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You Know Him Well Print E-mail

ImageAlthough he has been absent from the Malaysian education scene for close to 40 years, mention Bro. Alphonsus Chee’s name and the older students of St. Xavier’s Branch School, Penang (SXBS) and La Salle College, Hong Kong will recall him as a man who commands their respect and one who believes that order and discipline go a long way in moulding the characters of youths.

ImageBrother Alphonsus was born in the tin-mining city of Ipoh in Malaysia on August 12th, 1928. He ranked sixth in a family of 5 boys and 5 girls. In 1936, he enrolled in the prestigious St. Michael’s Institution, Ipoh (SMI) but his education was interrupted from 1941 to 1944 when the Japanese forces occupied Malaysia. During that time, he spent his hours in his brother’s farm planting potatoes and vegetables. He resumed his studies at SMI after the war in 1945 and sat for his Cambridge School Certificate Examinations in December 1947.  It was his love for teaching that made him undergo training as a ‘student teacher’ in his Alma Mater in 1948 and he became a full-fledged teacher in 1950.

According to Bro. Alphonsus, he was very much impressed by the devotion, kindness and dedication of the Brothers who taught him for most of the time in SMI. Hence he joined the La Salle Order in 1954 and was sent to St. Joseph’s Novitiate, Penang for his formation as a Brother.

He recalled that his first teaching assignment was at St. Xavier’s Branch School, Pulau Tikus, Penang in 1957 when Bro. Adrian Gaul was the Headmaster and later Mr. Ong Keng Tho. He stayed in the Brothers’ community at SXI which was some distance from SXBS. Thus, he and one Bro. John used to hitch daily-rides from a fellow-teacher, Mr. Tan Teik Siew. He was well-liked by the SXBS staff and often joined them in Badminton matches.

            

                                  SXBS Teaching Staff 1960: Bro. Alphosus seated extreme left

As the master-in-charge of the school football team, Bro. Alphonsus was particularly proud of its achievements. “In inter-school football competitions among the Brothers’ schools (primary section) in the Penang district, SXBS could beat the teams from the SXI and the Assumption School, Butterworth,” he proudly said. “But not the football team of St. George’s Balik Pulau because their boys were much bigger and stronger,” he commented.

           

                                              Bro. Alphonsus and his 1960 Standard 6A Class

In SXBS, he used to teach Standard Six classes. He recalled that at the end of each year the boys had to sit for a special examination  conducted by the Education Department to qualify for entry into Form One in SXI. He confessed that he used to drive the boys very hard to help them achieve that goal.
    
He left SXBS in 1963 and went to Sydney to further his studies at the University of New South Wales. He graduated in 1966 and was posted to St. Patrick’s School, Katong, Singapore the following year. Here, he served for about 4 months before being posted to St. George’s Institution, Taiping where he taught for about a year; then on to St. Joseph’s Training College, Penang for a couple of months before leaving for Hong Kong in 1968 where he has remained till the present.
      
When he first arrived at Hong Kong, he found that the science curriculum leading to the School Certificate was similar to that in Malaysia. “In fact the schools used the same text books,” he said. “However, the English curriculum was different and so was that of Mathematics. The curriculum for Form Six (Lower Six) and Form Seven (Upper Six) – also known as Matriculation Classes - was different from the HSC in Malaysia and much more difficult,” he continued. But, Bro. Alphonsus easily adapted himself to the new environment – enjoying his teaching and looking after the school tennis team.

ImageHe spent 22 years as a teaching Brother in Hong Kong -  at the La Salle College for three years when he arrived in 1968’ then at the De La Salle Secondary School, Fanling as the Principal (1971-1972). He was posted back to the La Salle College and assumed the post of Deputy Head in 1978 and became its Principal in September 1984. Under his guidance, La Salle College achieved unprecedented fame in the field of sports while academic results were superb.

La Salle College captured the Overall Championship in the Interschool Athletics Meet for consecutive years. Its soccer, volleyball, squash, fencing and the swimming teams dominated the inter-school competitions. The Omega Rose Bowl, the Grand Championship in all interschool sports was always for their keep.

Bro. Alphonsus retired in 1990. He is enjoying a well-earned rest, spending his time in the Brothers' Residence reading books and browsing the Internet.

ImageAs the Brothers do not have any place locally to spend their summer vacations, they are allowed to return to their country of origin at the end of the school year in July and August. Thus, Bro. Alphonsus comes back to Malaysia every year during the vacation period to visit his folks, friends and Old Boys with the exception of last year (2006) when ill health prevented him from doing so. He is hopeful of making his annual ‘pilgrimmage’ to his homeland this year.

ImageWhat manner of a man is Bro. Alphonsus? Perhaps the following incident as related by an Old Boy of La Salle College speaks volume about him:
In 1988, Samson Cheung of F.7C left for the USA. His departure time was in the afternoon on a school day. Many of us would like to wish him farewell. We were selected by our schoolmates to speak to Brother Alphonsus. We went to the Principal’s Office early in the morning, with our hands and feet trembling. Brother Alphonsus asked why we wanted to speak to him. I answered, ‘Samson Cheung of F.7C is leaving today and K …” I stopped short and dared speak no further. Michael Lee finished my sentence by saying that we wanted to wish him farewell in the airport. We waited quietly for his answer. After one or two seconds Brother Alphonsus asked quietly, “What is his departure time?” “About 3 o'clock and we wanted to skip the last lesson,” we replied. We stood there for another 5 seconds. In his usual voice, he said, “Boys of F.7C can go. Give me the names of the other students who wish to go. You can leave after lunch time.”

“Externally, he was strict and stern but deep inside, he is very caring and understanding. Brother Alphonsus believes in order and discipline. Routine must be adhered. He accepted no excuses. Deep in his heart he cared about everyone. He cared about the welfare of the minor staff. He was ready to approve student activities as long as they were reasonable.”  – an Old Boy was quoted as saying.

When asked if he has any message for his old studentsin Malaysia who still hold him close to their hearts, he retorted, “Send my best wishes to them and I would urge them to be guided by the following lyrics as found in the School Rally:

TRUE TO YOUR STANDARD BE DOING AND DARING

AS FAITHUL LASALLIANS IN HEAVEN YOUR TRUST.

Editor's note: Old students who wish to share recollections of their student days with Bro. Alphonsus may submit their writings to us at . These episodes will be compiled and published in our website.

Acknowledgement with thanks: Lasallian Family Hong Kong

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