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June 22, 2018

Memory of the happy-go-lucky days at Rangoon University

Convocation Hall of Yangon University. Photo: Aye Min Soe
Convocation Hall of Yangon University. Photo: Aye Min Soe

The name Rangoon came from the British pronunciation of Yangon during the heyday of colonial period that Myanmar came under the rule of British Empire. Yangon was founded as Dagon in the early 11th century [ 1028-1043 ] by the Mon people , who dominated lower Burma at the time Dagon was a small fishing village situated in the vicinity around  Shwedagon pagoda in 1755. Later on, King Alungphaya had made a conquest of Dagon and renamed it as Yangon and added a few settlements nearby it. The British captured Yangon in the first Anglo-Burmese War in [ 1824-1828 ], but for some unclosed reason had  returned the city to the Burmese Administration after the war ended. The city was almost totally destroyed by a big fire in 1841.The British had again seized Yangon and all of Lower Burma in the second Anglo–Burmese- War of 1882, and subsequently transformed Yangon into a commercial and political hub of British Burma. The army engineer Lt. Alexander Fraser had designed a new city plan with a grid network design in the delta land which bounded to the East by the Pazundaung Creek and to the South and West by the Yangon River, with 10-feet width sidewalks and the wide open high roads and streets, the motor vehicle traffic in those days was negligible. In addition the drainage system was in excellent condition to accommodate a tiny population of  Rangoon City. In 1885, the British captured the whole of Burma in the third Anglo–Burmese –War making Yangon the capital of whole of British Burma. By 1890 with an increasing population had brought about an expansion  of a prosperous suburban residential  area with hospitals and universities including  Rangoon General Hospital and Rangoon University  near Inya Lake.
By early 20th century though Burma was under colonial rule of the British Empire, with strict disciplinarian manner keeping all the subjects  of colonial period  in highly good order  and brought into Burma the hardworking Indians and Chinese, which comprising 55% of the total population  of 500,000 of Yangon .The rest were Burmeses, Karens, Anglo-Burmen, Portuguese and others. Indians are the largest of this population. It had a saying in those days, without knowing the Indian language in Yangon .you were at a loss and landed you with difficulty in mixing up with commercial communities. As we know all  the British people had a traditional habit of doing things in accordance with prior plan, perhaps they might have a scheme to first having developed Rangoon and then to administer their colonial  matters regarding India,  Burma and Southeast  Asia  from this strategic place which was then had has public services and infrastructural capacity comparable to London and also known as “The Garden City of the East “
During 1954 and the years following. we young men have had a wonderful time in pursuing higher education at Rangoon University. At this time our higher education system was so good that we acquired the standard qualification that foreign countries had high esteem specially at  Rangoon University. We even had foreign students from India and Japan to study at Rangoon University. So that the famous Ford Foundation of America had sent certain visiting professors to Burma to give a helping hand to the Economics Department of our university to teach Economics. We were free to express our desire and had no restraints to choose the university courses as we like, There were so many social and cultural groups, like the Literatures Association, Sports clubs and Classical Music and Dance groups, so that we young people could join any one of them. There we were looking for new ideas, searching for new knowledge and new aspirations. So much so that some of us got stuck so deep and had spilled our overflowing energy in tasting politics like our predecessors  of 1920s, 1936s and Ko Aung San  and Ko Nu of 1938s, often making strikes against the British Rule. There was time when we did follow the footsteps of our elders in a matured manner, taking part in the election of qualified students to take up responsibilities for the executive posts in Rangoon University Students Union. There were different student  parties encouraging fellow-students to vote for the candidates from their parties, some party’s member was even making speeches  on the campus to lure and attract fellow-students to cast votes  for their party. On election day, these student parties’ members were ushering fellow-students by sending them by jeeps to the short distance where polling stations were designated  for casting of votes. The political fever, activities and commotions from there were just exactly like a real election of new candidates for the Government election that had taken place outside in downtown Yangon City
We also had the lighter side of the university life of the hostel students, so like on some week-ends Saturday and Sunday, We gathered some closed friends and started proceeding to the lady hostels at 10 or 11 pm and positioned us all at the gates of these hostels , singing and dancing at the top of our voices of popular love songs as if we were the heart-throbs of the lady students  in the upper floor  of the hostels.There was sometimes one or two rough and tough fellows from us would put up a show with somersaults of leap or roll in which the head was placed on the ground and the trunk and legs were turned over it. This was going on until deep into the night at 1 or 2 pm then we all dismissed ourselves and returned back to our hostels feeling tired and happy after all. Another unforgettable event in my university life, the flying of my Burmese kite in the university football ground, where the wind speed was just right for flying kites. The Burmese kites could spin, dive down and climb up as they all having these abilities making them capable to fight with other kites , that was to cut the strings of other kites ,Whenever I had cut down othe—r kite, it had given me a feeling of a winner in triumph. Sometimes not with my close friends. I’ve flew my kite alone ,just looking at my kite flying high and mighty in the lonely blue sky, that made my heart filled with satisfaction ,peace and joyfulness with a hypnotic trance of contentment.
Now, our country has been waking up from almost 50 years of isolation and just starting to taste the fruits of democracy. The necessary changes will be taking place in all the ministries under the new Government and in which would surely include targets for improvement of education in the Ministry of education. We hope the new education system should contain open and free guidances with a wholesome attitude for the future generation of youths.


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