During my Raffles Institution (RI) teaching days, I had the privilege to have many Malay boys as my students. Many came from poor homes although they were bright, intelligent and very polite. Many of them loved to play soccer but after each game, were too poor to buy drinks to quench their thirst. I helped them out in small ways by forking out part of my meagre salary to buy bottles of syrup drinks so they could mix with tap water to drink. I took many photographs with them during those RI days. Most of them were very good looking and talented in soccer, music and art.
I was extremely delighted when one of the boys, now a pilot with SIA invited me to one of his daughters’ wedding. Many of my ex-RI Malay students were invited too. I had a great time with them but it took me a while to recognize some of them. I was so proud of what they are today. Among them are senior government officials, diplomats, pilots, heads of organizations and other professionals. They have proven that race is never a part or component of one’s success.
They are the evidence of a responsible minority group of Singaporeans who have succeeded and contributed to our nation. One of the feedback from them included their unhappiness over being ‘passed over’ for Officer Cadets’ courses when they were called up for national service. Most of them possessed the necessary physique, academic and moral qualities to be selected for the Officer Cadets’ course but ended up being clerks, storekeepers or performing other unimportant administrative tasks in the army. What a shame and a waste of talent! This lack of trust by our current government must be changed and rectified for our minority races.
I am humbled by their remembrance and their respect for me. I am also extremely happy that many of them are in regular communication with me. Being a teacher has its rewards!
*Article was written by David Tan and first appeared on http://singfirst.org/2014/11/16/david-tan-our-malay-students-are-under-utilised-and-under-nurtured/