where is the umar pulavar tamil language centre, today? for many years, it was tugged away in serangoon road, occupying the premises of the former beatty secondary school. prior to that, the language centre was at st george's road. i have often wondered why the name 'umar pulavar' for a tamil language centre. i found the answer from reading an article about it in the book 'singapore's heritage through places of historical interest' by dhoraisingam s samuel.
the umar pulavar tamil school had a humble beginning at tras street in tanjong pagar. it was established by a group of tamil muslim peons in a shophouse in 1946. in 1950, it moved to a proper building. the chief minister tun lim yew hock laid the foundation stone for the then new school building in april 1959. however, the school was officially declared open in 1960 by the people's action party's minister of education, mr yong nyuk lin. it was the first tamil school in singapore.
by 1960, it had become the umar pulavar tamil high school. i think the new building was on maxwell road, on the site adjacent to the present national development building. the maxwell road school was a 3-storey building with 11 classrooms and one hall. because of dwindling enrolment, the school stopped functioning in 1982.
by the 70s, indian students could offer tamil as a second language in english schools. in fact, the school started english-medium classes in the late 70s.
to remember the school, which was set up by ordinary indians from kadayanullar, the tamil language centre, which started at st george's road, was renamed umar pulavar tamil language centre.
who was umar pulavar? he was a famous tamil poet who lived in the 17th century. the title 'pulavar' is given to poets who are famous.
where is the centre today? it is somewhere between victoria street and kallang road. it occupies the former premises of hong wen school, which has relocated to mcnair road.