Mt Kinabalu excluded from TKPS' leadership activities

School will continue annual programme in some other form that retains its spirit: Principal

The peak of Mount Kinabalu as seen from Keningau, Sabah, on April 24, 2013.
The peak of Mount Kinabalu as seen from Keningau, Sabah, on April 24, 2013. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) pupils will not be climbing Mount Kinabalu for their annual leadership programme next year, even though the programme will continue, said the school's principal yesterday.

For the past seven years, the school - to develop the leadership qualities of selected Primary 6 pupils - had organised annual expeditions to scale the mountain in Sabah. But this year's group encountered an earthquake while on the mountain, resulting in 10 fatalities.

In a statement yesterday, TKPS principal Caroline Wu described the programme, the Omega Challenge, as a "key leadership training programme" where student and co-curricular activity (CCA) leaders learn about leadership, courage, resilience and teamwork.

"Hence, we will continue with the Omega Challenge for 2016 for our student and CCA leaders, except that it would not be in the format of climbing Mount Kinabalu, but conducted in a way which retains the true spirit of the programme," she said. She did not say what the group would do next year.

This year's Omega Challenge saw 29 TKPS pupils going to Mount Kinabalu. A 6.0-magnitude quake struck the mountain and killed seven pupils and two teachers from the school, as well as a Singaporean guide.

Yesterday, 21 pupils who survived the disaster were presented the TKP Braveheart Award to recognise their courage, resilience and teamwork in the face of adversity. One pupil was absent. The seven pupils who died received the award posthumously. A representative collected it on their behalf.

Mrs Wu said the pupils "conducted themselves commendably, displayed their individual strengths and determination, and teamwork amongst themselves and their teachers".

One survivor who received an award yesterday was Primary 6 pupil Prajesh Dhimant Patel, 12, who suffered the most serious injuries among his schoolmates.

When he was brought back to Singapore from Sabah, he could not talk, walk or even sit up. He spent more than a month in KK Women's and Children's Hospital and went through a series of treatments, including occupational therapy and speech therapy, before being discharged in mid-July.

The Straits Times reported in September that several pupils and parents, including those whose children died in the quake, hope to scale Mount Kinabalu on the anniversary of the disaster on June 5 next year to achieve closure.

But Prajesh is not sure if he is up for it. "I'm not so sure yet... I'm a bit scared," he said. "I'm afraid, what if the same thing happens again?"

His mother, Mrs Kashmira Patel, 43, a pharmacist, said he was found unconscious and could not remember the quake. "The last few months after the earthquake, he had to go through quite a bit to get back to what he was, physically, mentally and emotionally," she added..

That, coupled with the PSLE, which ended last month, made for a difficult task, she said. "But he persevered and managed to do it."

Jayden Francis, 12, who was also on the trip, is afraid but also determined to make the trip to Mount Kinabalu next June. "I (am) scared that (the quake) might happen again and we might lose a few other people... But I want to pay my respects to my friends."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'Mt Kinabalu excluded from TKPS' leadership activities'. Subscribe