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School CP - April 2004
Straits Times, Singapore, 29 April 2004
Hitting girl with a book
More students, parents want the principal back
But ex-Nan Chiau head, who has been in the teaching service for three decades, says he has to leave as he broke the rules
By Sandra Davie
MORE students from Nan Chiau High and their parents have appealed for the school's former principal, Mr Ng Lee Huat, 52, to be reinstated.
But the veteran educationist, who stepped down on Monday after admitting to hitting a student with a soft-cover book, is determined to leave because he broke the rules.
The Singapore Hokien Huay Kuan, which manages the school, said it received close to 30 calls over the last two days from parents, students and alumni asking for his return.
Two of the parents who called the clan association told The Straits Times that Mr Ng's reaction at the time seems understandable - the girl had been disciplined more than 20 times in her 1½ years in the school.
One of them, Mrs Joan Kang, said: 'Why is it that if a parent hits his child, no one blinks an eye, but when a teacher hits one of his students, it's wrong?'
Mr Ng, who has been in the teaching service since 1975, hit a 14-year-old girl with a book when questioning her over an incident on April 15. A friend of one of the other four students who were present made a police report.
The Education Ministry accepted Mr Ng's offer to step down on the grounds that 'hitting a student, no matter how testing the circumstances... cannot be condoned'.
Mr Ng, who reluctantly gave The Straits Times 10 minutes yesterday, said that deciding to leave the school was difficult, but he had to do so as he had clearly broken the Education Ministry's rule on disciplining students.
The ministry's stand is that corporal punishment should be used only as a last resort and only for serious offences.
Even then, schools have to follow strict guidelines. For instance, only the principal or a delegated member of the staff can administer such punishment, and it has to be done in front of a witness.
He said: 'I tell my teachers all the time that however angry they get, they cannot break the rules. Yet, I myself lost my temper and hit the girl.
'I have to take responsibility for my actions.'
The mild-mannered father of two school-going children said that in his 29 years of teaching he has had to deal with many difficult students, but he had never hit one.
At worst, he had raised his voice when speaking to them. When he felt he would not be able to stop at that, he had walked away.
He declined to disclose the disciplinary problems the girl and other students were being reprimanded for, except to say that he lost his temper because the youngster had lied to him.
Mr Ng saw Nan Chiau High through some bad times about five years ago, when it faced dwindling enrolment at its old site in Kim Yam Road off River Valley Road. He said he was sad to have left his 'baby'.
The pioneer batch of the school's 1,460 students, who enrolled after the move to Sengkang, will be sitting for their O levels at the end of this year.
'I was hoping to see them through that and make sure they do well. But now I can't,' he said.
He is waiting to be told about his next posting.
The ministry has said only that he will be redeployed to a position where he can 'continue to contribute to education'.
The police said they have looked into the matter but will not be taking any action.
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