A beacon of light in the Geylang community

A beacon of light in the Geylang community
Mr Josiah Ng (extreme left) at the GMS(S) Founder’s Day celebrations

Geylang Methodist Schools’ 97th Founder’s Day

Ninety-seven years ago, with a class of 27 girls, Geylang Methodist Girls’ School (GMGS) began in a small classroom carved out from some space at Geylang Chinese Methodist Church. The setting up of this school for girls was an initiative of the Methodist Episcopal Mission in pre-war Singapore.

Although GMGS ran primary classes for children in the Geylang area from around 1924, it was only three years later that it got its own building, located behind the church building. It was run as a small private school up till 1949 when it became a government-aided school. In 1984, the school relocated to its current site, and was separated into a primary and secondary school. Both schools then became co-educational.

GMGS was very fortunate to be built upon the hands and hearts of many pioneering missionaries and educators who arrived in Singapore under the commissioning of the Methodist Episcopal Mission. Of the many who supported the building of the school, one missionary and one educator stand out as having played pivotal roles in the school’s humble beginnings—the Rev Floyd Sullivan and Ms Emma Eaton Walker. Without these two individuals, the foundations of the school would not have been laid.

The Rev Sullivan came to Malaya as a missionary in 1909 when he was 24. He served in various appointments across Singapore, Malaya and Indonesia. It was while he was District Superintendent for Singapore that he oversaw the development of schools and outreach activities of the Methodist Mission in Singapore. With his strong support, GMGS was set up, the start of a lasting legacy for the Geylang community and for Singapore. The Rev Sullivan personally read the dedicatory service of the new building of the Geylang Methodist Church and GMGS at its founding.

Ms Walker, an established professional and well-educated lady who was ahead of her time in many ways, was a teacher and school principal in the USA before coming to Singapore. Ms Walker was introduced at the 1926 Methodist Missions Conference and went on to serve in important roles, including teaching at the Anglo-Chinese School and overseeing women’s work at Geylang Chinese Church. In 1927, she was also appointed the Superintendent of the Sunday School at the Geylang Methodist Church, Principal of the Oldham Hall Day School and Principal of GMGS. Her contributions to deepening the fledging roots of the school in the Geylang community served to further establish the school. As a result of her significant contributions, Geylang Methodist School (Primary) and Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) continue to reap so much from her faithful service as an educator and leader in the school’s early years.

Through this year’s Methodist Walk, the primary school embarked on a campaign to help the school’s rich heritage come alive to the students. Through simple Mathematics activities, Physical Education lessons and Social Studies activities held during the month-long fundraising period, the school sought to bring home to the students the message of how extensive a legacy the founding individuals created, that made it possible for 27 young children to gain access to basic education and skills training.

The month’s programmes culminated in the highlight event of Founder’s Day 2021, which was held both online and on-site, with safe management measures in place. At this 97th Founder’s Day, we continued to reinforce the sense of living the legacy of our founders. We were privileged to have Mrs Heng-Lim Gaik Kee, our founding principal of the primary school section, join us as the Guest-of-Honour for the celebrations for our primary school section. Mrs Heng-Lim shared her thoughts and hopes for the GM family to shine bright as a beacon of light to all in the school, the neighbourhood and our community. Ms Mabel Wee, another pioneer principal, was also present to inspire the young minds and hearts of the students with whom she interacted during the event.

In the twinkling of an eye, the school, comprising of both the primary and secondary sides, is soon approaching its 10th decade. We are very grateful to God for establishing and sustaining the school through the years, growing the GM family to become a wonderfully close-knit community of alumni who continue to be guided by the mission to be a beacon of light to the Geylang community and beyond.

As a school, we treasure every milestone as a step forward in building on the legacy of our founders and the many helping hands and hearts who gave their love, service and faithfulness. This legacy will and must continue to live on through our words and deeds, our thoughts and aspirations. As a GM family, we will continue to GROW, SERVE and LEAD with joy, through Friendship, Body and Mind! To God be the glory for 97 years today and counting!

Credit: Wee Tan Chuen is the Principal of Geylang Methodist School (Secondary)

In line with the school’s theme to “Connect. Nurture. Inspire”, our guest-of-honour, Mr Josiah Ng, Head of Film and Social Content at Tribal Worldwide, shared his personal life story to encourage the students to not give up, to believe in themselves and to aspire to grow their talents—not for themselves, but to make a difference to those around them.

Josiah spoke about how he had struggled with dyslexia as a student. Students were touched by how he had used his gifts and talents to comfort his extended family members in a season of grief through a video clip he put together. He reminded the students of God’s love for them for who they are and encouraged them to fix their eyes on God.

He aptly reminded the school of her history and the Founders’ hearts to provide youths at that time access to good education; he also encouraged the school to continue the school’s heritage and the Founders’ example “to love others, bless the community and inspire your peers”.

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Beverly Low is Head of Department of Character and Citizenship Education at Geylang Methodist School (Primary) and, together with her husband and children, worships at a Paya Lebar Methodist church. / Photos courtesy of Geylang Methodist School (Primary) and Geylang Methodist School (Secondary)