Teachers gave their best, says Heng
REMEMBER those who were lost and those who remain, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat called on the teaching community yesterday, the day of national remembrance in the wake of the Sabah earthquake.
"I ask that we, the MOE family, use this day to remember and honour the selflessness of our teachers, the spirit of our students, and the support of our community and friends," he said in an e-mail message to public servants in the Ministry of Education (MOE).
He said that all the teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) who were on the trip "gave their best to watch over our children, and they deserve our greatest respect and gratitude".
"Our students tell of their teachers shielding them from falling rocks, and continuing to look after them despite their own injuries. Let us remember and live up to their selflessness and courage."
Eight Singaporeans - six pupils and one teacher from TKPS, and an adventure guide who was with them on their trip to Kota Kinabalu - are among the 18 confirmed fatalities in the 6.0-magnitude quake which struck on Friday.
The six pupils are: Peony Wee Ying Ping, Ameer Ryyan Mohd Adeed Sanjay, Emilie Giovanna Ramu, Matahom Karyl Mitzi Higuit, Rachel Ho Yann Shiuan and Sonia Jhala.
The teacher is Loo Jian Liang Terrence Sebastian and the guide is Muhammad Daanish Amran.
Flags were flown at half-mast yesterday morning as Singapore mourned the quake victims.
A minute of silence was also observed at the beginning of the day at all SEA Games venues.
Many people posted messages of condolence online and changed their profile pictures on social media to a white rose on a black background or a black lion crest shedding tears.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also remembered the quake victims, posting on Facebook last evening a photo of the Istana with its flag at half-mast and citing a stanza from For The Fallen, a poem by English poet Laurence Binyon.
In his e-mail message, Mr Heng said that the pupils should be honoured for being "brave, rugged and tenacious", striving to be the best they could be and being excited about heading forward with their schoolmates.
Also to be remembered are those in Sabah who suffer the lasting effects of the earthquake, he said.
"The Malaysian authorities have been helpful and supportive. We keep them in our thoughts for the lives they have tragically lost."
He also hoped that the day of remembrance would spur the teaching community onwards.
"The selflessness of our teachers reminds us to give our best to our students. The spirit of our children inspires us to be teachers. The support of our community and friends helps us go on when we face difficulties," he said.
"I hope we remember these today and forever, so that we may live up to our fellow teachers, our students and our community. Let us keep up our strength and spirit in this time of grief. Let us stand together to support and care for our students, our community and one another."
The bodies of the victims were flown back on Sunday night on a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 aircraft.
Yesterday morning, Ameer and Mr Daanish were laid to rest. Their bodies were taken to the Ba'alwie Mosque off Lewis Road.
Prayers were held there before the bodies were taken to the cemetery for burial.
Many of those attending Ameer's funeral were wearing white football jerseys with "Ameer Ryan 7" printed on the back. The boy was a pupil at the F-17 Academy, a football academy started by footballer and coach Fandi Ahmad.
His coach, former national footballer Steven Tan, said on Facebook: "He was a good kid and I will miss him dearly."
A condolence site at Mr Daanish's alma mater, First Toa Payoh Secondary School, was also set up yesterday.
It will be open on Friday and Monday, between 9am and 6pm, for members of the public who wish to write tribute messages to him.
An 11-year-old pupil, who was receiving medical treatment at Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital, was flown back to Singapore yesterday. The hospital in Sabah said that the boy has serious head, chest and muscle injuries.
A statement from MOE said he will receive further medical treatment here.
One pupil, Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar, and a teacher, Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed, are still missing.
But poor weather conditions yesterday forced rescue workers to halt their search for them.
A police source said the operation had to be put on hold as a heavy fog shrouding the 4,095m-high peak would put the rescuers at risk, the New Straits Times reported.
The search would resume once the weather clears, the source added.
THE STRAITS TIMES