Dear colleagues,

We are deeply grieved by the deaths of our fellow Singaporeans – our students and teacher from Tanjong Katong Primary School, and an adventure guide who was with them in Kota Kinabalu. As of early this morning, students Peony, Ryyan, Emilie, Karyl, Rachel and Sonia, and teacher Terrence have all been brought home to us. We continue to search for and hope for the safe return of our teacher Ghazi and student Navdeep. All of us feel the anguish of the families.

Caroline, Principal of Tanjong Katong Primary School, and her team, are closest to the students and teachers. They feel the pain of the community most deeply, and we can all give them our utmost support. The TKPS team have rallied together to be a source of strength and support for the survivors, and for the loved ones of those who have passed on or are still missing. They do so even as they struggle with their own grief. Many MOE officers are also working hard on the ground to help the families affected. I would like the MOE family to know that Indranee, Ann, Hawazi, and I are fully with you in this difficult time.

We do not go through this alone. Our colleagues across the whole Public Service are walking with us through this hard time. Officers from SCDF, SPF, MFA, MOT, MOH, MSF, MINDEF and SAF are giving their all to support the next-of-kin and victims. Our colleagues are resolute, and they have put the children and the families first in everything they do. I want to thank the whole of the Public Service for coming together in this way.

PM has declared that today will be a Day of National Remembrance, a day for us to remember those we have lost, and also those who survive. I ask that we, the MOE family, use this day to remember and honour the selflessness of our teachers, the spirit of our students, and the support of our community and friends.

All the teachers of TKPS who were on the trip gave their best to watch over our children, and they deserve our greatest respect and gratitude. Our students tell of their teachers shielding them from falling rocks, and continuing to look after them despite their own injuries. Let us remember and live up to their selflessness and courage.

We must also honour our children by remembering that they have been brave, rugged and tenacious, striving to bring out their personal bests, and excited about heading ever forward together with their schoolmates. Let us remember and draw hope from our children’s spirit to be the best they can be.

It is not just the staff of TKPS who have rallied, but also their alumni and the community around the school, who step forward to show all of us what it means to care for our fellow Singaporeans. Teachers and staff from other schools have also drawn closer to lend their strength. Let us remember and be grateful for this community of support.

Let us also remember our friends in Sabah who suffer the lasting effects of this earthquake. The Malaysian authorities have been helpful and supportive. We keep them in our thoughts for the lives they have tragically lost.

The selflessness of our teachers reminds us to give our best to our students. The spirit of our children inspires us to be teachers. The support of our community and friends helps us go on when we face difficulties. I hope we remember these today and forever, so that we may live up to our fellow teachers, our students, and our community. Let us keep up our strength and spirit in this time of grief. Let us stand together to support and care for our students, our community, and one another.

Heng Swee Keat

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