Then again, the premier all-girls boarding school located in Johor Bahru has never been one given to much revelry or flamboyance. In other words, STF pretty much reflects the background of the majority of its population; bright-eyed rural girls from small towns and villages, just grateful for the privilege of being among the chosen few.
STF is a place I hold dear in my heart, for it was here that I was exposed to boarding school life. It was in STF that I humbly learned I wasn't so exceptional after all. There were hundreds of clever, intelligent girls out there and they could (and did) outpace me by a mile, academically or otherwise.
STF was established in 1956 with the original aim of creating a generation of school teachers for a young nation. It is thus very apt that STF's first moniker was Sekolah Menengah Perempuan Melayu, whose first home was in Durian Daun, Melaka.
In fact, during those pre-JB years, students were almost always absorbed into Maktab Perguruan Perempuan Melayu (Malay Women Teachers' College) post-LCE (PMR-equivalent, these days) to become teachers.
In 1958 the school was renamed Sekolah Tun Fatimah, after the heroic female warrior of the Melaka Sultanate era, and in 1962 it was moved to Larkin, Johor Bahru, where it remains until today.
STF is part of the Education Ministry's elite group of single-sex fully residential schools; its peers being Kolej Melayu Kuala Kangsar (Perak), Kolej Tunku Khurshiah (Seremban), Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Ipoh), Sekolah Dato' Abdul Razak (Seremban), Sekolah Sri Puteri (KL) and Sekolah Alam Shah (Selangor).
With students pre-selected based on academic excellence, over the years STF, along with its peers, have always been under constant pressure to deliver the best in terms of not only academic achievement but also in extra-curricular activities.
For me, STF was existing with some 400 girls from the ages of 13 to 18, sleeping on bunk beds in dormitories, eating nasi kawah, nightly prep hours, drooling over APC (American Peace Corps) male teachers, and weekend jaunts in JB town clad in our white-and-green school uniform, thus earning us the nickname Katak Hijau (green frog) among JB boys.
STF was also weekend mathematics tutoring in the canteen by my maternal uncle Ayah Cik Ali, then a Telecoms engineer based in JB, who would turn up with his teacher wife, Wan Cik Shareefah Shamsiah, and made my head swim for at least two hours each Saturday trying to comprehend the complexities of Additional Mathematics.
[By the way, Wan Cik, who taught English, was the one who enlightened a confused 13 year-old me that 'duke' is pronounced dee yuuk and not 'duck', and that he is an English nobleman and not from that squawking specie, although he could well be a real duckie].More poignantly, STF was where I fell in love for the first time, with an Indonesian trainee teacher in Sumatra who heard my voice over RTM JB (in a Berbalas Pantun programme where I represented the school) and wrote a beautifully crafted letter that melted my teenage heart.
It was a magical, year-long love affair conducted through a furious exchange of letters, expressing innocent, lovelorn sentiments that only two Cupid-stricken hearts could muster. That we never met at all added to the mystery. As with most first loves, it floundered when I left school, but the memories remain.