Tuesday 18 November 2014

Pei Hwa Public School book preserves school's kampung spirit

Pei Hwa Public School marks 80th anniversary with coffee table book
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2014

IT HAS been over two decades since the last students left Pei Hwa Public School, but former principal Goh Gong Gong, 92, still watches over the grounds where the school once stood.

Mr Goh, who was the primary school's head from 1976 to 1985, has lived in a single-storey house within the school compound in Yio Chu Kang for over 40 years.

"Living in school, I was able to help tutor weaker students when they stayed behind after classes," he recalled in Mandarin. "Then I would lock up after they left."

The school closed its doors in 1990 after its student population dwindled, as families moved away from the area following national resettlement policies.

Although the land has since been sold and now houses a childcare centre, Mr Goh still lives on the old campus with his family.

His memories of the old village school are among those preserved in a new coffee table book, The Pei Hwa Spirit.

The book, by Pei Hwa Foundation and published by Singapore Press Holdings, commemorates the 80th year since the primary school's founding, as well as the 10th anniversary of sister school Pei Hwa Secondary, which opened in nearby Fernvale in 2005.

A thousand copies were printed for an anniversary dinner on Friday, attended by Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah, the guest of honour.

Started in 1934 by Jalan Kayu businessman Ang Kong Peng, Pei Hwa Public School grew from a temporary classroom behind a tonic shop into one of the largest Chinese primary schools in Yio Chu Kang. At its peak in the late 1970s under Mr Goh, it had 34 classes and about 1,000 students.

Neither it nor Pei Hwa Secondary is affiliated to Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary in Bukit Timah.

The book's chief editor, Mr Ong Chu Poh, 60, said: "We decided to put this book together to preserve Pei Hwa's history and kampung spirit before they are lost to future generations.

"I hope it will be a meaningful record for both alumni and current students."

Mr Ong, executive chairman of health-care group Econ, fondly recalls his time under the tutelage of Mr Goh, who taught subjects like Chinese and maths before becoming principal. Once, Mr Goh caned the young Mr Ong for copying the answers for his maths homework from a fellow student.

"It was a turning point in my life," recalled Mr Ong.

"Mr Goh taught me that we have to be honourable and responsible to ourselves," he said. "These are the kinds of values we hope to impart to future generations through this book."

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