Another reason why I didn't become a prefect

Truly, it has been a while since I left school. But whenever my friends mention the names of the new prefects while talking to me, I cannot help but smile. Mention prefect election in SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (my dear old school turned cluster school!) and one would picture it to be a solemnity with candles, long cloaks, etc. No. For as long as I can remember, prefect election was, is and always will be democratic, minus the politics. Every year, it takes place in August – short-listing is done a month before. I was never a prefect in school (I kept on rejecting the post because I did not want my meetings to clash with my study time). However, I still know how things were done because I partook in the process, like everyone else. Notice that in the process of the prefect election, you'll soon realise why I just don't like being a prefect - at the end of the day, it's all politics.

Somewhere in mid-July, students’ overall progress is reviewed by the teachers and a shortlist is created. Out of the 270-odd students in Form 4, about 150 will be shortlisted. These 150 people will be taken in for an interview with the senior prefects, the principal and the senior assistant, in the school’s own meeting room. Done à la “The Apprentice”, prefect interviews are stressful. I remember some who came out crying and some who came with their faces flushed and sweating, crying aloud, obviously without the teachers hearing them, “This effing thing is aptly called Hell-Met.”

When the interview is done and the voices are recorded, 75 people are selected and nominated in front of the assembly. The nominees are given two weeks to come up with a “campaign” of sorts (like as if we were campaigning for the General Elections) – they have to come up with a logo which defines them, as well as an ideology, and argue why they have to be selected as prefects. Verbal, figurative and physical attacking of other candidates is disallowed. And so the students would go to all lengths to get their campaign logos, banners, badges etc. ready so that when the day of the campaign comes, they can proudly distribute their badges to screaming fans. Glitter, markers, manila cards, colour pencils and crayons out – here we go!

N/A (Preparation for the campaign)

Preparation is over and all the students rejoice because they are given a loooooooooooooong assembly period. All the other students would be sitting on the floor, clearing the green aisle of the hall, listening attentively, laughing and cheering and clapping, the teachers would be at the back of the hall, while the nominees come out one by one, wearing a big logo, explaining why that logo defines them, what its significance is, and what that has got to do with their ideology, and why they need to be selected as prefects. Manglish is allowed. *laughs* How much more Malaysian can we get? This is the week where all students will be busy collecting nominees’ badges and keeping them as souvenirs, sticking them on the tables or in the files. Heck, right now I kept some 4W girl's badge because it was pink and had feathers and faux fur on it, and I kept Amalina's badge (the one she used while she was campaigning as a prefect) because it doubles as a bookmark.

This is also the week where election will be done, form by form. Electing a prefect is almost the same as in political elections, whereby an X has to be marked over the logo of the preferred candidate. As there are 75 nominees, each individual can select a maximum of twenty candidates. When the X-marking is done, the election forms are placed into transparent ballot boxes. Only the form is marked on the ballot sheet, not the name of the student voter. The tables are placed far apart from each other and no one is allowed to look into each other’s election form. I remember when I elected my batch of prefects, I felt as though I was in the middle of nowhere, and I had to kneel on the floor and cross out my twenty favourite logos.

The twenty-five newly-selected prefects are announced, presented with their ties, blazers and badges, recite the oath, and their duty begins. The senior prefects hold a ceremony of sorts to mark their last day in “office”, usually a hilarious one involving a melodrama and a groove to current airwave hits. The senior prefects would usually have photo-shoots while the junior prefects begin to be wary (of Mrs Siva - while I was in school - or the current senior assisant, Pn Nancy, should she be on the prowl looking for errant prefects who do not carry out their duty properly).

Prefects in CBN look like office executives (I reckon it) – tied hair, dark blue blazers and skirts, white inner blouses, plain white socks, black shoes, rust-coloured ties and badges saying “Pengawas”, “Naib Kapten” and “Kapten”. And mind you, all this was never written in the school’s rule book. It is one of the many traditions that have been passed on for more than a century. Only during the last few decades, it has become more hilarious and lighthearted. When I was in school, prefect election was not only a series of speeches about how prefects should carry out their duties. It was a spectacle to behold, and I looked forward to every prefect election. Pity I’m missing it now. (I’ve received several Facebook invitations to my school’s prefect election, but I had to decline all of them due to morning classes.)

Even if I miss watching the prefects being elected/slugging it out on stage, I wouldn't wanna become a prefect - I'm no politician, I can't sway the emotions of the people like Mark Antony of Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar" - I'm no orator myself. The only way I can sway people's emotions is through my writings and my music, and that too, wouldn't be allowed. I'm the kind of person who chooses to rebel against the school uniform because we live in a democratic country, and we have the freedom to wear just about anything as long as it isn't improper. I believe that an educational institution shouldn't focus on the appearance of the students - they have their ways of expressing themselves. As long as they're there to study, it's fine. All that I've said, is against the rules book.

And I'm glad that in college, this system is applied.


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