Yuhua memories : gateway arch


Singapore Memory Project
Char Lee

I'm not yet 30 but is perilously close to behaving like one at 60. When I started blogging about cinemas and schools I have not visited or attended before, I did it out of curiosity and not because I felt nostalgic.

The other day I was at Yuhua Primary when I saw this cute Chinese gateway arch at their sports field. Thanks to my current project, I get an excuse to visit MOE schools. I was out at the corridor for some fresh air when I chanced to look down and saw this gateway arch along the sports fence. Amused by this anachronistic setup, I told my subordinate from the project, "let me take a photo before we leave".

My initial feeling was one of déjà vu. At the top of the gateway, the year '1955' is prominently displayed. Where is Singapore's most famous 1955 gateway arch located? Nowhere but in Jurong the famous Nantah arch (the real one; there is also a replica of it inside NTU campus).

The gateway at Yuhua Primary reminded us the school was once Joo Hwa Public School (公立裕华学校). The bit of heritage trivia would have ended here if I did not check out their Heritage Corner outside the General Office.

According to the Heritage Corner, the current Yuhua Primary was formed from the amalgamation of two schools - Joo Hwa Public School and Joo Koon Public School. I guess an analogy can be made here, that of the National University of School which was formed from merging the University of Singapore and Nanyang University in 1980.

Some history, from their humble beginning:

1930 - Joo Hwa Public School built with financial help and support of community leaders, businessmen and residents in old Jurong. Initial enrolment was 100. Aim then was to provide primary education using Chinese Language as the medium of instruction for children of farming community living in and around old Jurong Road.

1930s - Joo Koon Public School founded by residents of Tuas Village at 17 1/2ms Jurong Road with initial enrolment of 14 pupils.

1942 - Both schools ceased to function due to World War II.

1945 - Joo Hwa reopened. Demand for places so overwhelming that a branch school had to be set up at Old Day Road. Joo Koon rebuilt.

1951 - Joo Hwa went through major renovation and expanded its facilities.

1950s - Joo Koon became government-aided school, building extended to cater to increased pupil population of 2000.

Incidentally the school name tells us that before the development of Jurong Industrial Estate and certainly before the MRT line was extended to Joo Koon, the area was already known by the name. Which leads us to wonder what's the relationship between Joo Koon (裕群) and Jurong (read Joo-Long, 裕廊). One thing is obvious - they share the same first character!

In the 1980s we see the effect of 'speak mandarin campaign' on both schools. Their dialect names were axed:

1981 - Joo Hwa Public School renamed Joo Hwa Primary School.

1983 - Joo Hwa shifted to its present location in Jurong East Street 24 and assumed the name Yuhua Primary School. 

1984 - Joo Koon Public School was rebuilt (closed since 1976 due to redevelopment plans for Jurong Industrial Estate) and renamed Yuqun Primary School.

Both schools probably did not have an illustrious enough history or their management the clout for the dialect name to be preserved. Think Hokkien Huay Kuan or Ngee Ann Kongsi and schools like Kwong Hwa, Nan Chiau, Tao Nan, Ngee Ann etc.

In any case, both schools suffered from failing enrolment, the reason for merger:

2002 - Yuqun Primary and Yuhua Primary merged to form the new Yuhua Primary.

Today we see little trace of Joo Hwa/Joo Koon in Yuhua Primary. The school logo is modern, the uniform is modern, even the school name is modern (the non-modern form being the dialect). The cute gateway arch might even be a replica and not original. Do check out the artefacts in the Heritage Corner and you may find a gem. If you look closer, there appear to be a tambourine with the old Chinese characters for Joo Hwa inscribed underneath.