28 November 2011

Selegie Integrated School - My Primary School Days (1)

How Selegie Integrated School Looks Like Today
In February this year, Sunday Times reporter Kon Xin Hua requested me for an email interview as the newspaper would be publishing an article on old buildings and Selegie Integrated School was one of them. Her questions and my answers are reproduced below:

Q1. What was the reason that saw you studying at Selegie Integrated School?

A1. Our family lived quite near to the school then. We were staying in Cheng Yan Place, a mere 15-minute leisurely stroll to the school which was less than one kilometre away. Of course, in those days, there was no such thing as priority for registration if you lived within one kilometre of the school. Even if there was, we would have no problem with it. As my family was not very financially well off, we could save on transportation costs if the school was nearby. The school was also brand new. I went to Primary One in 1963 which was year when the school was opened. (The then DPM Dr Toh Chin Chye officially opened the school on 19 Jan 1963.)

Dr Toh Chin Chye, Deputy Prime Minister and Assemblyman for Rochore Declaring the School Open on 19 Jan 1963 - Photo Courtesy of the National Archives
Q2. What were your initial thoughts on the 10-storey tall building?

A2. Having attended one or two years of kindergarten classes on the 2nd storey of a 4-storey SIT residential block in Prinsep Street, the 10-storey building certainly looked huge and imposing. (The SIT blocks are still in Prinsep Street. They have been conserved and possibly been converted into dormitories.) I had not seen such big lifts before. The only times when I took a lift was when my family visited my uncle's flat in a 9-storey SIT red-brick resident block (Blk 1) on Upper Pickering Street.

Q3. I'm sure there was more than one memorable feature of the school for you, would you be able to share with me a few features of the school that strike you the most? I read on your blog about the two canteens and lifts? :)

A3. Other than the 2 canteens, 2 lifts and the dental clinic which I mentioned in my blog, I remember part of the school ground was covered with coloured rectangular tiles of size about 1-foot by 2-foot. They were of yellow, red and green colours. I used to walk on them while trying to avoid all the lines in between the tiles. To me, it was a giant hopscotch.

Q4. What was life like as a student there? Any particularly striking events that happened in that school that come to mind?

A4. School life was quite routine. I remember one incident when due to a misunderstanding, a schoolmate punched me in the stomach. We were both brought to the principal's office. When the principal found out that I did not retaliate to the boy's attack, I was released. I didn't know what happened to the boy who punched me. There was another incident when a boy disturbed some female classmates and was punished in a unique way. The teacher put an unstrung badminton racket to rest at the neck of the boy and then pulled the racket back and forth. If this were to happen today and the boy's parents were to lodge a complaint to MOE, I am sure the teacher would be in serious trouble.

Q5. Do you recall the reason why they built a 10-storey high school?

A5. I don't recall the reason why they built a 10-storey high school. However, I believe that the land within the city area is scarce and expensive and hence the government had to fully utilise the land area by constructing a tall building.

Selegie Integrated School in 1963 - Photo Courtesy of the National Archives
Q6. What do you think of the building today, having been left abandoned for some time? (Is it a waste etc)

A6. I think it is a waste to leave it abandoned and in a derelict state. It should have been used to generate some revenue for the government's coffers, e.g renting it out to commercial schools or organisations.

Q7. What would you like to see happen to the building in the future?

A7. I would like to see the school converted to a hotel. This has been done for Pearl's Hill School which is now Hotel Re!. By the way, Pearl's Hill School was a 12-storey building and in 1971, it took over the unofficial title of the "tallest school in Singapore" from Selegie Integrated School.

Q8. Is it correct if I say you were fascinated by the big lifts in the school as you rarely took lifts unless you were visiting your uncle? Do you regularly take the lifts in your primary school? Which floor did you study on?

A8. Yes, I rarely took lifts then except when visiting my uncle. I was in the school for 6 years so I must have been on various floors before in different years. I think the classrooms I was in didn't go above 7th floor though. From the windows of the higher floors you could see quite far as there were not many tall buildings around to block the view then. I had to take the lifts several times a day - when reporting for school, going for and returning from recess breaks, going for and returning from PE classes, returning home as well as when I was "summoned" by the school dentist (which was quite often as my teeth were not very well-kept)

Q9. I would also like to ask you if you know anything about why the building was abandoned, and when it was abandoned?

A9. Sorry, I am not sure when Selegie School last operated in the building or when NAFA took over and when it abandoned it.

Further reading:

1. 4 Nov 2005 Vanishing Scenes of Singapore - Part 5 (My Primary School Days)

2. 5 Aug 2006 Hello Again 38 Years After "Eating Fishball"

3. 13 Aug 2006 Class of 1968 (Pr 6J of Selegie Integrated School)