Singapore graduates – Unfeeling alumni? Think again.

There has been much buzz in the media after NUS placed an appeal for its alumni to donate and contribute to their alma mater.

Much of these discussions revolved around the reasons why many local graduates do not seem to identify themselves as stakeholders of their universities.

The million dollar question that frequently popped up was… Did our education system churned out a bunch of ungrateful graduates?

Coming from a local university myself, I followed this topic quite vividly.

While reading today’s TODAY, an article caught my eye. The headline screamed, “And the millions roll in… for SJI International’s aid kitty”. One of the points that jumped out at me from the article was that the SJI old boys had contributed 1 million dollars to the scholarship kitty.

Is this an act that “unfeeling students” would have done? I don’t think so.

And if we are not unfeeling, why then, did we not extend our generosity towards our universities?

I think it all boils down to one simple reason – Do we feel a sense of belonging to the school when we were receiving our education there?

Often, the most difficult and awkward stage of our lives tends to be the teenage years. It is this period when we were desperately trying to cultivate our own identity, to find out where we belong and to whom to pledge our “allegiance” to. Hence, very often, most of us would find that the most turbulent time of our lives largely occurred during our secondary school days.

Coincidentally, a large percentage of school-related disciplinary problems also arise from secondary schools. In the midst of searching for ourselves, we are often misled and trod along undesirable paths, wrecking havoc and mischief in school, at home or even in public.

Since a large portion of time is spent in schools, teachers naturally took on one of the most burdened roles – to become the shepherd guiding a flock of lost lambs. Facing stubborn and defiant students, they scolded, punished, cajoled, reasoned and tried ways and means to persuade wayward teenagers. They sacrificed their time, money, efforts and sometimes, even their tears.

Coming from a secondary school that possesses many less-than-desirable type of students, and mayhap being one myself, I have seen the worry-lines on my teachers’ faces. When I had refused to repent or bulge from my stand, I have witnessed their frustration and tears.

At these times, they think that they had failed in their guidance roles, in their job duty and most importantly, they think that they had failed us.

Undeniably, a small number of them gave up, citing us as lost causes. But there are those who persevered, trying again and again despite us slamming the door in their faces.

There was no fairy-tale ending. We did not suddenly become model students after their numerous attempts but sometimes, we can’t help but be touched by their efforts and in one small way or another, we attempted to improve and mend our ways bit by bit, a little at a time.

They had tried to reach out to us, to try to bridge the gap between a teacher and a student. The bond was made, the ties were gradually established.

I can’t say that all of us turned all goody-two shoes or became ace scholars but I can, most definitely, tell you that most of us remained accepted within the mainstream educational institutes and not in the girls’ home, with clean records no less.

Certainly, our families also played a part in the positive ways that we have turned out, but who can deny the important roles that our secondary school teachers/ principals have played in our lives as well?

As an adult looking back, I think that most of us will feel rather strongly for our secondary schools. Because they listened to us, because they showed us that they cared and simply because they made us feel that we were a part of the school.

Small wonder why most of us will want to pay our dues and contribute to our secondary schools in whatever ways possible now.

If the article isn’t enough to convince you, take a look around and count the number of ex-students spotting their secondary school car decals on their vehicles.

And this is why I will always remember my secondary school motto…and recall, with great fondness, of my school days back then.

*Please note that this entry is a personal account and does not attempt to portray all schools as above-mentioned.

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