Dakota Crescent, with its unique Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats and the last dove playground in Singapore, has been in the headlines for the past two years, after news of its impending demolition lured many photographers and nostalgia lovers to visit the sleepy neighbourhood. Dakota Crescent, built in 1958 and currently made up of 14 SIT blocks, is due to be torn down in 2017.
But changes have already been occurring around Dakota Crescent. In mid-200s, 15 early SIT blocks of Dakota Crescent were bulldozed, replaced by new private condominiums Dakota Residences (completed in 2010) and Waterbank at Dakota (2013). And in March 2016, the former premises of Dakota Crescent’s two neighbourhood secondary schools Broadrick and Maju are in the midst of demolition.
Both Broadrick and Maju Secondary Schools were established beside each other along Dunman Road in 1968. Joseph Francis Conceicao, Katong’s then Member of Parliament (1968-1984), first officiated the opening of Broadrick Secondary School on 14 March 1969, and later Maju Secondary School on 6 June 1969.
The construction of both schools cost about $1.1 million each. By June 1969, a decade after Singapore gained full internal self-governance, the nation had established a total of 105 schools, demonstrating its strong emphasis in educating the younger generations. In the month of June 1969 alone, six new secondary schools – Maju, Mount Vernon, Sennett Road, Bukit Merah, Hwi Yoh and Chestnut Drive – were opened.
Maju Secondary School was also one of the earliest secondary schools to be built in accordance to a new design policy implemented by the Ministry of Education (MOE). In this new policy, schools would have large classrooms, demonstration rooms, science laboratories and domestic science rooms.
Also, secondary schools that were built in post-independence Singapore, including Broadrick and Maju, typically had four main buildings around a courtyard or assembly area. This architectural design would take up lesser space and have better school security. Broadrick Secondary School, in this instance, had the Teaching Block, Science Block, Assembly Hall and Gymnasium around its courtyard.
In 1977, the school premises of Maju Secondary School, along with Rangoon Road Primary School and National Junior College, were used as French centres, offering French as an optional third language for the local students in Singapore.
In the seventies and eighties, the MOE introduced French, Japanese and German as optional foreign languages in the school curriculum to build up a pool of local talents, proficient in different tongues, to service the commercial, industrial and diplomatic sectors. At the same period, the Economic Development Board (EDB) established the France-Singapore Institute (FSI), Japan-Singapore Institute (JSI) and German-Singapore Institute (GSI), which would later become part of the Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Engineering in 1992.
The French classes at Maju Secondary School, however, came to an end as the French centres were consolidated and centralised at one location – Monk’s Hill Primary School – in 1983.
In January 1996, Broadrick Secondary School and Maju Secondary School were merged to form the new single-session Broadrick Secondary School. The new secondary school was relocated in 2006 to the former premises of Mountbatten Primary School, about 300m away at Dakota Crescent. As for its old premises, it was taken over a year later in 2007 by Northlight School, a school established by MOE to provide assistance to primary school students who find it difficult to keep up with mainstream education.
In early 2015, Northlight School was relocated to Towner Road, and the former premises of Broadrick and Maju Secondary Schools were left vacated once again. Demolition of the school buildings began in early March 2016, and is expected to be completed by the mid of 2016.
After the demolition, the site will likely be reserved for future residential development. The vacant Guillemard Camp, directly opposite the former schools, will also likely be replaced by new residential units in the future. Home to 1SIR, Singapore’s first military unit, the camp was set up in 1969, and lasted more than 30 years until 2003 when the operations of 1SIR were shifted to Mandai Hill Camp.
An overhead pedestrian bridge, built in the early eighties, links both sides of Dunman Road where the schools and camp used to be. An interesting trivia happened in 1983, when the students of Broadrick and Maju Secondary Schools would ignore the overhead bridge and dash across the busy road after school. It prompted Wee Kee Yin, then principal of Broadrick Secondary School, to implement road safety by assigning his teachers to ensure the students to use the overhead bridge. Students who crossed the road recklessly were made to stand on the school stage during assembly as punishment.
Several prominent political figures were associated with Broadrick and Maju Secondary Schools, such as Sidek Saniff, a former teacher at Maju Secondary School and Senior Minister of State for Education (1996-1997) and the Environment (1997-2001), and Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, the current Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim belongs to the pioneering batches of students studying at Broadrick Secondary School in 1968.
Dakota Crescent has retained much of its quiet and laid-back character in the past 50 years. But rapid redevelopment will probably alter its appearance completely by the next decade.
Published: 28 March 2016