Founding Tampines JC principal and Malay community leader dies, aged 76

SINGAPORE - Mr Yahya Mohammad Aljaru, 76, a leader in education and in the Muslim community, died on Tuesday morning (Oct 24).

Known as Cikgu Yahya ("cikgu" is Malay for "teacher"), he was the founding principal of Tampines Junior College (TPJC) from 1986 to 1992. He also served in various roles at the Ministry of Education, including as deputy director and chairman of the Compulsory Education Board.

Ms Pamela Yoong, principal of TPJC, told The Straits Times via e-mail that Mr Yahya's death was "very sudden though we have been receiving news that he was unwell and we were still hopeful that he would be able to make it for the various homecoming events we have planned".

In fact, he would have been the special guest for a homecoming event on Saturday that was planned by students of the school's first decade, 1986 to 1996.

Mr Yahya also sat on the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) Council from 2004 to 2007, and was part of the school management committee of Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah from 2005 to 2007.

In a statement on Tuesday, Muis said it was saddened by Mr Yahya's death and expressed its condolences to his family.

"The community has lost a strong leader who sought tirelessly to uplift the community. His significant contributions to the community not only created a deep impact on the lives of Singaporean Muslims but also served as an example for our community leaders of today," it said.

During his tenure with the Muis Council, he contributed to its education sub-committee and Haj committee.

Before that, from 1995 to 2003, he was president of the Muslimin Trust Fund Association, which serves the underprivileged Muslim community.

For his contributions in the community, Mr Yahya was conferred the Jasa Bakti Award, given by Muis, in 2003 and the Public Service Star Award this year.

Ms Yoong said that three years ago, Mr Yahya called her when she received her posting to head TPJC. "He called to congratulate me, encouraging me that he was confident I would be able to do a good job as principal."

She said: "While he was already much weakened physically then, he made it a point to attend our College Day for those two years, missing only this year when he really could not walk."

She added: "TPJC is deeply saddened to have lost our most respected founding principal."