It is easy to neglect the hands that toil tirelessly to keep our school compound clean. We see them all the time – at the carpark sweeping the fallen leaves, around the washrooms we frequent during the day, making sure the toilet rolls are replenished and ensuring the washrooms are spick and span. While it is a daily occurrence to see them around school, do we actually take the time to thank them for their work? How much do we actually know about our dear aunties and uncles who clean the school?
Therefore, we set out to find out more about a few of the underrated superheroes around our school and had some fruitful conversations with them!
#1 Uncle Toh
This is Uncle Toh. He’s 70 this year and possesses a sprightly and cheerful demeanour. In the early afternoon, we found him sweeping the leaves outside LT1 and the General Office. When asked whether he has children, he chuckled and answered in Mandarin that he’s still single. He has had a varied working experience. He was a helper at a market and a cleaner at Tampines Primary School prior to coming to VJC.
Conversing with him made us more aware of the privileges accorded to us. Uncle Toh dropped out of primary school and due to his lack of qualifications, he had no choice but to work as a cleaner.
His advice to us? “Study hard, be obedient and show filial piety”. These words of wisdom uttered so earnestly reflects the importance of our duties as students – to give our best in our academic pursuits because education is not always a given right. For some, it is a tantalising privilege that’s tormentingly out of reach, while for some seems like a chore that we constantly grumble about. This is a privilege. And it is one that we should indeed learn to treasure.
#2 Auntie Cheng
Bubbly, optimistic and free-spirited. These 3 adjectives describe Auntie Cheng Joo Hong aptly.
67 years in numerical age and younger than 30 in heart, she takes pride in her work and enjoys interacting with us. Greeting every student and members of the staff who walks past in high spirits, she can be spotted at the first floor of the T block.
She just joined VJC in December of 2016, so next time when you see her, do chat with her and make her feel more at home! What sparked our interest the most was how, despite some gripes that she has with her current job, she still manages to maintain a positive and cheerful persona, seeking joy in even the simplest things. True to her nature, her well- thought-out advice to us is “开心就好，够吃就好”. In English, that means that we should learn to be content with and appreciate the simplest things in life. She didn’t have the privilege of receiving much education, hence making her tireless efforts to allow us to study in a clean and conducive environment even more touching! To live without grudges and to live with gratitude. That is something that Auntie Cheng embodies and that’s something that we should all strive for!
#3 Uncle Lim
Next up, Uncle Lim. Unlike Uncle Toh and Auntie Cheng, Uncle Lim appeared to be more soft-spoken and reserved, but still wore a smile as we spoke to him.
Similar to the rest, he enjoys the harmonious working environment in VJ and wouldn’t mind staying in this job. When asked about his health, he proudly exclaims that he is healthy! It was indeed a relief to hear that he is ageing gracefully. At a ripe age of 69, he strongly believes that one should always be content with what we have and a simple life is all we need. He also humbly advised us, as students, to study hard but also not to neglect health and happiness. This simple piece of advice came as a timely reminder. After working so incredibly hard this entire year with the aim of achieving stellar academic results, it is time we take a break to unwind and recharge the ongoing holidays.
Through our interviews with our Auntie and Uncles, we could see the importance of studying hard and doing our best in academics. Our unspoken heroes have provided us with sound advice, expounding on the importance of being content yet ambitious in life. Paradoxical as it is, it still reveals often repeated truisms that we might have forgotten along the way: the value of hard work, recognizing privileges, earning to derive happiness from the simplest of things. To us, they may be cleaners, the ones ensuring the cleanliness in our school. However, dig deeper and you will be amazed at the wonderful tapestry of their life stories, and how much they can offer. They may be cleaners, but they are also doting parents, caring siblings, eloquent storytellers, compassionate grandparents, and most importantly, precious members of our school community! Just as we would like to be encouraged, let us encourage them with a little smile and a courteous ‘thank you’ to light up their days. Remember the food for thought and do try to put words into action when school reopens!
Karissa Chong. 17A14
Isabel Joy Kua Hui Qi, 17A14
Ong Yong En, 17A14
Fang Chih Yuan Valerie, 17A13