By Nicole Doyle (17A01A), Marilyn Kang (17A01B) and Yeo Jun Wei (17S03B)
Photos courtesy of Students’ Council
As a follow-up to yesterday’s article, this article features questions specific to each candidate’s aspirations for Council and the school. With these questions, Press hopes to unveil the motivations, personal experiences, and feelings that are behind the plans and visions of each candidate.
Once again, the Presidential Elects are: Fatima Siddiqui (17S03I), Joyce Chan (17A13A) and See Chung Yi (17S06F).
P: Why do you want to serve the school through this position (Council President)?
Chung Yi (CY): It sounds like I’m always falling back on my campaign motto and vision, but it’s what really rings true with me: school really should be a place where you can feel comfortable, a place you can treat as your second home because honestly, you spend a lot of time here.
Being in Raffles has really given me so many opportunities to be myself, to explore who I am and of course, to make new friends. It’s disheartening to see friends out there who sometimes don’t have people to encourage them, who sometimes feel down, or left out. As a President, I’d be able to help [such] people: to help them feel welcome, that there’s a place that accepts them, and it’s a place they can call home.
Fatima Siddiqui (FS): I came to want to run for this position based on the understanding of the demands of this position and my disposition. To me, the role of the Council President is to bring Council together and set a direction because it’s easy for people in Council to lose sight of serving the school because we’re all caught up in fulfilling our department duties or a particular function. It’s knowing that I can keep the big picture in mind, and taking care of small details as well, that made me want to come forward to ensure that all these enthusiastic Councillors can give their best to the school.
Joyce Chan (JC): My reason for running for this position would probably be similar to Chung Yi’s. First of all, I haven’t really been in a leadership position per se, so I wanted to take this opportunity to try to do something to give back to the school community. As Presidents, I understand that we have a very large influence over what we can do for the school, and one thing that I’ve always believed in is using my own strengths to help people. That is similar to my campaign theme, which is [about] doing something to help the school population. This boils down to a rather personal aspect of my life: I’ve seen many of my classmates go through trying times in academics and their personal lives. There are a lot of people out there experiencing this, and it is rather difficult for one person to go out and help everyone you care about. As Council President, I would be able to lead Council into effecting more positive change and bringing more positivity to the school.
P: What sets you apart from the other candidates, and how does this trait make you best suited for the role of Council President?
FS: It’d [be] the prior experience that I can bring to the table. I had the opportunity to serve as the Vice-Head Prefect in RGS, so this would not be the first time that I am leading a leadership community. And that having that past experience brings a different perspective – in terms of practicality, and in terms of looking at the Councillors themselves as people that can be nurtured for Council to bring about a greater impact to the school community– I believe this experience is what makes me best suited for this.
JC: Personally, [the reason] why I would be suited for this role is because I try my best to understand the need of my peers on a personal level. Through understanding the individual needs of my peers, I would probably be able to provide an alternative perspective, in the sense that it’d be the perspective from the student body — and bring in these ideas and concerns when we are considering the big picture.
CY: I am a people person: I am interested in finding out more about what goes on in people’s lives, what makes them tick, and what drives them. Finding motivation from everywhere also motivates me to do my best. And of course, I feel that as one people and as one school, we work in a system of mutual support, where everybody motivates each other and inspires each other to do better. [It is] my ability to be able to get to know people, to be able to make friends with people from all walks of life – whether it be from sports, performing arts, clubs and societies – this ability to bring people together is what sets me apart.
P: In the event that you do become Council President, what is one issue in school that you’d like to focus on specifically during your term?
FS: I would like to focus on interbatch bonding. Because our direct seniors have gone through similar experiences very recently, they would be able to provide advice and experiences of what they’d gone through. At the same time, when we come in as J1s, we are full of excitement, as compared to J2s who may have become a lot more jaded, so it’s this ability for us to support each other and give each other something we had only at that point in time, [that would make] interbatch bonding something that really makes the school a warmer community.
CY: My focus also has to do with bonding, but more to do with bonding within our individual subcommunities instead. I find that after Orientation and the whole hullabaloo of getting into your CCA and whatever, essentially you end up sticking to your class for most of your Junior College life. Even near the start of JC1, you already [start to] see people who only really stick to their class communities and nobody else. And of course, there are so many other people out there. The fact is, we have one of the largest school populations in Singapore, and it’s quite a shame if people only stick to the communities that they’re used to, because then it limits the opportunities for you to experience life and to add colour to your life. So, I’d like to focus on bonding within our batch – breaking out of your cliques and your subcommunities, and getting to know more people.
JC: My particular focus will probably be on the kind of environment that we’ll be in — like how in such an environment we often place a lot of expectations on ourselves, and this would probably be excluding other problems that some of us might have, especially in such an environment where things can get really competitive. Oftentimes, such competitiveness can make us feel alone, especially if some of us have trouble catching up with our work. In order to combat this, we could probably have a more supportive environment where people would be more comfortable with opening up to each other in terms of, say, talking to each other about our troubles and asking for help, and also being open to giving as well as receiving help from others.
