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May 21, 2019

Some Memories of Yangon University in the 1920s

Convocation Hall at the University of Yangon.  Photo: Phoe Khwar
Convocation Hall at the University of Yangon.  Photo: Phoe Khwar

By Dr. Saw Mra Aung

Continued from yesterday

In the place of the University Avenue was the undulating ground cut off by swells and inlets of waters. The place where Inya Road was to be built was inundated with water coming up from Inya Lake during the rainy season. But it turned out to be a sandy foot-path during summer. When the examination drew near, the students with bundles of flowers in their hands filed to the Shwedagon Pagoda by that path and prayed at the pagoda for the success in the examination. Only when it came to the 1928-29 academic year, University Avenue and Inya Road were constructed.
In the 1926-27 academic year, the Engineering College built by B.O.C company in the vast plot of land to the east Pyi and Tagaung Halls was completed and engineering classes were shifted from the building on Commissioner Road to that building that year. The engineering students were assigned at Bagan Hall. Warden Saya U Kar was such as a disciplinarian that he always went on an inspection tour around the hall at 8:00 p.m sharp. During his inspection, when he saw some students talking about frivolities, he at once stopped them from doing so and asked them to study their lessons. The students from Tagaung Hall and Bagan Hall issued two hand-written weekly newspapers to voice their feelings and inconveniences during their hostel life.
The former produced the one named ‘Andaman Mail’ which was in Myanmar and English and the latter ‘Bagan Fist’,which was only in Myanmar. The Andaman Mail was edited by Ko Ba Thin and Ko Thein and the Bagan Fist by Ko Tin Sein.
After 1927, the brick halls such as Thaton, Bago, Pinya, Sagaing, Inwa and Inya Halls were constructed serially on the east of the Adhipati Road and Bentan ( Thiri) Hall, the North Hall ( Shwebo Hall) and Willinton Hall( Dagon Hall) on the west of the Adhipati Road. The students were housed in Thaton and Bago Halls. The temporary lecture-rooms for art subjects were only opened at Pinya and Sagaing Halls. The students who specialized in science subjects were ferried to the University College on Commissioner Road by eight buses hired from Wason Insan Company along Pyi Road.( It is learnt that all the lecture-rooms at University College and Judson College were transferred to Yangon University Campus in the 1930-31 academic year when the Art Hall and the Science Hall were completed there).On 8 December 1927, the University Library started to be built. The two-storey Students’ Union Building was built in a patch of land at the corner of Adhipati Road and University Avenue in 1929 with 170,000 Rupees contributed by U Nyo. It consisted of a meeting-room, a library, a hair-dresser’s room, book-stalls, stationary-stalls, tea-shops, restaurants and a billiard room. A gymnasium was also constructed behind it on Thaton Road with the money donated by Chinese Wealthy Man named Chan Murphy the same year.
The most popular sports on the Yangon University Estate in those days were foot-ball, boat-rowing and tennis. Principal of Yangon University College Dr. Methew Hunter was a football enthusiast. So he encouraged foot-ball. Some students fell into the habit of playing foot-ball every evening. Football matches between the halls were held annually. Some foot-ball matches invariably drew a large number of spectators. Especially, the Pyi Hall Team and the Thaton Hall Team were arch rivals. Therefore, the matches between them arouse the spectators to come into conflicts. So, Warden of Thaton Hall U Pe Maung Tin and Warden of Pyi Hall U Po Chu had to run down into the foot-ball field and reconciled the flaring football fans.
Second to foot-ball, rowing boats was the most popular with the students. Urged by Mr. Edgar, some students became keen on rowing boats. But they all had to be learnt how to swim before entering the Yangon University Boat Club. Mr. Edgar ordered two Myanmar boats from England and had his members participate in the boat-race held in Kandawgyi during the visit of the Govenor of India Lord Chalford in 1924. The captain of the boat club was Ko Than Pe, who became Head of the Education Department Brigadier-General Than Pe ( Minister for Education)during the Revolutionary Government. In 1928, four tennis-courts were constructed in front of Tagaung Hall. But, very few Myanmar students would be among the tennis players.
Yangon University developed gradually under two principals- Dr. Methew Hunter and D.J. Sloss during the 1920s. As the former was a bachelor, he had much attachment to the students. He was said to say good-bye to the students with tears welled up in his eyes at the ceremony held to honour him just before his departure to England at the expiry of his assignment in Myanmar. He was succeeded by D.J. Sloss. Although he was rather bureaucratic always wearing a stern face, he always sided with his students. Whenever his students picked up quarrels or fights with others in downtown Yangon and were detained by the police, he always came to their rescue and brought them back safe to the university premises. Some well-known students of Yangon University at that time were Ko Sein Tin ( Thipan Maung Wa), Ko Thein Han ( Zaw-gyi), Ko Wun ( Min Thu Wun), Ko Aye Maung ( Myanmar-sar Professor), Ko Nu ( Prime Minister), Ko Ba Myaing ( Deputy Commissioner), Ko Thant ( Secretary-General of the United Nations), Ko Ba Nyunt ( History Professor), Ko Ohn ( I.C.S), Ko Sein Nyo Tun (I.C.S), Ma Mya Sein( Daughter of May Aung), Ma May Kyi, Ma Khin Saw Mu, Ma Hla Ohn, Ma Aye Kyi, Si Si Aung Gyi, etc.
In conclusion, it is found that before 1920, the Yangon University Estate was only a vast jungled area infested with beasts, often serving as a hide-out for decoits, that, in the early 1920s, many halls of residence and lecture-rooms, staff-quarters, and many other modern amenities were, however, hacked one after another out of the jungles on that estate and that, in that late 1920s, it took on the appearance of an infant university with a hive of student’s activities-the sounds of their shuffling steps along the corridors, giggling of lady-students, resonant voices of teachers wafting from lecture-rooms, deafening applause of the students at the sports-competitions,debates, etc.

References
(၁) မြကေတု ။ နှောင်းခေတ်တက္က သိုလ်ဘဝမှတ်တမ်းများ
(၂) ရန်ကုန်တက္ကသိုလ် နှစ် (၅၀)ပြည့် မဂ္ဂဇင်း(၁၉၂၀-၇၀)
(၃) ရန်ကုန်တက္ကသိုလ်စိန်ရတုအထိမ်း အမှတ် စာစောင်(၁၉၂၀-၁၉၉၅)
(၄)တက္ကသိုလ် ခင်မောင်ဇော်၊ တက္ကသီလာ မြကျွန်းသာ (ရန်ကုန် တက္ကသိုလ်သမိုင်း)

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