In memory of Goh Kean Seng

Mdm Khaw Poey Teen, the wife of our beloved Mr Goh Kean Seng, Honorable guests, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen: A very Good Morning to you all!
I am here today to represent the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society (UMCLS) of the 1970s. We wish to express our deep and profound sorrow on Mr Goh’s untimely demise. We also wish to extend our greatest respect and gratitude to our dear departed friend who had spent the best part of his life contributing his efforts (including monetary contributions) to and disseminating his wisdom for the cause of Chinese education in Malaysia.

A little bit of history…I first made the acquaintance of Goh in 1971 at the University of Malaya. Through the activities of the UMCLS, I came to know him as an individual with strong leadership qualities. His directorial and organizational talents were manifested especially clearly during the Spring Thunder or Chun-Lei Cultural Performance (春雷文艺大汇演). People with such conviction and leadership qualities caught the attention of the authorities; he was detained without trial under the so-called Internal Security Act.

After a long period of 8 years and 2 months of incarceration and up until his untimely passing, Goh had been unwavering in his struggles in facing numerous challenges and fighting tough battles against forces that attempted to thwart and undermine Chinese education in Malaysia. As a result of his unrelenting service, he made indelible and invaluable marks on the Chinese educational landscape. He had become a social activist of national stature. He is a pride of Malaysian society!

While in prison, our dear friend continued to study in spite of harsh conditions. He improved his command of languages significantly. True to the spirit of lifelong learning, Kean Seng devoured many books on education and management during his tenures as school principals. He put his learnings into good use, thereby earning the reputation as an outstanding school principal. As an intellectual, he was an inspiring symbol of social conscience.

Today, we would also like to remember and pay tribute to other fighters of Malaysian Chinese education, viz Mr Lim Lian Geok, Mr Sim Mo Yu, Mr Lim Kuang Seng and Mr Loot Ting Yee, among others. They were the trail-blazers and pioneers of Chinese education in Malaysia. They and Mr Goh Kean Seng devoted their lives towards the development and preservation of Chinese education in Malaysia. They were heroes of the Chinese education in this country.
Thanks to their continuous and concerted efforts, coupled with coordinated efforts and sacrifices by their colleagues and friends in the Chinese education community, as well as massive support from the Chinese community, vernacular primary schools and Chinese Independent secondary schools have, despite unfavourable circumstances, survived and made immense contributions in developing and producing talents for the nation. It is noteworthy that Chinese schools – particularly primary Chinese schools – have produced and nurtured a sizeable number of non-Chinese students. This phenomenon, I hasten to add, has far-reaching and profound significance in enriching the cultural-intellectual life of the country and in contributing towards a genuine multicultural nation – Bangsa Malaysia or Malaysian Nation in the true sense of the words. Our heroes of Chinese education are therefore not only the pillars of the Chinese community, but also the pillars of Malaysian society and nation.

On this memorable occasion I would like to suggest establishing a Scholarship Fund in honour of Mr Goh Kean Seng. The aim of this Scholarship Fund is to help students who face financial difficulties while attending Chinese schools. It is my ardent hope and wish that the project be undertaken by the various Alumni of the schools in which Goh had been the principal.

Last but not least, I would like to say a few words to our beloved friend:

“My dear and respected Kean Seng: you were our university mate, our comrade, and more so our exemplary role-model. And although you had departed in flesh, you will live forever and ever in our hearts; your spirit is eternal!”

Heng Siam Heng, September 30, 2023 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

footnote: Enrolment figures provided by the United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia (Jiao Zong) showed that 18.7% of pupils in Chinese primary schools are non-Chinese. Of the 521,053 pupils enrolled in Chinese schools in 2019, a total of 97,466 of them are non-Chinese. [3 Jan 2020]

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