Happenings

School for rickshaw-pullers

Dec 2003    
Rickshaw-pullers at their Night School run by Foochow Methodist Church. -- Methodist Church Archives picture.

This unusual vignette of Christian social service 72 years ago is a good example of the mission of the Methodist Church in its earlier days.

‘A SCHOOL for rickshaw coolies is one of the interesting pieces of work being carried on in Singapore by the Foochow Methodist Chuch. Evangelical Hall, 3 Townshend Road, was founded to help Christian members of this class avoid the temptations that surround them, and to give them a clean place to live.

On Thursday and Saturday evenings there are moral and religious talks and the other evenings are devoted to the teaching of “The Thousand Characters”, a key to reading anything in Chinese. Simple Bible lessons are also taught.

About forty rickshaw coolies live on the top floor of the Hall and pay $1.00 per month rent.

Naturally that does not begin to meet the expenses of the upkeep of the Hall, so it is necessary to depend upon the generosity of people interested in this worthy enterprise.’ — MM Oct 1930, p. 27.

A student was sufficiently moved to express her views to write this essay for
Methodist Message in 1924. They may still be relevant today.
The ‘modern’ girl

Helene Wee*

SOME of the girls who have received an English education are absolutely mistaken in their idea of what an educated girl should be … an “educated girl” is one who does not perform housework, but devotes her entire time to studying books and music and paying visits to friends in her spare time …
[Such] misconceptions … mistake [what] the really educated girl [should be] … She is wrongly supposed … never [to] soil her fingers by manual labour. Furthermore, these mistaken girls think that Europeans do not do any housework as they have servants to see to that, and these girls who have [an] English education feel that they may sit idle in their homes.
Such is not the case with really educated people, whether they be European or Asiatic. Educated women and girls all over the world give as much of their time and thought to their home duties as they give to their studies. The time will not be far away when these girls will realise their mistake.
Another … false idea of the “educated girl” is the limited education obtained in these parts. The highest standard a girl can be is in the Senior Cambridge. When a girl reaches this stage she is more likely to think that she is a mighty and lordly senior, very highly educated and therefore she will devote her whole time to study in order to pass the Senior Cambridge examination and will set forth in life as an educated girl.
This idea of education is absolutely wrong as the Senior Cambridge is the first rung of the ladder of real education … the linking up of the good we receive from it with real life. It means the conservation of the best from all sources, whether they be from European or Asiatic homes or from education in English or Chinese. The purpose for gain in a material way, for the aim of passing the examination, is secondary and … unimportant … But by these girls with false ideas it is made the most important of all.
Education, in its wider and truer sense, means not only that which we obtain from studying books, but also that which we receive from our training and from our homes and because of this we should keep and observe the best we can find from books, from homes and from customs. This applies to the girls whose polite manners and customs are discarded when they have studied in an English School.’ — MM April 1924, p. 47.

 

· Helene Wee studied at Methodist Girls’ School, and was the late Mrs Tan Chin Tuan.

 

Earnest Lau, the Associate Editor of Methodist Message, is also the Archivist of The Methodist Church in Singapore.

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