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 15 SIT blocks, is due to be torn down in 2017.
But changes have already been occurring around Dakota Crescent. In mid-2000s, 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.
Changes of Dakota 2 – Bidding Farewell to Dakota Crescent Flats (2020)
Changes of Dakota 3 – Guillemard Camp Walks into History (2022)
Published: 28 March 2016
Updated: 28 January 2022
So Sad to learn that my former school has been torn down. Could have gone back to take a look, thanks for the awesome post!
Badge of honour
01 July 2016
Remember a time when school badges were shiny and made of metal? These days, badges are more likely to be made of fabric and sewn on uniforms. Those metal badges have ended up at flea markets, antique shops at China Square and peer-to-peer shopping platforms such as Carousell, places where Joseph Tay goes to find them to complete his collection of secondary school badges.
The 53-year-old started his hobby 10 years ago, inspired by his elder siblings who used to collect badges of Malaysian schools as they had lived in Malaysia for a few years during their childhood. “I figured it’ll be nice to have a collection of these Singaporean school badges, so I went to the Ministry of Education webpage to download the list of secondary schools and their logos. I started hunting the badges down whenever I could,” the graphic designer chuckled.
Tay currently has 160 secondary school badges lovingly arranged and stored in a bulging plastic folder in alphabetical order. He reckons there are about 20 still missing from his collection, such as the ones from Toh Tuck Secondary School, Pingyi Secondary School and Pioneer Secondary School.
Among the gems in his possession are those from defunct schools such as Tuan Mong High School, Tiong Bahru Secondary School and Umar Pulavar Tamil High School. Some school badges have also undergone a redesign. For example, the badge for St Teresa’s High School (which closed down in 1998) went from being triangle-shaped to a circular one as students were using the old badge as a weapon to poke others.
“I only got to know about it last year when a new colleague joined my company and told me this nugget of information,” said Tay. “I managed to get the old triangle-shaped badge when I found St Teresa’s High School’s former principal James Tay on Facebook. He was such a lovely elderly man and gave me his last triangle badge.
Tay even keeps different versions of the same school badge if it underwent changes, such as the Anglo Chinese School badge which was previously made of brass and had the words “Made in Birmingham” emblazed on it. His collection of these redesigned badges and those from defunct schools has become part of a recently released book, My School Uniform. He got to know its author Yix Quek through a friend who taught night classes at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, where Quek is also lecturing. “The book took two years to put together, and I’m glad to contribute to it. Metal badges used to be part and parcel of school culture, and it’s sad to see that they’re no longer as used and cherished. Many of the school book shop owners I’ve visited also lament the loss of school badges.”
Tay is reluctant to put a price to how much he has spent on these badges over the last 10 years. Some badges were given to him, some cost less than S$5 and the most he has ever paid is S$18 for Keppel Primary School’s badge. The former Buona Vista Secondary School boy couldn’t name his favourite badge either, although he did pick out St Patrick’s Secondary School’s as one that he feels is particularly well-designed. “As a graphic designer, I just like how simple and distinctive it is,” he explained.
And Tay is not stopping at secondary school badges. He has already begun collecting badges of primary schools as well as of football clubs as his way of holding onto a precious piece of the past.
“These tangible things represent history, a part of our culture. But young people are not as interested in collecting such items as a hobby,” Tay said. “I guess if my kids don’t want my collections, I can always donate them to a museum!”
So that’s Guillemard Camp! I was walking from Dakota MRT towards Tanjong Katong Road on New Year’s Eve for a party when I noticed the abandoned building. It was quite dark. At first I thought it was a school, but I should have known better with the unusual amount of barbed wire and the ‘trespassers will be shot’ signs.
Please keep up the good work in documenting vintage, nostalgic places. Especially older HDB estates, older malls and older condos. Rochor Centre and Pearl’s Centre are currently being demolished. The old Woodlands town centre is no more. Some buildings scheduled for en bloc e.g. Normanton Park will probably be the next victims.