Qiaonan and Griffiths merging to form Angsana Primary School

From ‘Griffiths and Qiaonan alumni upset over new name for merged school – Angsana Primary’, 23 Nov 2014, article by Pearl Lee and Ho Ai Li, ST

What’s in a name? Plenty of history and memories, say former staff and pupils of Griffiths Primary School and Qiaonan Primary. They are upset that the two pioneer schools, which together have been around for 145 years, will be merged to form Angsana Primary School – a name with little connection to its predecessors.

“Why Angsana? Why not something like Griffiths-Qiaonan?” asked 86-year-old Eunice Tan Khe Tong, a retired principal, who was there for Griffiths Primary School at its start, and its end.

…Primary 6 pupil Lim Jiexin, who was Qiaonan’s vice-head prefect this year, shook her head when asked what she thought of Angsana, which will occupy the Griffiths building. “Why do they have to use that? They should choose a better name.”

The name ‘Angsana’ is the brainchild of MOE’s Schools Naming Committee, and speaks nothing of either school’s history. Inspired by none other than the Starbucks of roadside Trees, the new merged school joins the ranks of Casuarina Primary School (no relation whatsoever), though the latter sounds more like an actual institution for learning than a spa resort or a mid-range condo. The SNC probably ran out of ideas since ‘Changkat’ (where Qiaonan is currently located) and ‘Tampines’ are already taken. This lack of creative naming is apparent when you have primary/secondary schools named Bedok View, Bedok Green and Bedok South within the same constituency. Some schools make extra effort to remind us of their roots, such as the FIRST TOA PAYOH Primary School (It’s actually in Potong Pasir).

If you can’t give an ‘insipid’ name ‘devoid of character’ to reflect the vicinity of the school, why not that of a common tree then? With Singapore’s birth rate likely to decline further, we may see more schools closing, merging and given other tree names such as ‘Yellow Flame Primary‘, or ‘Saga Primary’. If not an actual tree, then something related to the Garden City theme, like ‘Woodgrove’, ‘Fernvale’ or ‘Orchid Park’. It seems that the first thing that comes to mind when naming new schools is something leafy, green or flowery, not whether the final selection ‘resonates’ with the students or the alumni. That would take some, well, imagination.

It’s not the first time that current and former students have protested against schools merging or changing names, citing the severing of a vital link to history as the main reason. Here’s a rundown:

1) 1976 – Stamford Girls’ School to San Shan Integrated School (which later merged to form First Toa Payoh Primary School)

2)2001 – Swiss Cottage + Moulmein Primary to Balestier Hill. The geocities petition website still exists. Meanwhile the ‘Swiss Cottage’ brand lives on in its secondary school. I don’t even know what a Swiss cottage looks like.

3) 2005 – St Michaels to SJI Junior. The reason for this renaming was not so much poor enrollment, as it was to ‘thicken blood ties’ within the Lasallian religious order.

4) 2005 – Thomson Secondary to North Vista (in Sengkang). Thomson was supposedly the name of a colonial architect. A Vista is what you call a HDB estate that’s not a ‘Green’ or a ‘View’.

All these complaints fell on deaf ears, naturally. It’s interesting how we place so much sentimental value on old schools and their names, more so than the history of other buildings or amenities which tend to hold a less special place within our hearts, such as temples, swimming pools, libraries or mum-and-pop coffee shops. Part of the reason, I believe, is because our primary schools are where most of us made our first best friends, got into our first fights, experienced the terror, and joys, of puberty, and of course, where we had the damned mother of all exams, the PSLE.

I’m proud to say that my own primary school, Mayflower Primary (an AWESOME name too, I must add) still exists. The fact that I remember the first line of my school song is the strongest indicator of how its history and memories ‘resonate’ with me after all these years. I can only wonder what’s going to happen to the school songs of Qiaonan and Griffiths. Any school song with the lyric ‘Angsana’ in it just sounds terrible and I wonder why the SNC didn’t even consider that in their name selection. You can’t pair it to rhyme with anything other than ‘Banana’.

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One Response

  1. i think this 16-year-old straits times article proves instructive:

    ‘What is needed is not a clinging to historic names but someone to trace their history and evolution, and explain the changes in the context of the social and political developments that they mark. For example, what we know as Fort Canning Park, was once a real fort, called Fort Canning and named after the first viceroy of India.

    Before Stamford Raffles annexed Singapore for the British, it was known as Bukit Larangan, or Forbidden Hill, the home and burial grounds of ancient Malay kings. Who knows what it was called before that?

    Now, if Singaporean leaders of the 21st century should change the hill’s name to Lee Kuan Yew Park, to honour the man who led the country to independence, would it rob Fort Canning of its history?

    Of course not. A place’s current name is like an onion skin. Peel it away and another name, another story lies below.’

    read the full article here: http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/neatstuff/tanss/sstekka.html

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