As the Americans celebrate their Thanksgiving with turkeys and free soups for the poor I have spent time thinking throughout the week what I should be thankful for. There are so many things we have to be thankful for.
However as a Foochow born in Malaysia I have selected an important issue in this posting to be thankful for.
I am thankful that in my family girls are valued and educated.
The Chinese for thousands of years have practised female infanticide for various reasons especially to curb population explosion and overcome poverty as recorded in history.We had a strong strong practice of valuing male offspsrings over females for centuries in our agrobased culture in the past. However towards the end of the 19th century many Chinese started to think differently and began to educate their daughters.
By the time the Foochow pioneers arrived in Sibu many of the Christian Foochows were already very much in favour of education for girls. Hence in this photo you see girls getting their graduation certificates from the Methdodist Yuk Ing Girls' School (forerunner of the Methodist School of Sibu).This photo was taken perhaps just after the Japanese occupation. Amongst them are my aunts and my favourite Goo Poh (my grandfather's sister)who was already a teacher then. One can say that she was one of the first Sibu educated teachers. We are really proud of this group of ladies. My fifth aunt Grace who is in the picture too became the first Sibu Foochow girl to graduate with an American degree.
My grandfather was a very farsighted man and he insisted that his only sister and his own daughters must be educated. They were also blessed because Sibu had the amazing Mrs. Mary Hoover who for more than 30 years faithfully managed the Yuk Ing Girls School.
Many of the ladies in the first picture became teachers of the ladies in this photo. Without these lady teachers and our American and British and other overseas missionary teachers we women of Sibu would not have received good education.
However my generation continue to see many girls being ill treated and not given favour in spite of the progress made. Times were difficult I suppose for many elders. In fact many of my contemporaries were sold or given away if not thrown into the Rejang River. So those of us who are educated and well treated by our parents are very very lucky indeed to be what and where we are today. We thank our parents for keeping us and we thank the Methodist Church for providing a very good education. The Church has also definitely helped the believers to change their attitude towards their daughters.
This are the third and fourth generations of my family coming together. (The Second Generation had already lined up for their photo taking). My grandfather would have been very very proud of us. In fact all of us have done well in one way or another. But I must thank the pioneers of Sibu for blazing the a brilliant trail of progressive thinking and especially in valuing girls also. Furthurmore we must also be thankful for the positive environment around us which provided the opportunity to develop. We have also lived harmoniously amongst all the different races .
I think many people in Sibu benefitted from the teaching of these three China born teachers who gave their whole life to teaching. Miss Wong and Miss Hii were part of my life as they were my Goo Poh's friends. And Mdm Huang or Mrs. Deng taught us science. If they were not allowed to live and had been smothered by their mothers in China our history might even be different. But I am really thankful that they came to share their wealth of knowledge with us in such sacrificial manners.
(Photo from Methodist School Magazine)
And I end this posting with the horrific news from Papua New Guinea.....which makes me even more thankful for all the blessings we have in this world....
Mothers in Papua New Guinea have been forced to resort to infanticide in a tragic bid to end the tribal wars that have devastated the Eastern Highlands for the last 20 years, it has been claimed.
All baby boys born in the last 10 years have been killed at birth, according to two women from rival tribes.
The long running inter-tribal battles have left the women of the remote Gimi region struggling to feed their families.
In desperation, they agreed to murder their sons to reduce the number of men who could go into battle, the mothers told PNG's National newspaper.