this until students had to be moved out?"
I also detected a lot of anger from retired diplomat Datuk Salim Has-him. Among other things, this was what he said in his email to me: "Read the story. Yes, alarming and heart-wrenching, its like your soul is gutted to the core. What happened to our Big School, perhaps, is not an isolated case. There are many other iconic buildings that could be in the same state of affairs.
"It is reflective of the national mind, to put it mildly, of how much such things are valued. That we do not possess the culture to recognise these national heritage is simply mindless. We continue to build new complexes and new symbols for the nation and yet neglect the ones that we already have. Where is the balance in our milieu of things?
"If the government is not able to consider providing the appropriate funds to restore the decaying buildings, perhaps the alumni would come forward to contribute to the restoration work. Mind you, it is not only the Big School which requires repairs, but generally the whole school complex is in such deplorable condition.
"When was your last visit to the school? I was there about eight months ago and decided to walk around the campus. Never mind that things have changed so much after 42 years but just imagine that the library is relocated at the far end of the school?
"I went to look for old school magazines and was told that none is available and all are pushed into what is called cabinets? I could not find any single magazine which I thought could remind me of the years I spent at that famous MCKK... what a shame."
I think he has said it all.