By Ng Ziqin (20S03H)
It was the last day of school on campus before HBL measures kicked in, but there would be no spirited outings to J8 or NEX with friends that afternoon to celebrate the survival of yet another school term.
Instead, students wiped down their desks with disinfectant spray, sat one metre apart on canteen benches crossed out with yellow-and-black tape, and made tearful promises to stay in touch over Zoom and Houseparty over this period of physical separation.
What did the RI campus look like on 7 April?
14 days ago…
Tuesday morning begins with rain.
All around me, RI students are rushing to avoid being slapped with the label of lateness and a trip to the SAC. They are all headed in different directions. Morning assembly at the parade square hasn’t been a thing for a long time. Instead, we report to our homerooms, just as we have every day for the past three months.
The queues and crowds are admittedly more subdued than they were on Monday, but many students are still trying to get final supplies of pen refills, foolscap paper and other stationery before the one-month closure.
Island-wide, all other non-school Popular outlets have already closed on Monday.
The Printing Shop
The printing shop will be closed for the month, so the aunties are working hard to ensure everyone has what they need.
“7A 还有东西没collect吗?” (“Is there still anything which 7A hasn’t collected yet?”) I hear a boy ask. At this juncture, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the Chemistry rep or the GP rep; everyone is just taking it in turns to go down to the printing shop and check whether there are any class notes available for collection.
The Wishing Well
Nicole Lim (20S03I) and Sia Xinyu (20A13A) are studying together at one of the booths.
“I think it’s necessary but I’m also worried about my A Levels,” says Nicole about the circuit breaker measures. “I just hope I have enough discipline to actually keep up with my work. I’m going to miss my friends.”
“I think it’ll be weird to have lessons at home with all my family members watching!” says Xinyu with a laugh. She says that she and Nicole will be keeping in touch over the break by sending each other (physical) letters.
The tables are gone, and the seats have been taped over with ominous-looking yellow and black tape. One of the staff tells me that Professor Brawn will be closed for the month.
I manage to interview Uncle Lee, one of the uncles who runs Tan’s Chinese Cooked Food, as he closes up.
“My heart feels heavy and I don’t know what to do,” he tells me in Mandarin. “I’m worried. We don’t know how long the [Covid-19] situation will continue for.” Thankfully, though, he has managed to sell all the food he prepared today. “I didn’t dare to cook too much.”
Have they always looked this abandoned? Doors have been flung open to reveal empty nooks, perhaps in the aftermath of some much-needed spring cleaning, as students take home their stuff for home-based learning.
Even the SAC will be closed until 4 May; the staff will be working from home.
“I would advise you to check with your civics tutors, because all this is beyond our control,” one of the staff informs me apologetically, when I ask him what arrangements have been made for students whose parents are working in essential industries.
The Biodiversity Pond
Amid the flurry of activity on the last day before HBL, life still goes on as usual for Mr Lim, the biodiversity pond’s caretaker, who feeds the fish in the afternoon.