This Teachers’ Day, we acknowledge the efforts of colleagues, who ensure the smooth operation of schools.
In this story, we speak to Operation Managers at Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, Mr Nadarajan Rengasamy and Mr Dallan Ng Woon Hock, whose mentor-mentee relationship was strengthened through the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was early 2021. Then 70 years old, Mr Nadarajan Rengasamy, Operations Manager (OM) at Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, was planning for his retirement the following year after 22 years of service.
On his radar was one agenda: Teach all he knew to his successor Mr Dallan Ng Woon Hock, who had just joined the school as OM.
Then came Covid-19 and the duo, who came to be known as the “two supermen” were spending up to 12 hours on some days together at school, ensuring that students could continue to learn, eat and take exams safely during the pandemic.
Together through the Covid-19 storm
“It was a tough time with many preparations and considerations to keep in mind,” remembers Mr Nadarajan.
“There was no precedent at all,” says Mr Ng. “There was a lot of uncertainty. But as a school, we knew the emphasis was on the safety of our students.”
It was a very steep learning curve for Mr Ng and an exhausting time for Mr Nada (as he is known) as the duo set up temperature-taking areas, re-arranged seating arrangements in the canteen, decided how students could queue up when buying food, and more.
As the safe management measures changed, they supported teachers in managing staggered recess timings and re-doing canteen seating plans in accordance to changes in group sizes. They stepped in wherever they were needed, filling up empty soap bottles and disinfecting rooms and furniture.
When some Primary 6 students tested positive for the virus just days before the PSLE, the duo swung into action, setting up separate exam venues for the quarantined students, so they could continue to take the exam which they had worked so hard for, without implicating other students sitting for PSLE.
Mr Ng (left) and Mr Nadarajan (right) are often found working together in school.
Given the evolving situation there had to be constant communication between the teachers, school leaders and non-teaching staff to ensure that the examinations could proceed without a hitch.
During that period, it was not uncommon to find the two OMs in school at night, making sure the school was exam-ready, or overseeing the disinfection of the school premises carried out by an external vendor.
Mr Ng remembers, “I told Mr Nada one day, let’s take a look at how many steps we clocked on our smartwatches today. There were days when we clocked more than 30,000 steps and I was joking that we are going to get our HPB vouchers soon!”
The duo worked well together, sharing their workload so that neither of them got overwhelmed and they were able to cover more ground quickly.
During the PSLE Preliminary Oral Examinations last year, they had to prepare the classrooms for the exam in a short period of time.
Mr Nada took the lead on planning which classrooms to use and the administrative processes such as manpower allocation on that day. Mr Ng took charge of the logistical duties, including preparing the sanitisation materials.
A mentor for life
What stands out from their story is the spirit of mentoring between Mr Nadarajan and Mr Ng, even during the drawn-out battle against the pandemic.
“When I planned to retire, I wanted to impart all my knowledge and experience to him because there is no point in keeping it to myself,”, says Mr Nadarajan. “I should not be selfish just because I am leaving, and I really appreciate how hard he works and how sincere he is in learning.”
Mr Nadarajan believes that experience is the best teacher, and the pandemic presented a very unusual opportunity for Mr Ng to get down into the trenches even though he was relatively new to the job.
“I am grateful that Mr Nada shared everything with me. At his age he still goes the extra mile and carries out the duties together with me, rather than just teach me through words,” says Mr Ng. “He will give you his 200%, and it has definitely value-added to my journey as an OM here.”
“We would have been just colleagues, but the pandemic brought us closer as friends.”
Mr Nadarajan and Mr Ng posing for a wefie during a recent school learning journey.
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