Lee Kuan Yew's old school marks 90th birthday

PM Lee with his father's old classmate, Mr Ceylon Lee, 94, who attended Telok Kurau English School, as the school was then called, as well as Raffles Institution with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
PM Lee with his father's old classmate, Mr Ceylon Lee, 94, who attended Telok Kurau English School, as the school was then called, as well as Raffles Institution with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Former pupils and staff of Telok Kurau Primary trade stories of their time there

Under the mid-autumn full moon last night, some 1,200 people gathered for a reunion at a theatre at one-north in Stars Avenue.

Some in the audience reminisced about their childhood days even as performers on stage re-enacted classroom scenes of a school known for being the alma mater of Singapore's most famous politician.

One of the child performers, Chia Jun Wei, 10, played a young Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who always did well in school and helped to welcome a new pupil to the school - Telok Kurau Primary.

The school, which began in 1926 in a wooden structure in a coconut plantation in Telok Kurau with just a dozen pupils, celebrated its 90th anniversary last night with a musical at The Theatre @ Mediacorp.

The event, which coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival, was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was invited because of his father's ties to the school. He was joined by the school's alumni and former staff, as well as canteen vendors and school bus drivers.

Titled My Telok Kurau, My Home, the musical depicts the musings of a former teacher as she remembers what it was like at the school since the 1930s, when the former prime minister studied there.

One of the school's oldest alumni, Mr Ceylon Lee, 94, the late Mr Lee's classmate from Primary 2 to 5, told The Straits Times that his classmate was a studious boy who topped the class every term.

"He was friendly, he would mix with all the boys," Mr Ceylon Lee said. He added that Mr Lee was "a quiet boy" who liked to piggyback other boys and play chapteh, a game where players have to keep a weighted shuttlecock in the air.

He also noted that the facilities of the school, now in Bedok Reservoir Road, have improved tremendously since the 1930s, when he was a pupil. Back then, the toilets had buckets instead of modern sanitation.

Its current discipline master, Mr Shaharzad Kasman, 49, said that when he was a pupil at the school in 1970s, punishments were harsher. He was made to stand on stage for talking when not allowed to.

But this punishment is not meted out today so as not to humiliate the child.

"After everyone is gone, then you talk to him. You are more tactful," he said of the current approach to disciplining pupils.

Another teacher, English teacher Rezina Khan, 44, who has taught at Telok Kurau since 2000, said teaching equipment has become more advanced. Instead of blackboards, laptops and iPads are now used.

The school has enjoyed the support of its alumni, some of whom return regularly to facilitate camps. Mr Muhammad Taufiq, 20, for instance, has returned to help eight times since last year. "This school has done so much for me," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Lee Kuan Yew's old school marks 90th birthday'. Print Edition | Subscribe