Memories which were 50 Years ago

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Photo Credit: Saw Lwin (Fuji) Pathein 1974.

The photograph captures a moment from 1974 at Pathein College, featuring a group of dedicated Zoology students and their beloved demonstrator. This image represents not just a collection of individuals but a close-knit community bound by shared academic pursuits and personal connections. Pathein College, at the time, offered a four-year academic programme, and the students in the photo were at different stages in their Zoology studies. Second-year female Zoology majors occupy the front row, while the back row includes first-year male students, except for the middle man, the demonstrator.
A Respected Mentor
The demonstrator in the photo was more than just a teacher to these students; he was a mentor, a friend, and an inspiration. Although only five or six years older than the students, he commanded great respect and admiration. Coming from a remote village in one of Myanmar’s States, he shared a humble background similar to many of his students, which only served to strengthen their bond. His sensitivity to unfair situations often led to confrontations, but it also underscored his bravery and commitment to justice. That made him a figure not just of authority but of moral guidance as well.
Academic Excellence and Personal Dedication
The demonstrator’s dedication to his studies and his teaching was evident. He was in the process of obtaining his MSc degree, a challenging endeavour that he pursued with tenacity and hard work. His lectures in Zoology were renowned for their dynamism and engagement. Students, both majors and minors, flocked to his classes to experience his unique teaching style. His ability to make complex topics accessible and interesting made him a popular figure among the student body. This pedagogical excellence contributed significantly to his popularity and the high regard in which he was held.
A Unique Bond with Students
The demonstrator’s relationship with his students was special. He had a particularly strong attachment to the group in the photograph, having spent three years with them at Pathein College before being transferred to Yangon University in 1976. This period was marked by a collaborative spirit, with students and their teacher working together on various departmental activities. The mutual respect and affection were palpable, fostering an environment where academic and personal growth went hand in hand.
Transition to Yangon University
The transfer to Yangon University marked a new chapter in the demonstrator’s life, but it did not sever the bonds he had formed with his students. After graduating in 1977, many of the students, including me, continued to cross paths with their former teacher at Yangon University. The demonstrator continued his pursuit of a Master’s degree while the students embarked on their professional journeys. I, for instance, took up a position in the Cooperative Department, which gradually led to a fading of direct contact with the demonstrator.
Reflections on Friendship and Growth
Looking back, I fondly recall the camaraderie and shared experiences at Pathein College. The friendships forged during this time were invaluable, providing support and encouragement in both academic and personal spheres. The demonstrator played a pivotal role in shaping these experiences, not just through his teaching but through his genuine concern for his students’ well-being and development.
A Lasting Impact
The impact of the demonstrator’s teaching and mentorship extended beyond the classroom. His approach to education, characterized by passion and engagement, left a lasting impression on his students. Many of them carried these lessons into their professional lives, embodying the principles of hard work, fairness, and dedication that he exemplified.
The photograph from 1974 is more than just a snapshot in time; it is a testament to the enduring relationships and formative experiences that defined the Zoology Department at Pathein College. The demonstrator, with his remarkable teaching skills and personal integrity, played a central role in this story. His influence, coupled with the close bonds among the students, created a vibrant academic community that left a lasting legacy. As I reflect on these years, the memories of friendship, learning, and personal growth continue to resonate, underscoring the profound impact of their time at Pathein College.
Unforgettable Memories with Our Beloved Mentor
I want to continue sharing the many unforgettable memories we have of our mentor, whom we deeply admired and respected both as an elder brother and as a teacher. Although he had a very strong and unyielding personality, he always prioritized his students. In fact, the students were not much younger than him.
A Memorable Incident
Among the many memorable incidents, one stands out in particular. Our mentor had a habit of playing football, but it was purely for health reasons rather than professional play. One evening, after playing football, he went swimming in Kan Thone Sint (Three Lakes), a beautiful and iconic lake of Pathein College that holds significant cultural and historical value for the town. The lake was also a popular setting for poetry and writing. A narrow bridge spanned the lake, connecting both shores.
In the evenings, the area around Kan Thone Sint would be bustling with swimmers, football players, and college ladies taking a walk. On that particular evening, a group of young men from the town came to play football and swim at the lake. Meanwhile, our mentor was swimming nearby. As the young men swam under the bridge, a group of female students from the college walked across it. The young men started making inappropriate remarks at the girls from beneath the bridge.
Our mentor overheard their disrespectful comments and became extremely upset. He could not tolerate hearing such vulgarities directed at the college ladies. He decided to confront the young men, but they responded with mockery and hostility. Despite being outnumbered, as there were about ten of them against our mentor alone, he stood his ground.
Courageous Confrontation
Our mentor, showing no fear, confronted the young men, knowing exactly where they lived. News of the incident spread quickly throughout the college campus. That evening, our mentor returned to his dormitory, changed his clothes, and took a bus to the town alone, determined to resolve the issue. Students who were close to him learned about his departure and followed him into town using various means of transportation.
In the town, our mentor went directly to the neighbourhood where the young men lived and challenged them to come out and face him. Just as the situation was about to escalate, the students who had followed him arrived, creating a tense atmosphere. The neighbourhood authorities intervened to mediate the conflict, but our mentor insisted that the young men come to the college to apologize for their behaviour. He made it clear that if they did not come, he would hold them accountable for any consequences.
The Resolution
The next day at 4 pm was the deadline for the young men to apologize. By then, the incident had attracted the attention of high-level officials who were working to prevent any further escalation. The students, still angered by the disrespect shown to their female peers, were ready to march into town if the apology did not take place.
From 3 pm onwards, the students occupied all the buses heading into town, waiting in readiness. By nearly 4 pm, with no sign of the young men, tensions were running high. It seemed inevitable that a confrontation would occur. Fortunately, just two minutes before 4 pm, the young men arrived in vehicles accompanied by local authorities.
In front of the entire college, the young men apologized to the mentor and the teachers, bowing their heads in shame. This public apology not only resolved the immediate conflict but also restored the dignity of the college and the students.
A Heroic Figure
This incident highlights the indomitable spirit of our mentor. His actions not only protect the honour of those who were insulted but also uphold the reputation of Pathein College. His courage and integrity left a lasting impression on all who witnessed the events of that day. The photograph, with our mentor standing proudly in the centre of the back row, serves as a testament to his remarkable character and the deep respect we all had for him.
All in all, reflecting on our time at Pathein College, the memories of camaraderie, learning, and personal growth are vivid and cherished. Our mentor, with his unwavering dedication and integrity, profoundly shaped our academic and personal lives. The bonds we formed and the lessons we learned have endured, influencing our paths long after we left the college. This period, marked by shared challenges and triumphs, remains a cornerstone of our identity. As we look back, we are reminded of the enduring impact of a true mentor and the lasting value of a close-knit academic community.
(With heartfelt reverence, I honour our beloved Saya U Tin Than)

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