Memories of Madrasah Al-Maarif Al-Islamiah in Geylang Serai of Hajbee Binte Abu Bakar


Singapore Memory Project
Hajbee Binte Abu Bakar

Madrasah Al-Maarif was founded by Syeikh Muhammad Fadhlullah Suhaimi in the year 1936. During that time, the school building was located at 14 Tanjong Katong Road. But then it shifted to 14 Ipoh lane to accommodate the increasing number of students. At the second Al-Maarif building was where Mdm Hajbee Abu Bakar grew and studied as well as play amongst her classmates. The L-shaped school building surrounded by quadrant terraces which were government houses created unforgettable memories towards Mdm Hajbee. But the most memorable thing in Madrasah al-Maarif to Mdm Hajbee was the strong-bond between the students and teachers there. Even though much of the teachers teaching there were not that qualified, but she believed that the sincerity and blessings of her teachers in Al-Maarif were the factors contributing to her and her classmates’ success. As a child, Mdm Hajbee spent most of her time at school with a group of five classmates. The group that she and five others named ‘Smashing six’ because of the influence she and her friends had as a big fan of Enid Blyton’s book, ‘Secret 5’. She remembered that her group members were bookworms and they would often share and borrow books from one another. Maybe because of this, an idea sparked and she decided to open up a school library. Putting up books and inserting library cards with serial numbers was something she and her friends contributed to the school. Mdm Hajbee remembered that during her time at Madrasah Al-Maarif, the students there were highly competitive. Each class was given a plot of land to grow their own mini garden in front of their classes. The most beautiful and decorative garden will win. Apart from that, Mdm Hajbee remembered that she and her friends were actively participative in competitions like debates quizzes and spontaneous eloquent talk. Much of it the participating team from Madrasah Al-Maarif won. One of it was a quiz from the magazine ‘Harapan’ published by the Ministry of Education. She also recalled that each and every week, she and a few others will need to give a short religious sermon in either Arabic or English. Mdm Hajbee said that these were the foundations that developed her character and experience. The school even had a ‘saving money’ scheme called ‘senoman’ which also developed saving habits from young. Mdm Hajbee considered that Madrasah Al-Maarif was ahead of time during in those era. Mdm Hajbee claimed that schooling in a Madrasah school was not that easy. Studying in classes separated only by partitions, she needs to concentrate even more so as not to be distracted by the voices of other teachers teaching in other classes. She even had to search for her own study resources and own extra tuition classes to supplicate and support her studies. After school each day, she and her friends would independently go to classes conducted in mosques or her teacher’s place. She said, she had to learn things through the ‘Hard way’. Mdm Hajbee added that schooling in Madrasah Al-Maarif was not a luxurious experience, but she felt the love and care within the school premises emitted by the School teachers.