Nov 22, 2009

When Joo Koon is not a Station but a School

Pioneer Station - To Joo Koon

I'm not yet 30 but is perilously close to behaving like one at 60. When you start blogging about cinemas and schools you have not attended like this and this, check that you are just feeling nostalgic curious about heritage and this is not a sign of premature ageing.

The other day I was at Yuhua Primary when I saw this (thanks to my current project, I get an excuse to visit MOE schools). I was out at the corridor for fresh air when I chanced to look down and saw this ancient gateway arch at the edge of their basketball court. Amused by this anachronistic setup, I told Ah Tiong, "let me take a photo before we leave".

Joo Hwa Gateway Arch at Yuhua Primary

My initial feeling was one of déjà vu. At the top of the gateway, the year 1955 is displayed prominently. Where is Singapore's most famous 1955 gateway arch located? Nowhere but in Jurong (check out photo by Chun See of the Nantah Arch replica at Yunnan Garden).

So the gateway reminded us that Yuhua Primary was once Joo Hwa Public School (公立裕华学校). The bit of heritage would have ended here if I missed their Heritage Corner outside the General Office.

Yuhua Primary Heritage Corner

Interestingly the current Yuhua Primary was formed from the amalgamation of two schools - Joo Hwa Public School and Joo Koon Public School. I guess an analogy can be made here, that of the National University of Singapore which was formed from merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University in 1980. Guess who will cry foul?

Some history, from their humble beginning to glorious age:

1930 - Joo Hwa Public School built with financial help and support of community leaders, businessmen and residents in old Jurong. Initial enrolment was 100. Aim then was to provide primary education using Chinese Language as the medium of instruction for children of farming community living in and around old Jurong Road.

1930s - Joo Koon Public School founded by residents of Tuas Village at 17 1/2ms Jurong Road with initial enrolment of 14 pupils.

1942 - Both schools ceased to function due to World War II.

1945 - Joo Hwa reopened. Demand for places so overwhelming that a branch school had to be set up at Old Day Road. Joo Koon rebuilt.

1951 - Joo Hwa went through major renovation and expanded its facilities.

1950s - Joo Koon became government-aided school, building extended to cater to increased pupil population of 2000.

(17 1/2ms Jurong Road should be just after the entrance to old SAFTI and before Tuas Village, based on my estimation. 14 1/2ms would be the road leading to Nantah campus. I'm trying to figure out exactly where the Nantah Arch was originally located.)

Incidentally, the school name tells us that before the development of Jurong Industrial Estate and certainly before the MRT line was extended to Joo Koon, the area was already known by the name. Which leads us to wonder what's the relationship between Joo Koon and Jurong (read Joo-rong), one dialect one semi-Malay (Jurong was probably derived from the Malay jerung, which means a shark). In Chinese, they share a common first character - 裕群 (Joo Koon) v.s. 裕廊 (Jurong).

In the 1980s we see the effect of 'speak mandarin campaign' on both schools. Their dialect names were axed:

1981 - Joo Hwa Public School renamed Joo Hwa Primary School.

1983 - Joo Hwa shifted to its present location in Jurong East Street 24 and assumed the name Yuhua Primary School.

1984 - Joo Koon Public School was rebuilt (closed since 1976 due to redevelopment plans for Jurong Industrial Estate) and renamed Yuqun Primary School.

Both schools probably did not have an illustrious history or the clout for the dialect name to be preserved. Think Hokkien Huay Kuan or Ngee Ann Kongsi and schools like Kong Hwa, Nan Chiau, Tao Nan etc.

In any case, both schools suffered from falling enrolment, the reason for merger:

2002 - Yuqun Primary and Yuhua Primary merged to form the new Yuhua Primary.

Today little traces of Joo Hwa/Joo Koon remain. We see the school crest (above) is modern, the uniform is modern, even the school name is no longer in dialect. The ancient gateway arch might not even be original. However if you look closer at the artefacts in the Heritage Corner, you see what appears to be a tambourine with the old Chinese characters for Joo Hwa inscribed underneath.


Icemoon said...

Haha, rest assured I know where is the Nantah Arch. If we take cab to our reservist camp, the car enters Jurong West at Yunnan Garden estate.

I think I made a mistake. I thought the Arch was originally located closer to NTU, then they shifted it further out for development of housing estate/PIE. It looks like the current arch is at the original location.

Icemoon said...

I discovered a bug in blogger and deleted Chun See's comment by mistake. Here is what he said:

Thanks for this well-researched and very informative story. All that discussion of locations along Upp Jurong Rd brings back fond memories for me of my time at Safti when I had travelled this stretch of road many times. Unfortunately, I cannot recall these schools. As you probably know, we army boys are always sleeping in buses ..... unless of course there are pretty lasses around. LOL.

I am disappointed that you say you do not know where is the present location of the Nantah Arch. Didn't you read my article here. Or perhaps its a case of premature ageing.

Icemoon said...

The comment count is wrong, by the way. This is the bug.