Pioneer deaf educator Peng Tsu Ying dies, aged 92

Mr Peng Tsu Ying is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Mr Peng Tsu Ying is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ THE SINGAPORE ASSOCIATION FOR THE DEAF

SINGAPORE - Pioneer educator Peng Tsu Ying, 92, who contributed to the deaf community in Singapore for decades, died on Wednesday (Oct 24).

The cause of death was heart failure due to old age, said teacher Dennis Tan, 52, who had regarded Mr Peng as a mentor.

Born in Shanghai, Mr Peng lost his hearing at around the age of five after a childhood illness.

He came to Singapore with his wife, who was also deaf, and established the Singapore Chinese Sign School for the Deaf in 1954, teaching Shanghainese Sign Language to deaf children.

In 1963, the school merged with the Oral School for the Deaf and became the Singapore School For The Deaf (SSD). Mr Peng was one of the principals.

The school, which was run by the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), closed last year after enrolment had dwindled in recent years.

A former principal of SSD, Madam Hanisnah Kasmuri, who is in her 50s, remembers Mr Peng as a firm but kind mentor.

She started as a teacher in the school at around 1985, thinking it would be a temporary job.

"But seeing his enthusiasm and love for sign language and people really rubbed off on me," said Madam Hanisnah, who stepped down after 22 years and owns a learning centre now.

"He gave me the encouragement and motivation to stay on despite the challenges. He was a fatherly figure and was never stingy with his praises and encouragement."

In a post on the SADeaf's Facebook page, its president, Mr Martin Marini, said Mr Peng spent 35 years of his life teaching, inspiring and mentoring generations of deaf students.

"Mr Peng's extraordinary leadership and immense contributions... are widely acknowledged as we mourn the loss of our founder and pioneer deaf educator," he wrote.

Mr Peng was also not one to let his disability stop him from taking part in motor club meets and Grand Prix races in the 1950s. He was often seen zipping down the tracks in open-top sports cars like his Lotus Super Seven.

In an interview in 1975 Mr Peng said he took part in motor sports to prove that "being deaf is no handicap in being skilful".

He inspired others in the deaf community to be confident, said Mr Tan who was a student at SSD and is now a teacher at Lighthouse School.

"He encouraged me to take part in sports against my hearing schoolmates," he said. "He won many trophies in his years of car racing... (He taught me that) deaf people can do anything- except hear."

Mr Peng is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, according to his obituary in The Straits Times.

A wake is being held at 33A Swiss Club Road until Saturday (Oct 27).