Friday, 2 August 2013

The Nantah Spirit “南洋大学”


A Valedictorian from NTU has caused some heated debate online following some remarks he made about Chinese Majors.

Darren Woo Hon Fai, a sociology major and valedictorian, spoke about honouring your parents during his speech. He also remarked "And this is for the Chinese majors who probably have not gotten anything I have just said in English" before quoting a Chinese proverb in Mandarin, "Hope for sons to be dragons, daughters to be phoenixes"

Some members of the crowd showed their displeasure at the remark with a soft booing coming from some parts of the auditorium. Mr Woo went on to say "I can speak Mandarin too"

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NTU valedictorian gets flak for remark on Chinese majors

Darren Woo Hon Fai, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) valedictorian who made headlines on Monday for his controversial speech, has posted an apology on his Facebook wall.

In his apology, he admits that his joke albeit unintentional, offended the audience.

Here is his apology in full: "Upon reflecting on my words and speech on stage, I post and bare here the result of those reflections.

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How to give a valedictorian speech (and avoid getting slammed on Youtube)

Not again– another valedictorian has bombed The Speech. What is it about graduation ceremonies that turn the smartest people in the room into clueless speakers? Here at Breakfast Network, two writers give their top tips on how to write– and deliver– the near-perfect (because there’s no such thing as perfect) valedictorian speech.

So a few days ago, a valedictory speech made at an NTU graduation ceremony made headlines – especially online – and its video went viral. It’s not the first time in recent history that this happened. A few years ago, another NTU valedictorian stole the spotlight by ending off her speech with an exclamatory profanity. Talk about going out with a bang.

As distinguished an honour as it may be, making a valedictory speech also sounds like it can be an extraordinarily daunting task. Think about it; there could be several knots to tie and numerous bases to cover.

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Disasters At The Mike

Obama's theme of change was invoked by at least two speakers recently. The first was in a sermon that alluded to an apology from a higher authority:

"My son, Kong, thank you, thank you for going through this. I need you to go through this alone, so that you and CHC can be the man and the ministry I called it to be. I'm so sorry, but you need to go through this by yourself, to bring a change to your generation."

We have a guy who also claimed to be able to rise from the dead ("Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up." - 1988 National Day rally), but you'll never hear him utter the "s" word. At best, as when he recanted asking a minority group to be "less strict" with their religion, he would concede a "I stand corrected".

The other speaker who mentioned Obama in passing was this year’s valedictorian of Nanyang Technological University's (NTU's) School of Humanities and Social Science who simply could not resist cocking a snook at the linguistic skills of the Chinese nationals at his campus, “This (something about honouring parents, not peers) is especially so  for the Chinese majors who probably have not gotten what I just said in English.” His speech was vetted by NTU, but he could sneak in the insult because, as he put it, "Guess who's at the mike?" A valedictorian is supposed to be the highest ranking among his or her graduating class, not dog pile. 

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LKY should have let Nantah died a natural death

Pro-Nantah groups decry that Lee Kuan Yew's move to shut down Nantah was political. I agree. Others say that if Lee Kuan Yew had not shut down Nantah, it would have died a natural death. I agree too.

But history has it that Lee Kuan Yew shut down Nantah, and that gave pro-Nantahans the excuse to blow their horn that they were a formidable force to be reckoned with. That I don't agree.

Nantah was an elitist, sectarian, race-based society that would have divided Singapore if it had succeeded to dominate the Singapore Education System. But due to the fact that many preferred English stream education and employers sought after English streamed graduates, Nantah would have died a natural death by the late 1980s anyway

The Nantah legacy that Tan Lark Sye left behind

The late rubber tycoon Tan Lark Sye, better known as the founder of the former Nanyang University (Nantah), was arguably Singapore's most prominent Chinese community leader in the last century.

That, despite being stripped of Singapore citizenship by the Government soon after the 1963 elections for allegedly playing "stooge to the communists and (attempting to) jeopardise the peace and prosperity of Singapore" by backing about a dozen Nantah graduates who stood as left-wing Barisan Sosialis candidates against the ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

The long-time president of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, who gave generously to charitable and educational causes throughout his life, then stepped down from the university's leadership and remained stateless until his death in 1972, aged 75

Nantah spirit still going strong after 55 years

The former Chinese-language Nanyang University (Nantah) lasted only 25 years before it merged with the then University of Singapore to become the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1980

Two Saturdays ago, when about 900 members of the Association of Nantah Graduates and their families and friends came together to celebrate the 55th anniversary of their alma mater's founding over dinner at the convention centre in Suntec City, the university had already ceased operation for 30 years.

This is five years longer than the university's life-span, cut short due to changes in government policies which resulted in its falling enrolment

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Nantah as she was 37 Years Ago

Nantah then and now (01)
Nantah then and now (02)
Nantah then and now (03)
Nantah then and now (04)
Nantah then and now (05)
Nantah then and now (06)
Nantah then and now (07)
Nantah then and now (08)
Nantah then and now (09)
Nantah then and now (10)

Last Monday, I fetched my daughter to NTU (Nanyang Technological University) where she is doing her 2nd year in Biological Sciences course. It was actually a public holiday, the previous Saturday being Hari Raya Puasa. I decided to pay a visit to the Nantah Lake to see if it was still the same

Looking at the two photos below, you would agree that this is one of the few spots in our tiny island that has been untouched by time. In fact, Nantah itself had undergone two name changes; first to Nanyang Technological Institute and later Nanyang Technological University

In comparison, the surrounding area has undergone tremendous changes. The road that once led from the Nantah Arch at Upper Jurong Road has disappeared. The kampong-like environment has been replaced by high-rise HDB apartment blocks. A new highway has even emerged right in front separating the NTU campus from its previous entrance. And a replica of the famed Nantah Arch has been constructed in the Yunnan Garden

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Jurong West Nantah Arch

There are two Nanyang University (or Nantah) Archs in Singapore, one original and one replica. The original one stands at present-day Jurong West Ave 93, while the replica arch is located inside the Yunnan Garden of Nanyang Technological University.

In the old days, the cars and buses would pass through the original arch from the Old Upper Jurong Road to Nanyang University. The arch was never shifted, but the landscape around it had changed greatly.

The four big characters “南洋大学” (Nanyang University) on the original arch was written by cursive script calligraphy expert Yu Youren (于右任, 1879-1964). The year 1955 represented the year when the pre-university classes were started for students to prepare for their entry to the new university. A year later in March 1956, the first batch of 584 students was admitted to Science, Commerce and Arts faculties. 

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