After studying in Victoria Junior College, Mr Seet Kok Wah went on to the College of Physical Education in NIE, receiving a diploma, eventually teaching at the place at which he was once a student.
Mr Seet, now our discipline master, has served the college for over 30 years, and his contributions to the school are tremendous. Let’s find out what he did during the early years of the college!
In the past, fences were not in place and security guards were non-existent. The duty of closing and opening the school was left to the school cleaners and attendants. This was because there weren’t any pressing fears about the lack of security in Singaporean schools in the past. Even MOE guidelines did not necessitate the need for security measures. Without MOE funds, schools did not have proper security systems in place.
The 9/11 incident was a wake up call for Singapore. Areas where many people congregated could be targeted by terrorists to achieve their goals. Fearing such incidents, security was greatly improved.
Before security guards were hired for VJC, the PE teachers were the first and only line of defence for the school. They could be activated easily, unlike other teachers who might be busy in lectures or tutorials. Their physical fitness allowed them to apprehend any crooks who had the temerity to transgress the Law.
But of course, the lack of security guards meant that VJC was a prime target to all sorts of crimes and crooks. This led to a whole laundry list of incidents, which albeit dangerous and detrimental to the victims, allowed the PE teachers to exhibit their bravery and heroism.
Perverts were the most common criminals in the past. The most notorious was an avid “photographer” who regularly used his phone to take photos of female students, intruding on their privacy (you may remember this as it was featured once during a hall briefing by Mr Seet). Although he had been caught on a number of occasions, his actions were deemed too minor for charges to be pressed. In order to deter his advances, teachers resorted to chasing him away whenever he approached VJC.
Of course, VJC was not the only school he targeted. A whole host of schools, most commonly girls’ schools, were victims of his advances. To bolster the security of these schools, Mr Seet liaised with their security personnel, thwarting many of his advances.
Perverts also included peeping-toms. The toilet near the Indoor Sports Hall was a hotspot for them. That was actually the reason why two exits to the toilets were built — so that students would not be trapped should such an incident occur. There was once a peeping tom who was chased by the teachers, but managed to vault over the tennis court fence.
“Quite an athletic feat!” joked Mr Seet.
Thieves — There were daylight robbers, who would walk into school, take bags outside the library or on the grandstand, and leave inconspicuously. If their presence was ever noticed by students, teachers were alerted, and would even chase down the offenders.
There once was a thief who had the audacity to sit down to watch a game of football being played in our school field after committing his act of theft, leading to his capture shortly afterwards. Mr Seet chuckled as he remembered the incident. “What was he thinking?” he commented.
There was also one who had just been released from prison, and, like clockwork, he went back to stealing — this time from our school library. Incognisant of our “security guards”, he probably thought our school was easy prey. He was quickly apprehended and handed over to authorities.
Molesters and flashers were much rarer throughout our college history, but some incidents still occurred. One such incident was when a man sneaked into a girls’ washroom and pinned the girl down. As she screamed for help, she caught the attention of Mr Tan Yew Hwee. He came bolting into the washroom, tackled him, and pinned him down with his foot. The police later arrived to arrest the criminal.
A rather interesting case was when a flasher appeared at the toilets at the back of the hall. At the time, the hockey boys were having their training, and upon witnessing the act, they chased after him, flailing their hockey sticks around in the air like African tribesmen. The hunt was on. Along with Mr Tan, they pursued him all the way to Neptune Court, directly opposite of our school. Unfortunately, the flasher managed to steal a bike along the way and absconded out of their reach.
3. Looking to the Past
When asked whether he prefered the means of security in the past, his answer was a definite no.
“Nowadays, VJC is much safer. There aren’t as many victims as before, and that is definitely a good thing.”
However, when probed further, he did admit that he liked how exciting it was back then.
“We were young, we were fearless,” he said, with a glint of pride in his eyes.
There was a sense of pride the PE teachers had in defending the school, which I think we can liken to a soldier’s patriotism. But of course, knowing how badly victims would have been affected, he was firm that the current safety protocols were the best for the school. Still, the thrilling events experienced in yesteryears, for good or ill, are something our generation will not experience. At least, the stories of heroism and gallantry live on in the hearts of PE teachers.
And this article.
And hopefully, now in you!
Shermen Ang Min Rui, 15S53
Kwek Zhan Hao, 15S49