SOAS Mosque was my school

Last month, 26th September 2008, was the 50th anniversary of Masjid Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien. The Postal Services issued a set of new stamps to commemorate the event plus two miniature sheets. The first miniature sheet is shown above which is the high value miniature sheet with a $50 stamp.

This $50 stamp is not the first $50 stamp for Brunei. The first $50 stamp was issued in 1996 for His Majesty's 50th Birthday. In fact five $50 stamps were produced especially for that and the miniature sheet sold for $250 (it is about $800 on the market now). A $60 stamp was issued for His Majesty's 60th Birthday and a $40 stamp was issued for His Majesty's 40th Coronation earlier this year. This high value stamp is certainly an interesting marketing strategy for Brunei's Postal Services as not that many people will be using this $50 stamp. I would say a used one would probably cost more than an unused one.

Back in the 1970s, most people did not know that the mosque was also a school. In those days, Madrasah, the building next to the mosque was the only school that provided sekolah ugama in the morning in the whole of Brunei, I think. Most of us who attended the Brunei Preparatory Schools would be going to school in the afternoon. So the only way to go get sekolah ugama would be going to madrasah. Madrasah classes were overflowing. I remembered there were about 50+ of us in each class. The classes were not even partitioned properly except with standing wooden partition. You can hear the classes next to you.

We were like that for a few months before they started using the balconies overlooking the main prayer hall at SOAS Mosque. Every day we would be dragging up a standing blackboard up to the balcony. The balcony is not very visible from the main prayer hall but every Thursday I would remember looking down at the workers laying the carpets for the next day Friday prayers. I think in those days, the carpets were not permanently placed on the floors. So on the balcony, there would be two or three classes, one on both ends and one in the middle. This went out for a few months before we got moved to the classes at BPS Bandar at today's SOAS College padang. That's another interesting story in itself.

I remembered SOAS Mosque. I am probably one of a few people in Brunei who can say I studied there.


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