Last week, Qiaonan, Bedok West, Griffiths and Hong Kah primary schools are declared to be no more by the Ministry of Education.
From next year, Bedok West Primary and Hong Kah Primary will be absorbed by Damai Primary and Lianhua Primary, respectively.
Qiaonan Primary and Griffiths Primary will merge to form Angsana Primary.
The names of the four primary schools, Bedok West, Griffiths, Hong Kah and Qiaonan, will be erased from the national directory of schools.
These four schools are the less popular schools in Singapore’s mature estates as they do not even have enough students to fill a classroom, an issue which is partly due to Singapore’s declining fertility.
Not the first time schools have disappeared
In 2009, Ghim Moh Primary was absorbed into New Town Primary.
In 2000, Li Hua, Hong Dao and Ang Mo Kio North Primary became on school: Anderson Primary.
Effects on Singaporeans’ identity
There is a vacuum left behind in the shared memories of pupils and teachers of these schools.
Such an erasure of schools overnight will have an impact on Singaporeans’ sense of place and identity as the beginnings our history are lost.
Qiaonan Primary’s history has deeper meaning
Qiaonan Primary was founded by the Wenzhou Clan Association. It was previously known as Kiau Nam School. It has more than 80 years of history, making it far older than Singapore has been independent.
In 1933, 20 pupils started classes at a rented unit in the now-defunct Lorong Koo Chye.
In 1940, the director of the school board donated his house at Paya Lebar Road to be used. It was closed during World War II, but reopened after the fighting was over.
In the late 1950s, there were 480 students with makeshift classrooms added and classes were purportedly conducted within the confines of a Chinese temple to fit more pupils.
Irreversible losses will affect Singapore’s identity
Such humble beginnings of a neighbourhood school are the founding pillars of modern Singapore: Sacrifice, in the name of philanthropy and communal obligations, epitomising the unyielding spirit of resilience, hope and faith.
They also have the distinction of educating the pioneer generation of Singaporeans, with many more unsung, nameless individuals who were behind such institutions.
The unceremonious school closures announcement will lead to the irreversible loss of our local heritage.
This article is adapted from a piece that appeared on IPS Commons.
Top photo from Google Maps