Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chua Chu Kang Secondary School - the Early Years 1

November 1992
I was asked by the then D&T Specialist, the late Mr Soon Eng Lee, whether I could uproot myself from Si Ling Sec to join a new school in the West. Without hesitation, I submitted a request to step down from my HOD post there so as to join this new school as I was feeling like a rotting carcass in Si Ling.
In early December, he arranged a meeting with the then Principal-designate, Ms Sum Chee Wah. Upon arrival, I was thrilled by the brand new premises and later inspired by Ms Sum's vision in starting the new school called Chua Chu Kang Secondary. I met a familiar face, Mr Ong Hong Teong there. Altogether there were 10 staff, more ladies than men, in the first year.
For a start, there would be 8 classes  ie  3 NA and 4 Express.

CCKS November 1992 - taken after I met Ms Sum in school

Start of the new year saw a couple more staff joining. We were really excited by the new beginning. To be closer to the pupils, we had daily lunches with them during the first term.

                                 Staff bonding at a Changi chalet 1995, included VP Mr Hoon

Of course, there was the staff bonding, staff-pupils bonding exercises. At the end of it, we knew the name and nuances of virtually every pupil, 320 of them. The classes were all housed on the top level. A few fortunate ones (4) had classroom with a balcony view, rare indeed!
From the start, there were problems with the NA pupils, common were fighting, theft, smoking, grooming and 'after school' activities. There was even an underaged pregnancy. Naturally, as one of the few man teachers, I was tasked with the discipline job (morning assemblies, hall assemblies, dispute management, etc). For a start, we were very strict with the pupils. 'Long' hair or fringes were cut on the spot, sometimes by Mr Zulkiflee, TSO cum barber. Gold items, electronic devices (then only pagers and Walkman), lighters, cigarettes, etc were confiscated. Some valuable items were only returned at end of day or week. Combs with sharp handle were also modified before returning to the pupils. Nails were checked very regularly and cut on the spot, nail polish remover caused the girls much anguish then. In fact, the pupils' bags were checked regularly, usually after morning flag raising. As a result, some thinking pupils began the day by hiding the ' illegal' items inside the OHP (what happened to these AVA equipment today?), on top of the false ceiling boards in classroom and toilets, inside water cistern in toilet, etc. Surprise class raids were common. Imagine those horror expressions of pupils in the class when we (me and another lady/man teacher) trooped into the classroom unexpectedly to check the bags, the false ceiling etc. Just like a police raid. Once, I found a porno VCD inside the OHP. When I scanned the room, it was obvious who the culprit was..... He confessed later and was given the cane.

Oh yes, caning in class was quite common. There were a few public caning, usually for recalcitrant pupils who committed serious offences like fighting. The pupils were dealt with only after their written confession collected and parents called. Some implored us not to call their parents. They accepted the cane willingly. After caning, they have to write a reflection and talk to us.

There were rumblings about 'teen gangs' existing, but not much came out of them. Touching base with most of the boys, we managed to identify a few pupils who might be connected to the street-gangs in the Teck Whye area. Police were informed.
There was one afternoon when a pupil came running back into the school compound with blood stain on his shirt and a blue-black face. He was Neo Seow Hua, one of the silent 'member'. Seow Hua was in the NA class. He seldom used English, using Hokkien and Mandarin most of the time. When asked what happened, he brushed it off, washed up and wanted to run home. So we called his father who operated a fruit-juice stall at Telok Blangah Food Centre (Harbourfront) to inform him about the matter and to fetch him back. His father came, with little expression, took Seow Hua home, just like that. Thus we called the matter closed. From his classmates, we came to know that he went for a 'one-to-one' settlement with a rival gang, alone!

The first year was quite an exciting one. Apart from discipline problems like smoking, fighting, we have had quite a smooth year. One incident which 'excited' the school was the presence of a flasher outside the school, near the area where the present mosque is located. The police caught him finally after the male staff were told to patrol the area.

We were really fired up to be better than schools around us in the area. We were dreaming the ideals. I believed that Bukit Panjang Govt High at that time, was looking at us with great interest as they have a good reputation and would not want to overtaken by an upstart like us.
The apple-green was on the rise.....give us 5 years, so we thought. The neighborhood knew about our zero tolerant towards ill-discipline. Coming to think of it, we were quite draconian then.
CCKS June 2001 - When I left the school

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