Arshad who would be celebrating his 88th birthday on 15 Nov was appointed as the first director of ITM in 1967, a post that he held until 1975.
He not only talks highly of the institution but also criticises when it is necessary, all because of his love for the institution that was upgraded to a university on Aug 26, 1999.
“My hope for the future is that UiTM will emphasize on professionalism and entrepreneurship,” he said in an interview with Bernama recently.
ENTRUSTED TO HELP THE RACE
Arshad, the UiTM’sPro Chancellor since 31 March 2000, firmly believes that in helping the Malay students the onus is on those entrusted with the responsibility of helping the community.
Despite of UiTM’s goals of providing tertiary education for the Malays, there are lecturers who are not wholeheartedly committed to the community’s cause.
“What we are seeing now is inadequate. They are only contributing 50 to 60 percent. Some just want to see themselves being ahead and not their students.
“So if the Malays don’t come up, who are we to blame? Don’t tell me the government should be blamed. Just blame yourself. If the lectures are not interested in helping the students, then how will the students show interest?” asked Arshad.
Arshad urged the academicians at UiTM to carry out wholeheartedly the responsibility entrustedupon them.
He also took note of the poor English proficiency among UiTM graduates.
“Even the lecturer’s English leaves much to be desired, so what can you say of the proficiency of the undergraduates. When I was the director of ITM, 95 percent of the lecturers were non-Malays. They were teaching in all fields,” said Arshad.
They were from France, Russia, Canada, Australian Volunteer Service and US Service Peace Corps. Some of them taught up to a decade.
“Two of the ITM Board Members were non-Malays, namely Mark Gen (the son of Sir Edward Gen, the former High Commissioner for Malaya and Tan Sri Wong Tock Chye,” he added.
As for Arshad, the ITM graduates up to the 1980s were the best in academic and professionalism due to their exposure to the non-Malay lecturers.
“Our efforts paid off. If we are to say Malaysia Boleh, MARA had done it long ago.
“Nonetheless, the situation has been reversed now. Almost 95 percent of the academic staff are made up of Malays,” he said.
LEARN FROM THE DIFFICULTIES
Arshad has come a long way in life. Looking back, things were very different for then. It was a tough life growing up in his in Muar, Johor.
He recalled how he lived on tapioca meal once a day, and anything else edible during the Japanese Occupation.
When he had no food he will go to his friend’s place. Among the friends who helped him then was Ismail Abdullah and Alias Majid. He had to walk about 4km daily to school.
“At times I will hitch a ride on my friends’ bicycle, one of them (Tan Sri) Jaafar Hussein. I also went on bullock carts.”
He was so poor that he only had a pair of school uniform that he would use throughout the school term.
“Life was difficult. I always remind my children and grandchildren to study hard. There are no shortcuts for a better future.
The travesties faced by Arshad provided him with valuable lessons in life. among them how to spend prudently. While studying in Wales, United Kingdom, his frugality enabled him to save and return with 400 Pounds (about RM3,400), a big sum then.
“From the money saved, I used RM2,000 to buy a piece of land in Muar. That was the value in 1959. I had promised my mother that I would buy her a piece of land when I have the money.”
According to Arshad, his mother had to sell the last piece of land the family owned to send him and his siblings to school. “I always cry when I recollect my mother’s sacrifices. For me a mother’s blessings is very important. The only thing that I regretted is that I could not give her my first salary as a trainee teacher before I left to Singapore.
“Mother died of tetanus when she was 45. My dad died during the Japanese Occupation,” said Arshad.
POVERTY IS NOT A HURDLE
“I am from a poor family, but never easily gave up,” Arshad repeated this many times.
He also failed in his studies in Singapore but later as a private candidate he excelled in the School Certificate exam with 4As.
“I know where my weakness were. I was weak in English. I was from a village. When I went to Singapore, there were other students from premier schools, including Penang Free School and Victoria Institution,” said the eldest of the five siblings.
The travesties that he endured during his school days prompted Arshad to ensure that the Malays and other Bumiputeras were given every opportunity to learn.
He was aware that the community, especially in the rural areas, was left behind in professional fields.
His determination in empowering the Malays through education bore results.
Arshad had faith on the students who enrolled into ITM though their SPM results were not excellent and that they were not accepted by other higher education institutions.
He believed that as long as they were given the proper coaching they too could excel.
Arshad himself is a good example of this. While studying for a diploma in agriculture at Serdang Agricultural College, he was weak in science but was lucky that he had the guidance of his seniors.
He was indebted to those who had coached him. Tan Teng Lai taught him physics, Lai Chan Wa taught him zoology, WillianSanky taught him botany and Wan Mohd Don tutored him on chemistry. They were all third year students and were told by the lecturers to teach the junior students for free.
“When I was the director of ITM, I rolled out courses for weak students to take up science. If I can do it, why can’t they. There are many ways to develop and teach students,” he said.
“I had always believed in the ‘Malaysia Boleh’ spirit, even before TunDr Mahathir said the same thing.
“And the ‘Malaysia Boleh’ for me also includes ‘Melayu Boleh’ (Malays too can). Though we may have been taking mediocre students but now we are a full fledged university. This goes to show the Malays too could do it,” he added.
HAVE TO EXCEL
Arshad also reminded students chosen to join MARA Junior Science College (MRSM) to excel in their studies and obtain ‘straight As’.
They cannot accept mediocrity, they have to set high benchmarks and get ready to compete globally.
Students too have to live within their means if they are faced with limited financial resources.
“There is no reason for them to go hungry. They must have many friends. Like how I did when I faced the same situation. That is why I say with lots of friends one will not go hungry.
“Look at the foreign workers. How could they survive in this country. They work hard. So go out and work. Don’t wait to be spoon fed. Don’t be over dependent on the government. This attitude will not get us anywhere,” stressed Arshad.