A fond farewell to a 'school icon': TKGS alumni raise cash, vouchers for retired staff member

Mr Abdullah Basiron, who is known as Uncle Dollah to staff and students at Tanjong Katong Girls' School, with (from left) Madam Khalijah Masud, Mrs Judy Kong and Elya Azuan Ghazali. Apart from the cash and vouchers that were given by the TKGS alumni,
Mr Abdullah Basiron, who is known as Uncle Dollah to staff and students at Tanjong Katong Girls' School, with (from left) Madam Khalijah Masud, Mrs Judy Kong and Elya Azuan Ghazali. Apart from the cash and vouchers that were given by the TKGS alumni, Uncle Dollah also received a watch from an anonymous donor.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

TKGS alumni raise cash and vouchers for retired staff member

He was usually the first to arrive and the last to leave, but Mr Abdullah Basiron will no longer be the one switching the lights on and off at Tanjong Katong Girls' School (TKGS).

Mr Abdullah, who is known as Uncle Dollah to staff and students in the school, retired on June 30 after 45 years of working as an operations support officer.

The 64-year-old is also known for his quick smile and cheerfulness.

Two former TKGS students, administrator Khalijah Masud, 47, and journalist Zuzanita Zakaria, 45, learnt of his retirement and wanted to express their appreciation to him.

On Saturday, Madam Khalijah handed Uncle Dollah a $200 watch, $3,000 in FairPrice vouchers and a $4,374 cheque.

The two women had earlier put out an appeal on crowdsourcing website Give.asia and raised $7,374 from 160 TKGS alumni. They also received the watch, which came from an anonymous donor.

Madam Khalijah, who is from the class of '86, did not think they could reach their $6,000 target, let alone so quickly.

GRATEFUL

I don't know how I will ever repay this kindness. I love all the students so much and I have always felt a part of their lives.

MR ABDULLAH BASIRON, on the gifts he received from the TKGS alumni.

She said: "We were just thinking that if 300 alumni donated $20 each, we would reach our goal. We were so surprised and heartened when we hit the target so quickly."

Uncle Dollah said of the gifts: "I don't know how I will ever repay this kindness. I love all the students so much and I have always felt like a part of their lives."

He joined the school when he was 19 and practically grew up with the students and grew old with the school.

Former TKGS teacher Judy Kong, 69, said Uncle Dollah is almost like a school icon. "He will be the first one at the school and the last to leave. You always know he's around by the jangling of his keys and the soft hum of him singing to himself wherever he goes," she added.

"Principals, teachers and students come and go, but Dollah remains a part of the school, only adding to his icon status."

Uncle Dollah has served under eight principals at TKGS.

Secondary 3 student Elya Azuan Ghazali, who is also Madam Khalijah's daughter, said many students cried on his last day.

The 15-year-old said: "He is always smiling and asking all of us how we're doing. You really can't think of TKGS without thinking of him."

Now that he has retired, Uncle Dollah said he is looking forward to doing volunteer work at various mosques. He had always wanted to do so, he added, but did not have time when he was working.

Uncle Dollah, who lives in a three-room flat with his wife, said he may also look for odd jobs to supplement his monthly $500 pension payment. The couple have a 24-year-old son who works as a mechanic and does not earn much, said Uncle Dollah.

But he is not letting his financial future worry him.

Instead, with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes, he added: "I can use the vouchers for my daily necessities...I have no complaints. I am healthy and happy and that is what's most important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'A fond farewell to a 'school icon''. Print Edition | Subscribe