Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A tribute to Miss Heng - the SCGS Principal forever

Young girls cowered at the sight of her, pranksters knew better than to set off stink bombs in her class and a former Defence Minister once declared she had the better army.

In a black and white photo, Miss Rosaling Heng looks formidable in army uniform, beret and boots.

As a teacher in charge of the National Cadet Corps at the Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS), she came in for praise when the late Defence Minister Lim Kim San inspected a drill put up by her girls in 1969.

He told then principal S.K. Tan: "You got a better army than I!"

Miss Heng had joined the school that year after graduating from the then University of Singapore. She became principal in 1979 when she was 34, stayed 38 years, devoting her entire career to the school.

"She was very hardworking but rather loud," a retired SCGS teacher, Mrs C.O. Lee, 64, recalled with a laugh. (Wan Xin side note: Mrs. CO Lee was my Sec 2 Geog and Art teacher. She is so cute! Criticised everything from Singapore to Malaysia. From students to teachers. She once threatened to flush me down the toilet bowl when I forgot to hand in my art work. And with a signature laughter that I can still remember till now. Dear Mrs Lee, you aren't too far off from Miss Heng's loudness.)

"When she scolds, the whole school knows!"

The towering headmistress with a weakness for floral-print dresses became synonymous with SCGS, which was founded in 1899 as a school for seven Straits Chinese girls. It has about 2,200 students now.

Today, she is stepping down...

To Miss Sie Siok Hui, 45, a former SCGS teacher, Miss Heng's retirement marks the end of an era.

...(paragraphs cut)...

SCGS produced nine President's Scholars, gained independent status for its secondary school in 1989 and moved from Emerald Hill to its Dunearn Road location in 1994. It has also won many fitness, dance and value-added awards.

In the 2006 school achievement table for secondary schools, the school was ranked in the top band with five other schools.

But Miss Heng's legacy goes beyond facts and figures.

As she has said before: "What I want for girls when they leave school is that they have confidence in themselves, that they are emotionally happy that they've had a happy school life."(Wan Xin's side note: Thanks Miss Heng. Although my sec sch life wasn't that worth remembering as compared to my sec sch hostel life, I will always remember you fondly greeting us everytime you walk pass us, or scolding us if we were doing something deemed illegal)

More than anuthing, students and staff said she stands for integrity.

Nothing infuriated her more than parents who thought they could get their daughters into the popular school by offering a hefty donation or trying to impress with their connections. (Wan Xin's side note: That's true. SC always had students with real good connections. Like first president's grand/great-granddaughter, Jean Yip's daughter, Far East's daughter..)

School registrar Julie Lee, 52, (Wan Xin's side note: Mrs Julie Lee was my guardian during my time in SC. She's so rich that she and her maternal families have houses situated in an avenue named with their own surname. She's quite nice. Could still remember my name end of last yr when I went back for Ms Heng's retirement ceremony) said: "I tell them no, but some insist on seeing the principal.

"So I say, 'Sure, but let me do you a favour. Please do not mention anything about donating or drop any names. It's sure to throw you to the back fo the line'."

Despite competition from other top-ranked schools for bright students, Miss Heng decided against introducing the Gifted Education Programme or starting an integrated programme to bypass the O-Level examinations.

There was pressure from old girls and parents for the school to have these programmes, but Miss Heng insisted that she did not want to cause divisions among her girls. (Wan Xin's side note: I really like the way the school calls us as girls. Makes me feel that I am well-protected in here)

...paragraphs cut...

The school emphasises character development and good values and aims to produce "kim geks" - (Wan Xin's side note: kim is gold and gek is jade in Hokkien) a Peranakan-Hokkien metaphor for women who are treasures because they embody the virtues of filial piety, gentility, kindness, propriety and diligence.

...paragraphs cut...

On a lighter note, Miss Heng's reputation of being fearsome is such that some swear she has eyes in the back of her head.

...paragraph cut...

The firls had planned to ambush her with a stink bomb in class. Miss Heng turned up, wrote a few history questions on the blackboard and said, without turning her head:

"I think I have a cold. Could you close the windows?"

After the windows were shut tight, she said: "Okay, girls. Do the questions, and I'll be back."

She left, slammed the classroom door shut and left the pranksters with a lesson to remember.


This was a news article adopted from The Straits Times on 28th December. What's more can I say? Miss Heng, a true legend of SCGS. Thanks for all the memories given. I really treasure it. :)


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