In the mid-sixties, shortly after Singapore’s independence, a new primary and secondary schools named Changkat Changi were built at Changi Road 10 milestone. Changkat Changi Secondary School, an integrated secondary school, cost a hefty $1.4 million in its construction, furniture and equipment. Well-equipped with 24 classrooms and laboratories, it offered three streams in English, Malay and Chinese to some 2,000 students a year from Changi, Tampines, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.
In 1988, Changkat Changi Primary School left its old campus and was relocated to Simei Street 3. It did, however, return for two years between 2002 and 2004 during the upgrading program of its school premises at Simei. Changkat Changi Secondary School, on the other hand, stayed at Jalan Tiga Ratus for 35 years until 2001 before it too moved to Simei Street 3. Since then, the premises have been left empty, except for a brief period of occupation by Junyuan Primary School in 2009.
With the kampong days at Changi Road 10 milestone gone, the only remnants that still remind its former residents of the old days are the former campuses of these two schools, which are still standing on the same small hill that has given rise to their names (Changkat means small hill in Malay).
Jalan Tiga Ratus used to be a long winding road that extended to where the Simei MRT Station exists today. That was also the location of Nong Min School, a humble rural school started by a group of merchants and farmers at a warehouse left behind by the Japanese after the war. It was closed in 1977, along with Min Zhong Public School at the old Somapah Road. Wan Tzu (Red Swastika) School, another school in the Somapah vicinity, was relocated to Bedok North in 1981.
The former Somapah Changi Village was where Tropicana Condominium is standing today, while Kampong Harvey and Gulega Village had disappeared decades ago. The expunged Lorong Gulega Kechil, Lorong Lodeh, Wing Loong Road and Jalan Somapah Timor were replaced by the current Singapore Expo, Changi North industrial estate and the new eastern campus of the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
When Simei was developed in the mid-eighties, neither Somapah nor Changkat was used as the name of the new town. It was a decision that baffled many, especially the non-Chinese ethnicity who were confused by the hanyu-pinyinised street names. Changkat did, politically, exist as a short-lived SMC (Single Member Constituency) between 1984 and 1988, represented by its only Member of Parliament Dr Aline Wong, before being split and absorbed into Changi and Tampines GRCs (Group Representation Constituencies).
There was even a Changkat Day, a carnival-like event held at Tampines Street 22 in September 1986. The grassroot organisations hoped to promote neighbourliness and a sense of identity among the residents of the new constituency, formed from part of Tampines and Bedok estates. Ironically, Changkat would “cease to exist” just two years later. There was also a Changkat Community Centre, first started in 1985 as a void deck office at Block 138 of Tampines Street 11. It was modelled, along with 11 other similar concepts at Fengshan, Hong Kah, Eunos and Yuhua, after the first void deck sub-community centre at Hougang Avenue 1. In 1992, it moved to its new standalone building, and was renamed as Tampines Changkat Community Centre.
Published: 14 May 2014