Saturday 26 October 2013

PM Lee lauds Xinmin Secondary alumni for 'giving back'

School holds dinner to thank donors to its $4.5 million creative arts complex
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 25 Oct 2013

THE alumni of Xinmin Secondary received a pat on the back from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he held up BreadTalk founder George Quek for giving back in a big way to his alma mater.

He also cited businessman Chua Kee Teang of Mukim Investment who, with Mr Quek, is a driving force in raising the money to build a $4.5 million creative arts complex for the school.

"After graduating, they did not forget to give back. Both of them willingly returned to help their alma mater. This is extremely worthy of praise," PM Lee said at a thank-you dinner last night for donors to the arts complex.

Speaking in Mandarin and English, he hailed the alumni for "contributing in big ways and small".

Mr Lee noted that the school has come a long way since its founding in 1945 to become "a well-respected school" with good academic results and strengths in the creative and performing arts.

"All your Express students go on to JC (junior college), and all your Normal Technical students go on to ITE (the Institute of Technical Education).

"Your students win awards in the band, choir, drama, guzheng, Chinese dance, and many more go on to distinguished careers," he said of Xinmin, which is sited in his Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The building of the arts complex is part testimony to the role the arts has played in Mr Quek's accomplishments in building a chain of bakeries and restaurants.

The 57-year-old paid tribute to his art teacher for encouraging his interest in art although he was faltering in his studies.

"Until today, the store decor, bread design and their creative names benefited from my alma mater nurturing my interest in art," he said.

Yesterday's event also marked the 20th anniversary of the school's alumni association, whose members have raised about $4 million for the arts complex.

Its centrepiece is a 400-seat black box theatre that will be ready by the end of next year, giving Xinmin students more room to explore drama and stage performances.

Last night, students of its award-winning Chinese dance troupe, choir and guzheng ensemble performed for the 800 dinner guests at Orchard Hotel.

The three groups will have their own rehearsal rooms in the arts complex. Secondary 1 student Sally Yeo said the theatre will be a huge improvement from the classrooms her English drama club now use for practice.

"With our own space, we can focus. Now, there's a lot of clutter. We have to move the tables and chairs when we practise," she said.

Principal Ong Hong Peng said that with the complex, students can also put up free performances for the community. "This is all part of the quality and holistic education we want to offer," she said.

Xinmin school toasts founder
It marks pig farmer Yap Fun Fong's 100th birthday with fund-raising dinner
By Leong Weng Kam, The Straits Times, 24 Oct 2013

AS FOUNDER of Xinmin Secondary School, Mr Yap Fun Fong is a figure many would want to hail tonight at the school's fund-raising cum appreciation dinner.

It would be an opportunity for present and past members of the school, together with the guest of honour, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to celebrate Mr Yap's 100th birthday.

But ill health has put paid to the idea.

Still, to keep the promise made to Mr Yap three years ago, school principal Ong Hong Peng and four alumni visited him at his home in Fuzhou city in June to toast the centenarian on his longevity.

"We celebrated at a restaurant and presented him with a painting by a former student and a video recording of birthday greetings from the school's staff," said Mrs Ong, Xinmin's 10th principal after Mr Yap.

"He was still well and lucid and was happy with our presence there," she added.

Tonight, Mr Yap's presence will be felt when a video is shown on how he started the school.

He did so with money from the sale of five pigs in his farm in Serangoon.

Mr Yap, also known as Yap Hong Hong, arrived in Singapore in 1937 at age 24.

Newly married and freshly graduated from Xiamen University, he came here to teach.

But during the Japanese Occupation, he refused to be a teacher and became a farmer.

When the defeated Japanese left in 1945, he started Sin Min High School.

With the support of some businessmen, he converted three bungalows in Upper Serangoon into classrooms for several hundred students.

Communist underground leader Fang Chuang Pi was among the teachers in the school's early days.

Mr Yap was its principal till 1950, when he moved to head Ai Tong School at the request of philanthropist businessman Tan Kah Kee, then leader of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan.

He was arrested by the British colonial government the following year for alleged leftist activities linked to the export of rubber to China during the Korean War.

After a 15-month detention, he was sent home to China, with his wife and two daughters.

There was no news of his whereabouts until 1990 when old boys of the school found him in Fuzhou, said the chairman of the alumni association, Mr Chua Kee Teang, 65.

When Mr Yap returned for the first time in 1994, the school had undergone several changes. It had been rebuilt, turned from a Chinese to an English-medium school, and then relocated from Upper Serangoon to Hougang Avenue 8.

With the move in 1989, the school's name was also also changed to Xinmin Secondary School.

In an interview he gave to the school in 2007, Mr Yap said the students were fortunate as the facilities were better than those in the early days.

He added: "I started Xinmin to provide education, never for profit, I am happy to see the seed I had sown many years ago has grown over the years."

The school's advisory committee chairman, Mr George Quek, 57, founder of the BreadTalk chain of bakeries and restaurants, said a set of bronze statues of Mr Yap and his five pigs had been put up in the school three years ago to remember him and his legacy.

He also said the school is raising funds for a multi-million-dollar creative and performing arts complex, which will be ready by the end of next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment