After half a decade, the four of us finally sat down and faced each other with probably a billion things to say. It has been 9 long years since I knew each of them. Sitting down now, I cannot help but imagined how much has changed since we all first got to know each other.
When I recieved my posting, my alma mater's name looked unfamiliar to me. When I checked it in the white book for secondary schools, I found my school name under the title " Remaining Schools". I assure you that if I was to walk into any MOE official's office now, they would tell me that "Remaining Schools" was an euphemism for "Rubbish Schools for students who cannot make it in PSLE". Well, I am a proud former student of this category.
I am not sure what they call schools like mine now but when I was 13, I had sleepless nights wondering what was installed for me in these "Remaining Schools". I dreamt of tattoo filled gangsters, carrying parangs in their school bags. I dreamt of teenage girls who are 14 and pregnant. I dreamt of bullies, drug abusers, smokers and ah lians. Furthermore, my mother's "words of advice" didn't help too. There was nothing but scoldings, screaming and foreboding for a life of crime and destitude. I thought my life was over then.
When I entered the school on the first day, I looked at everyone with a skeptical face. I was warned of tattoos, bags which looked like they contained knives, pockets which looked like they contained cigarette boxes and pinkies with long fingernails. What I saw were probably 30 other students who had the same quizzical look on their faces. There were no tattoos, no parangs and certainly no long fingernails as all of them were wondering how on earth they ended up in a school that they did not choose at all.
One of my friend asked me if I remembered the incident when our teacher asked the class which one of us chose this secondary school. None of us lifted up our hands except one. And he chose the school as his third choice. I soon realized that each and everyone in my class were actually friendly individuals who were victims of circumstance. We had our talents but we just did not perform during PSLE. Did this justify our place in the "Remaining Schools" segment?
As we talked and laughed, I realized how our graduating class of 2001 had evolved. Each and every indivudual had taken a different path and most of them are rather successful in their endeavours now. Little would I have imagined that sitting in my class would be potential air stewardess, policemen, mass comm grads and SAF sergeants. Of course, these achievements are nothing compared to the graduating class of 2001 from Raffles Instituition. They would probably have one in Imperial College, another in Harvard and a dozen others in Oxford. But I am proud. We have turned from a band of rag tags into a class of individuals who can contribute in today's society.
As I looked back into my life, I realised that school days are like shadows. The past memories of these days are constantly following you and have moulded you into the person that you are today. You may not want to recognize it anymore or you may want to chuck it away as a distant memory but these are thoughts and memories that would constantly come as flashbacks into your life. I have been lucky enough to have mixed around with former students who were from the "elite" schools and I have found all of them just like anyone else. Friendly and very typically Singaporean. None of them that I have encountered so far have erected a barrier between a "Remaining School" student and " Independent School" student. In fact I have really good friends from "Independent School" elites as well.
Which leads me to wonder if really there is a need for this class system. Must this creation of "Independent School students are all so smart and brilliant that I think that they are foreign" thought be imbued into the minds of our young? I frankly felt that all Raffles and Hwa Chong kids were nerds with no other aim in life but to study. Now having friends from both these schools has lead me to believe that "Remaining School" students have every right and ability to match their supposedly more elite counterparts.
Indeed, it has been 5 years since I had left secondary school but I felt that I had no regrets. I had a fun filled life there with no pressure to score 6 points for O levels. I have made friends that would last me throughout my life but no , I did not meet any parang toting gangster which demanded my pocket money after school. We were all so young and naive then. How I wish I could turn back time.