The Star Malaysia - Star2
RMC doing it right in instilling unity
THE only military college in Malaysia, the fully-residential Royal Military College brings together boys aged between 15 and 17 and gives them leadership training as they study the Form Four and Five school syllabus.
Unlike regular boarding schools, they wake up at 5am every day, make sure their sheets are neatly tucked in, shoes shined and uniforms ironed before they report for parade at 7am.
RMC commandant Kol Wan Ghazali Wan Din, the school principal, said unity has always been the core principle of RMC.
“We take in boys from Borneo and non-bumiputras to ensure the students learn to live with each other.”
Of the current 470 students, 47 are from Sabah and Sarawak and 74 are non-Malay (44 Indians, 20 Chinese and 10 others).
The commandant said the school has been evolving by introducing changes over time.
In recent years, RMC organises year end week-long trips for the top students to either Borneo or peninsular Malaysia, like Mulu National Park, Lumut Naval Base, and even gives them the opportunity to try for an open water diving licence.
“The trips to Borneo allow the boys from the peninsular to see first-hand how life is for their peers there and there are less fancy trips also like to the naval base, all based on their results and discipline,” said the commandant.
“We would like to encourage more non-bumiputras to apply.”
Wan Ghazali pointed out several past leaders of Malaysia – Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin and Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad – were alumni of RMC.
Punctuality and discipline are of paramount importance in a military school but the boys still enjoy a comradeship among their friends of many races and religions.
They reckon the strict life, joint activities and trips away help them bond quicker despite their cultural, regional and religious differences.
The students are divided into eight groups, known as companies, just like in the military.
Aqlifputra Iqbalputra, 17, has been a boarder since he was 13 but his two years at RMC trump them because the camaraderie between the classes or sports houses is stronger at RMC.
“Here, if you don’t come from the same company, you are still one unit,” said the school debater whose best friend here is Chiang Tze Yik.
Hailing from Petaling Jaya, Aqlif (as he is fondly known) said the daily routine made them feel united.
“Some say the sense of togetherness is a result of the officers telling us (what to do) everyday but I believe it’s the punishment you go through together, living in the jungle, eating together that makes it natural for you to help your friend in trouble,” he said with a grin.
For Tze Yik, also 17, his time here has been one of the most productive times of his life: “Everyday is packed with activities and it’s activ- ities that make you a better person.”
One of his most memorable moments, said the teen from Nilai, was the boxing match last month in which he reached the finals.
“I have never been in a match before. Although I’m going to have to go up on stage and punch someone it’s such inter-company activities that promote integration.
“You cheer for your company regardless of what race the other person is,” said Tze Yik.
Their commanding officer aka student leader is Muhamad Hanif Ramli.
From Shah Alam, Hanif speaks good English, does well academically, and is a favourite among his friends but that does not exempt him from being punished.
“Everyone is the same here. If the boys get punished for not behaving, I am included as well,” said Hanif with a smile.
As student leader, he has a room to himself, but Hanif said his room was inspected every morning with the others’ and he has to be up before everyone else for the parade.
“It is very much emphasised here the importance of giving everyone the same treatment and not favouring your own race, learning to respect those of different cultures so that harmony can be attained.”
Among the advantages of being in RMC, said Hanif, was the opportunity to make friends with boys from Sabah and Sarawak.
Hanif said their accent was different but understandable and they were very polite in greeting others.
After more than a year of getting to know them, Hanif felt they were actually no different from the boys from the peninsula.
Miri-born Campbell Isaac Lenjau Tabib had a similar experience when he came to peninsular Malaysia last year.
“Though there were peninsular Malaysians in my boarding school at home, I found it tough adapting.”
Campbell, 17, found the use of coconut milk in food the hardest to adapt to because, according to him, Sarawak food is not that rich.
“When I first came, my friends could not understand me because of my accent so I took time, about a month to learn how they spoke and I spoke slower,” said the IbanKayan mix in Bahasa Melayu with a slight Borneo accent.
While most students find waking up at 5am the hardest, Campbell, is used to waking up at 4am in Sarawak and going to bed by 9pm: “it’s harder to stay awake till midnight than waking up in the dark”.
“The sun rises early at home. By 6am, it is bright. It did take a while for me to adjust to the routine here but it’s good mental training.”
Tze Yik, who stays only 30 minutes away from RMC, has taken some of his Sabah and Sarawak friends home during the school holidays.
“Last year I got the chance to go to Sarawak,” he said.
For performing well academically, Tze Yik joined Hanif and others on a trip to the Mulu National Park to conquer the pinnacle.
Leon Cornelious Christie, 16, was so keen on RMC he applied against his parents’ wishes.
“My dad was in the army and he didn’t want me to lead the life he had experienced, that is, with a lot of restrictions, but I didn’t want to burden my parents so I came here.”
Leon is still new at RMC and is trying hard to manage his time so he can clean his bed and room and have time to study and relax but the determined teen maintains he made the right decision in coming and is looking forward to all he can learn.