How It Began
|by Kyaw Thinn, U.K.|
| Having spent 14 years of my life attending the Methodist English High School from nursery to the 10th standard, it comes as no surprise that my feelings and opinions regarding schools in Burma are biased in favour of the MEHS. To me, and I’m sure many ex-MEHS pupils will support what I am about to say, the MEHS was the best school in the whole of Burma. If the pedigree and success of companies are judged by the quality of their products, their popularity and their world-wide acceptance, and schools were also judged similarly, the MEHS would undoubtedly stand head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.
There are ex-MEHS pupils all over the world now with many holding responsible, leading positions in their jobs or running successful businesses. The numbers are such that at any Burmese social function held in different parts of the U.S.A. and U.K., you stand an 80% chance of running into another MEHS alumni. Based on this, it probably isn’t just personal prejudice and bias that claims like the MEHS being the best school are made.
For a school of this calibre to lose its identity and importance in the history of basic education in Burma during the post-war period would be a shame. So to provide a record for posterity, I have reproduced (with the author’s consent) an article from the first issue of the MEHS Alumni Newsletter (Vol.1 Winter/Spring 1988) written by the founder and Head Mistress of the MEHS, Mrs. Doreen A. Logie herself.
I was asked to write on how the school was established after the war. It gives me great pleasure to do so.
In October 1946 my husband George, our daughter, Gillian, and I returned to Rangoon. George reopened the office of the Valvoline Oil Company in Phayre Street and once again imported oil for use in rice mills and teak depots as far north as Mandalay. I felt that I too should do something to help rehabilitate the devastated country, but what? The answer soon came.
Gillian, 5, was ready for school but there was not a suitable school teaching through the medium of English. After exhaustive discussion with other parents facing the same problem, we met with Dr. Frank Manton who had returned to Rangoon and was in charge of the Methodist English Church. He suggested that as the Methodist English Girls’ School was now a bombed ruin, I could use the vestry of his church to start a Primary School in a small way and see what happened.
I placed an advertisement in the local paper; which said I would be in the church vestry to register children who spoke English and wished to learn through the medium of the English language. Together with another teacher and friend, Jessie Bartels, I sat in the vestry for hours that first morning. We had just one name on the register: Gillian Logie. How earnestly we prayed for children to appear. That afternoon they did come, and by evening we had 12 names, which was enough to start the Methodist English School. We asked a Chinese carpenter – good, faithful Ah Foke – for small desks and chairs, which he made hurriedly. He ended up working for the school for the next 17 years! We finished that first year of school with 64 pupils.
Not all our children spoke English. When we realized how determined many of the parents were to give their offspring an education with English as the medium of instruction, we accepted them all. Many years later I wrote to Jessie who by then was living in Australia: “Jess, do you remember sitting in the vestry, praying for children to turn up? Well, I’m in my office now (1963) praying no more will come seeking admission, for we have a roll of more than 4,500 pupils. There is no more room.” We had built new classrooms, starting with the $10,000 gift from the American Methodist Church, and continuing with money from school fees. The school grew so we were compelled to divide it into morning and afternoon schools. We also organized the Curriculum: some pupils worked toward the General Certificate of Education examination and higher education abroad, while others chose Matriculation and entry into Rangoon University. I was lucky with staff. As I knew many good teachers, I was able to build a staff second to none in the entire country. Teachers were loyal and helpful, and the office staff was exceptionally capable. We all took such great pride in our pupils’ achievements at work and at play, and didn’t they do well!
I still experience such pride in hearing of your successes. So many of you are doctors, teachers, engineers, all good at your jobs. Most of you are good parents living life to the full, teaching your children to become good citizens. Remember to pass on to them our school motto, “NOT FOR SCHOOL BUT FOR LIFE DO WE LEARN.”
God bless you. I remember so many of you and love you all.
|Mrs. Logie now lives in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, U.K., having left Burma in October 1964 following the nationalisation of all schools in Burma. The MEHS became the present State High School No.1 Dagon, Rangoon.|