SSM High is situated in the heart of Rockwell town. It is not one of the better
known schools, having just a history of four years since its inception. I have
been a student there ever since its founding and will have fond memories of it
when I leave.
The midday break, or recess time, as it is popularly known in
Malaysian schools, is indeed a welcome break indeed. Schooling in Malaysia
starts at an early morning hour and sleepy-eyed students have a hurried
breakfast or no breakfast at all before they go to school. Hence, the break is a
time to fill up the students' hungry stomachs. There are healthy appetites,
hunger pangs and thirsty throats at this time. Also, it is a welcome rest from
the morning's academic load as most of the `heavy' study subjects like
Mathematics, Science or History are conducted before the break.
There are two recess times. The first, at 10:10 am, is for the secondary one
and two students. The second, twenty minutes later, is for the upper secondary
students. At the welcome ringing of the bells signaling the first break, there
is a purposeful march of many hurried footsteps zeroing in to the food haven
represented by the canteen on the ground floor. Wearing white shirts and khaki
pants for boys and pinafores for girls, the
uniformed students will break the morning silence with their footsteps and their
constant chatter which will reach its peak after their stomachs are filled.
There will be some students who will stay behind in class, being detained by
last minute work or those who prefer to skip recess. The majority, however, will
form themselves in front of the food stalls they fancy on that day.
The most popular stall in the past was Auntie Alifah's. Her mixed rice dishes
included favorites like the French fries and golden brown chicken wings.
However, French fries has been banned on the orders of the School Health Board
due to high calories and chicken wings limited to being sold two days in a week.
The food at Auntie Alifah's is tasty and the students with hearty appetites
gorge themselves on white rice smothered with brown soy sauce or curry gravy.
Uncle Ali's orange 'Mee Siam' and yellow 'Mee Rebus' noodle dishes also see
patient queues of eager students in front of it. Pupils who order piping hot
noodle soup dishes from his stall can be seen taking care to avoid spilling any
drop of soup.
Recently, there have been more healthy dishes introduced in the canteen.
Brightly-coloured orange slices and dried pineapple snacks are displayed by the
vendors, while yoghurt-based ice cream replaced the dairy ones.
The drinks stall is another popular point. We used to order fizzy drinks.
However, recently, we have been encouraged to partake of healthy drinks like
barley or fruit juices which are now often seen besides the brown malt drinks on
Groups of students usually congregate in
their favorite places. The boys will usually occupy the back of the canteen
while the girls will sit on the front benches. An observer would note that the
students would sit with their friends or class. Malay pupils and Indian students
talk animatedly, partaking of their favorite ethnic dishes. This is the only
time an observer will hear chatter in Mandarin, Tamil or Malay. For the rest of
the day, the pupils converse mostly in Malay or English, as encouraged by the
The canteen is the noisiest spot in school at this time. Giggles and shrieks
are occasionally heard from some lower secondary girls, while loud shouts can be
heard from some exuberant boys. This is the only time when loud noises are
tolerated. The senario is slightly quieter when the seniors move in for their
There will be lower secondary boys who will have very hurried snacks and then
head for the cooling areas in our school to play some games. Some students are
seen with their Chinese chess sets or international chess sets under the cool
shady spots with tables and benches, competing against each other during the
limited time allocated. Avid supporters are
seen behind both sides cheering for their friends for making a brilliant move.
Groups of chattering pupils will be seen lining the corridors outside their
classes. This is a time when appointments and plans will be made for the hours
after school. The chatter may also involve the latest developments in school.
Eagle-eyed prefects sporting smart red ties and supervised by the teacher on
duty will be hovering around, keeping a watch on students who do not return
their utensils to their bins.
When the bell sounds for the end of the break, the lower secondary students
will return reluctantly to their classes while the seniors are already
descending on the canteen. The scenes will then be repeated again.
These are the sights and sounds at the midday break in my school and I will
carry fond memories of these when I leave school.