September 13, 2006

first secondary school....

one year on, e cat has been up to e tips of its ears & whiskers in work again:

& it has somehow survived yet another PhD supervisory committee meeting =) *PHEW*

while preparing for it, LTS' blog posts on 'prada school' made e cat think about e first secondary school it attended. & e upcoming committee meeting made e cat reflect yet again on how it ended up doing e kinda work that it is now doing.

e first ever secondary school e cat went to was a neighbourhood school in Changi. not that there was much of a 'neighbourhood' to speak of. it was surrounded by mostly jungle, including an area beyond e basketball courts that would be cleared to build Simei New Town in e early '80s. facing e school gate was a patch of lallang as tall as e adults, beyond which was forest. students came from e surrounding kampungs (some with addresses that referred to kilometre markers e.g. 'Km. 7, ABC Road' or track no.s e.g. 'ABC Road Track. 10'), Pulau Ubin (graduates of Bin Kiang School) & even Pulau Tekong. is there anyone who still takes a boat to school in Singapore now?

e cat attended this secondary school from e time it was a toddler, until it was about 9, before it switched to another secondary school surrounded by cemeteries & a crematorium & with funeral processions passing by e main gate a few times per day. e school had e standard layout identical to all secondary schools built in '70s, with a large grassy quadrangle surrounded on 3 sides by classrooms, & e school hall + canteen block taking up e remaining side. e staff room & principal's office were on e second floor.

in this school, e cat would be handed a broom, & it would spend afternoons crawling under each & every desk in e dusty staffroom to clear away cobwebs & watch spiders skitter away. it was allowed to wander around & explore as it pleased, as long it didn't fall into any of e deeper longkangs that it couldn't climb/jump out of on its own. e school hall was a most interesting place. there would be Chinese dance lessons where e girls wore obiang-looking shoes, students queueing up to go onstage for public caning during weekly assemblies, & speeches in English, Mandarin, Bahasa, Hokkien & Teochew during meet-e-parents sessions. once, almost all students were involved in some NDP performance, & by e time everyone got back to e school after it was all over, it was too late for most to go home. so everyone including e teachers spent e night sleeping on e floor of e school hall.

e library was another special place, as it had air con! just like e principal & vice-principal's offices =) when e cat was older, it was allowed to take e library key from e office to get in & spend hours blowing away worms & dust & squashing silverfish while reading. another favourite place was e obstacle course - e cat's first secondary school ECA was Scouts, & during e school holidays they would build all sorts of fun things on e obstacle course with thick ropes & wooden planks that e cat so loved to climb =P

there were also a few special classrooms that had sinks in them. e preschooler cat knew that it was not supposed to enter them, so it would open e door & stand at e entrance, looking in at e sinks....sinks in a classroom! not like any other classroom e cat had ever been in before. weren't they only found in canteens & toilets? e cat was told that those special classrooms with sinks were for 'Signs' classes. & so e little cat made up its 4-year-old mind to study 'Signs', whatever on earth that was, when it was old enough, so that it could be in a classroom with sinks & taps =))

even more special than those few classrooms with sinks was this really huge classroom that didn't have e usual kinda desks & chairs, but long tables, a lot of wood & plenty of interesting & useful tools like those e cat's dad had at home. e cat was familiar with some of e tools, as it had been taught things like how to use different types of saws for sawing wood or PVC pipes & how to help its dad change drill bits. & this classroom had machines, like e machine saw with a round spinning blade that would save many a sore arm. & unlike e normal classrooms with plain doors, this special classroom had a padlocked metal grille gate over e entrance, so it had to be a really really special place. & it was also where e cat first saw guys wearing aprons, even though there was *sniff* no food to be found! =P so apart from 'Signs', e little cat also aspired to do Technical Studies so that it could be in special classrooms with sinks & machines to play with =))

but when e cat finally entered secondary school as a student (rather than as cobweb terminator), it discovered to its horror that Technical Studies, now renamed Design & Technology (D&T), was a subject not open to girls, who had to do Home Econs instead. & it wasn't simply because e cat's secondary school was an all-girls (prada =P) one. even if it'd gone to a mixed school, it wouldn't be allowed to take D&T.

it was sorely envious of its kors, esp e one in Tanjong Katong Technical (see? his school even had 'Technical' in its name!!), & e special paper full of triangles that they used for technical drawings, & e completed projects that they brought home. e cat had to make do with boring squares in exercise books & 稿纸 (draft paper) for Chinese & boring lines for everything else. once when its kors were not looking, it stole a sheet of e 'triangles paper' to keep =P till this day e cat still keeps a plastic photo frame made by eldest kor for his very first D&T project, with his class & index no. written on it.

towards e end of sec 2, there was incredible news - e cat's secondary school was setting up a technical workshop with plans to let girls offer D&T! but it was too good to be true, & indeed by e time things got underway e cat was already in upper sec, & only e younger girls could take D&T as an O level subject. but still, e cat was pleased with how its school was being a pioneer in demolishing yet another barrier =) in time to come other schools would start to allow boys to do Home Econs (think St Gabriels' Sec?) & girls to do D&T.

when e cat was in sec 4, it made an amazing discovery about D&T - that guys from certain independent schools had never heard of it! were they guys? it all started with an encounter with a many-metal-buttons-uniform guy who asked to borrow a screwdriver but didn't know how to use it. a primary school mate who went to gryphon institution later confirmed that D&T was non-existent in those 2 schools, even at lower secondary level. someone commented that it was cos guys from these schools won't ever need to learn such things, for in future they will earn more than enough to hire others to do it for them =P

anyway, e cat's dream came true in e end. 20+ years later, it now goes to work in a place that has sinks (SIX!) & plenty of machines to play with & a lot a lot to do with 'Signs' =))

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