Yes, I am sure that all students and teachers know Haji Harun bin Haji Rejab. He was a strict disciplinarian with a penchant for results. He was bold. He was, in my eyes, a legend.
When I entered the school in 1987, Cikgu Harun, as we would call him, was already serving as the Principal of the school. I remember very clearly to this day how everyone would go quiet as a mouse when he walked pass our classes. He did not carry a cane. But his mere sight was enough to make everyone shiver (initially with fear, but when we left school, we knew it was actually respect).
Loathed him, or loved him, Cikgu Harun turned SMSB into the school that is respected in all sense of the word. It was him who made us realise our true potentials. It was him who motivated us to strive for the best and achieve excellence.
In academics, beginning from 1987, the school maintained a 100% Grade 1 record for the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) national examination. The record was maintained until the abolishment of SRP. In the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) national examinations, it was during his reign as Principal that the school experienced a quantum leap with the number of first graders in SPM and those who did well in STPM increased tremendously.
In sports, the school did very well in athletics and hockey. I remember during my schooling days that a number of the school's athletes went on to represent the district and state in various events.
In co-curriculum, we did very well in debating competitions. Between 1989 and 1991, in an English debating competition for the northern region held in Sungai Petani, SMSB came up as champion three years in a row with each year coming home with the best debater title. Interestingly, after coming up champs for three years running, the school never got invited to the debating competition again! In many other competitions, SMSB would be crowned as champions as well. And the list of successes would go on and on.
Cikgu Harun began to notice me, I believe, in 1989 when I was in Form Three. I remember vividly a couple of months before SRP, he called me up to his office. I was, of course, a nervous wreck because I had never been called to the Principal's office. It turned out he wanted to motivate me. But of course, his way of motivating people was, to say the least, very unconventional. There were no compliments. Although it has been nearly 21 years, I can still remember his words very clearly even until today:
"Cikgu tak mahu tengok Shaikh di sekolah ini lagi tahun depan."Rough translation: "Shaikh, I don't want to see you in this school next year."
Weird way of motivating people to do well, but that was vintage Cikgu Harun at work. I got the message loud and clear. Essentially he made me promise that I would do well in SRP, and apply to a boarding school for my SPM level. I delivered on the first promise that is to do well in SRP. In fact, I was one of three students who scored 8A1 in that particular year. But I did not however keep the second promise. Instead of going to a boarding school, I remained in SMSB. I still remember how the Senior Assistant, Puan Siti Faridah, kept hounding me again and again, pleading with me to take the application form so that I will apply to a boarding school. I never did take the form. And I remained in SMSB for another two years.
Cikgu Harun never did say anything about it. On the one hand, I think he was disappointed that I stayed. On the other hand, I could sense that he was relieved in a way. The majority of the top scorers of SRP had left SMSB when we got into Form Four.
I was never really active in sports or extra-curricular activities, and I knew that Cikgu Harun was aware of this. I was perhaps one who would fall under the "nerd" category. I got word that in 1990, Cikgu Harun instructed my English teacher to ensure that I would take up debating. Truth be told, I hated talking in public. Debating was never in my list of "to do" things.
Somehow, after being told that it was Cikgu Harun's "instructions", with a heavy heart I agreed to be part of the debating team that represented the school for the Palani Cup in Sungai Petani. We were going in as defending champions. I remember clearly how we practiced almost every afternoon after school. And when the competition began, it was an experience that I would cherish for the rest of my life. We went on to defend the title, and I walked away with the best debater title. It was perhaps one of the sweetest memories of my life, and that achievement got the school talking for quite a while. In retrospect, while I may not be an orator, this particular exposure was perhaps the turning point in my life when I gained the confidence to speak in public. And for this, I have Cikgu Harun to thank.
The year 1991 went by pretty fast. We sat for the SPM examination. And as fate has dictated, I got an offer to further my studies in the UK before the SPM result came out. I went to see Cikgu Harun a day after I got the offer. He congratulated me and wished me luck. And again, rather unconventionally said (with a tinge of irony in his words):
"Shaikh keluar juga Badlishah!"Rough translation: "Finally, you are leaving the school!"
I saw him again just before I flew to the UK in January of 1992. And years later after his retirement, I would drop by to see him on occasions just to see how he was doing. In 2000, he came to my wedding. And to me, to have my former Principal attending one of the most important events of my life was indeed a great honour.
I have heard in the past year or so that he had not been well. And when I received the news of his passing this morning over Facebook, I was saddened. I am sure many of my friends who had the great benefit of being in SMSB during the era of Cikgu Harun Rejab would understand very well my sentiment.
I am sure that each and everyone of us left the school feeling proud of being a part of the school. It was there that we developed our true potentials, and Cikgu Harun was our chief guiding light. His methods may be unconventional, but they yielded the necessary results. It was Cikgu Harun who dared us to dream the impossible, striving for the best and come out as champions.
If only he knew how most of us today are now all over the world - the USA, the UK, Australia, Singapore, the Middle East and of course Malaysia - working as professionals in various fields.
For all that you have done for the school, and more so for each and everyone of us, we thank you, sir.
Your passing is indeed a great loss. May Allah SWT reward you with al-Jannah for your deeds. We shall indeed miss you greatly.