Friday, August 27, 2010

gimson school or boys' town?


gimson school, clementi road


boys' town, upper bukit timah road

i posed this question: have you heard of gimson school? to a number of senior citizen friends and i was surprised by the responses. all except one had not heard of this school before. did the authorities keep its existence a secret? it could not be because there were reports concerning the school in the local newspapers.

when i was teaching in a secondary school, i came across a few incidents in which the parent, usually it was the father, threatening (the boy, his son) to take the boy out of the school and put him in boys' town. all these years i have been under the impression that boys' town was the place to dump delinquents. nevertheless, in later years, i was also aware that a few of the more problematic students had spent time in a boys' home.

after reading about gimson school, i now have a clearer picture of the difference between boys' town and the boys' home. gimson school started as bukit timah boys' home. the name was changed because people kept mixing it up with boys' town school along upper bukit timah road.

gimson school was started in 1947 and it was located at clementi road. it was a reform school - a school for problem boys. it was built to accommodate 140 boys but it took in many more. the boys were taught basketry, carpentry, tailoring, baking and farming. they had about 2 hours' of schooling each day.

boys who entered gimson school went by way of the courts. they were not ordinary delinquents; they were in fact juvenile criminals. those under the age of 19 who broke the law were usually kept there for between 3 and 5 years. it was not big news to read about inmates running away from the school, which seemed like a common occurence. fights, sometimes involvings weapons, were also often reported in the local newspapers.

on the other hand, boys' town took in problem boys from exasperated parents who did not seem to be able to control their children. these children had problems either at home or in school. they were not as bad as to have broken the law although some of them would have but were not caught.

today, those under 16 years of age who have a brush with the law are sent to singapore boys' home located at jurong west. the girls' home, which still retains the name 'toa payoh girls' home' is at defu avenue. boys' town became assumption english school when it merged with chij bukit timah in 1973.

photos from national archives of s'pore

11 comments:

Dogcom said...

Hi yg, may I ask if we can use those B&W photos from National Archive freely or if permission is needed?

Tai Thean Kew Circus said...

Hi YG, this is unrelated to the school, but I was wondering if you know anything about buses during the 1940s in Malaya. I am writing about the Tai Thean Kew Circus, as I may have told you before, and found out my great-grandfather passed away after falling from a bus. Somehow the way it happened is lost in translation to me, can people jump up and down from buses then? Does anybody know?

yg said...

hi dogcom, we normally credit the s'pore national archives for the use of the photos but at times i forget. thks for the reminder.

yg said...

hi tai thean kew circus, yes, in those days when buses were packed like sardines and there were no doors, we would jump off before the bus came on a complete halt. you can read about it in this posting by my blogger friend chun see.

RH said...

Hi YG, I have stayed at their staff quaters of Gimson School. When I saw the pic, it brings back fond memories to me. Thanks

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