June 26, 2012

Mrs. Hoover's Gift of Education

In 1903 Mrs. Mary Hoover and her husband Rev James Hoover had a very good plan to develop the little Methodist Foochow enclave of Sibu.

this photo shows a 1956 kindergarten graduation class. My little cousin Chiong Whye is standing next to my Goo Poh (left)

One of the principal objectives of the couple was to build schools and especially a girls' school which would help bring about Christian mothers for the new society.

Indeed their objectives were full filled. But one of the most most remarkable schools they established was undoubtedly the Kindergarten which was then a new concept. By 1950 (Rev. Hoover died in 1935) and Mrs. Hoover left Sarawak in 1946 the Mary Hoover Kindergarten was the best known kindergarten in Sarawak!! Two angelic teachers were in charge Madam Chang Yuk Ging and Madam Tiong Ai Lan (the Principal). And every year a small batch of cute little children would "graudate" from kindergarten.

Children from the kindergarten would study in the Methodist Primary School and then later at the Methodist Secondary School. The early childhood education provided focussed especially on socialisation and wholesome growth.

I especially appreciated how my aunts helped my own children learn how to eat together with other children in the kindergarten. How they learned to share food and be courteous to others when sitting down at a table. I remember my daughter coming home and explaining to me how she had learn to drink from her cup slowly and not spill. She also told me that little children should not fight over food. She was only 4 1/2 years old then. From that day on she would want to wash her own cup and place it on the rack. Probably she cannot remember that any more now that she is so busy with her career.

Children were really trained to sing and become musical. One of the requirements of staff was that they must be able to play the piano in those days. My aunt Madam Tiong Ing Lang was a piano teacher of good repute . Besides she was a great disciplinarian - a style she learned from Mrs. Mary Hoover who was a very strict and stern person who insisted that every Foochow should pay great attention to punctuality and speaking of the truth.

1963 Former Principal of Methodist Secondary School Mr. William Hsu visited Mrs. Mary Hoover in Perth (Australia) The education provided by the Methodist Church and School impacted many Sibu Foochows. Apart from gaining a basic education in the local schools the missionaries sourced for help from America and Australia to help intelligent students to futher their studies. One of the smartest students is Dr. Fan Siao Wen who topped his Australian class in his first year thus gaining a very respected place in medical school. Mr. William Hsu was not only a top student in school and at university he was a literary genius in Chinese. He was also extremely fluent in English and Bahasa Malaysia.  Former students of Mrs. Hoover continued to visit her until she passed away in Perth. This photo was taken by the late Peter Chong Chung Ping and is one of the last photos taken of Mrs. Hoover.

Although Mrs. Hoover did not have children of her own she had some adopted children. In fact she loved all her students tremendously and they loved her back. After they had set up homes of their own the Yuk Ing girls (as they were called) would pay respects to her and send her gifts . And they would even ask their own children to visit Hoo Shu Moo (Mrs. Hoover) they felt that they really owed their good life to her and her gift of education.

Today many of these ladies have grandchildren and great grandchildren but they would still tell stories about Mrs. Hoover.

What  an education from Mrs. Mary Hoover!!

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