Recounting a story about how his grandfather had to hide in the cupboard to avoid becoming a victim of the Sook Ching massacre during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng yesterday (16 Feb) shared anecdotes of wartime Singapore with 500 primary, secondary and Institute of Technical Education students at the launch of an exhibition to commemorate Total Defence Day at the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC).
The Stronger Together exhibition, which will run until March 19, showcases the hardships suffered here during World War II and the threats that the Republic currently faces.
"The fall of Singapore was an unimaginable event back in 1942, when Singapore was a jewel of the British empire in the far east, and perceived to be an impenetrable fortress," added Mr Ng.
But this idea was quickly shattered when the Japanese captured Singapore in a week, and then brutally occupied it for 31/2 years.
Mr Ng said meals then consisted mainly of tapioca, as rice and meat were unavailable. The war also robbed his mother of the opportunity for an education, which had a lifelong impact, he said.It is estimated that between 25,000 and 50,000 ethnic Chinese were killed in the Sook Ching operation.
Stressing the importance of defence, Mr Ng said that Singapore's security cannot be taken for granted, particularly in today's fast- changing world.
"Great powers, great relations are now in flux. You see the media reports on terrorism and new threats we face. If we are not prepared or ill-prepared, we will again be vulnerable," said the former defence and air force chief.
As part of SGSecure's Keep Singapore Safe programme, two uniformed groups - the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps and the National Police Cadet Corps - have worked together to engage schools, said Mr Ng.
The SDC is now training teachers in charge of uniformed groups in designing and executing more projects related to SGSecure, he added.
In an effort to further engage students, decks of SG Unite!, a strategy card game developed by the SDC and Education Ministry, will be distributed to all Primary 6 pupils this year. Mr Ng played a round of the card game, which features different scenarios such as a school shooting and worsening haze, with pupils from St Hilda's Primary School.
Source: “ Getting students engaged in Singapore's Total Defence” (The Straits Times, 17 Feb 2017)
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