P: Six months from now, if we ask one student, “What is the most impactful thing Council has done for you?”, what would you want that student to say?
CY: Honestly, the whole issue of the separation between Councillors and students has been bandied about, and it shouldn’t be the case. As most of us acknowledge, we are students before we are Councillors. In the most natural and human way possible, all we want to do is to lend a helping hand to students. So, half a year from now, if we ask people, “What would you think of Council?” we hope they would say that Council has made their lives a bit better, in that they now know they have their friends’ support and a helping hand.
FS: I believe in empowerment: we shouldn’t be the ones doing things for people, and that we should be allowing people to help themselves and others around them. So when it comes to building a warmer community, it’s about subtly helping people have a warmer community in their smaller personal communities or the wider school community. I think an issue is best resolved when we don’t have to talk about it anymore, so if we were to ask someone six months down the road, “What has Council done for you?” if they don’t actually realize it was Council that was helping them build this warmer community, I would feel like that in itself was a success, that they feel they themselves have played a role in making the school a warmer community.
JC: Some of my friends perceive Council as this entire separate body from the student body. But, the fact is, aside from being Councillors, we are also students who are their friends. We can work on closing this gap between Councillors and students. I think that halfway into our term, people would say that Council is providing them with good experiences, and that aside from just being at the forefront of effecting change, we are also beside them as friends.
P: Chung Yi, you mentioned that you wanted to make RI a home away from home for students. What if some do not regard RI as such? How would you reconcile that perspective with what you want RI to be, and to make RI their home?
CY: There are definitely people who feel that school isn’t for them. Maybe some do feel like their actual homes are much more comfortable, and that coming to school takes them out of this comfortable environment. And of course we don’t want that – as Fatima says in her campaign, it’s not the major events, but the small little things, such as conversations with our friends and the laughter that we share, that make school life interesting.
For these people [who feel that school really isn’t for them], maybe it’s because they haven’t met the right people, or because the communities they are currently in don’t give them the kind of fun or support that they need. Which is why I proposed two methods: first, the cross sub-community approach, which involves providing opportunities for different CCAs or student groups to interact so people can make new friends, and second, the ground-up approach – making sure that students in general are more approachable and willing to help people, even in small ways such as asking “Hey, are you okay?” to a random Rafflesian in the Raja Block who looks like he or she needs it. It’s by letting people know that there are others who care for them, that we can make school a home away from home.
P: Joyce, you mentioned that solitude has become a norm in RI, and that you want to change that. How do you ensure that no one will be left alone?
J: I wouldn’t say literal solitude – more of an internal, emotional one. For example, even if we have friends on the outside, we still do feel alone in facing our problems and that we don’t want to burden anyone else by seeking help for them. I hope that perhaps through initiatives, you can let these people know that it’s okay to open up and seek help – there are other people there with you in these troubles.
For example, the initiative that I proposed on my canteen display [where you write down your worries and you paste it on the branches of a tree installation] aims to let students release their worries and see the significance in that. And at the same time they can see everyone else who is also sharing these tough times, so that they won’t feel alone anymore. Also, writing encouraging notes to each other – since it’s placed in a public area that anybody can walk past – allows others to read these notes whenever they need a lift in their day, and they can feel that someone out there is cheering them on.
P: As for Fatima, you mentioned that you want to question RI students about what RI means to them. On a personal level, what does RI mean to you?
FS: To me, RI is about the people. You can go to any JC taking the A-level curriculum and study the same things, as certain things are standard across all schools. What’s different is the people, how we behave and how we come together. There are the small things, like how Raja Block is the place to study, and how the class instagrams are all over the place, and the bigger things, like how Orientation is such a big part of our lives, and the school cheers, how we come together and do it.
P: You mentioned that you want to make students see the meaning behind the small things in life. But seeing as these things are intangible, what are some concrete ways in which you can do this?
FS: What the three of us are looking [to do] is to help people realize these things. It’s not about doing things for them, doing things to them, but helping them realize that there are people around to support them, that – hey, this is a home too. For me, there are so many things around you that [you] can be appreciating. Perhaps we can have a board in the canteen, where people can stick on some small things that made their day today. And, you realize, hey, these things happen to me too, and you appreciate them. These activities can help serve as reminders to help students find meaning in everyday things.
P: What are some last words that you have for the school?
CY: Hold on to what makes you feel, don’t let go, it’s what makes you real.
FS: I hope that everyone will try their best in their own capacities to make their own lives as happy as possible and not wait for anyone else to come and do that for them.
JC: Remember to take care of yourself and have fun.
We at Raffles Press would like to wish the candidates the best of luck in the upcoming elections. The full transcript of the interview can be found here!