4P0LLO: Council Investiture 2020

By Noelle Leow (21A01B) and Thet Hninn Zin (21A13A)

The members of the incumbent 39th Students’ Council, donning their formal school uniforms, took their seats in front of their laptops for the first-ever online Students’ Council Investiture Ceremony held in the afternoon of 1st July. At the same time, behind their own laptop screens, their successors joined the Microsoft Teams (MSTeams) call one by one, each filled with the simultaneous thrill and trepidation of starting a new Council term.

The theme of this year’s investiture, 4POLLO, referenced Apollo, the Greek God of light and music. It embodies the 40th Students’ Council’s aim to illuminate the path towards a brighter future, leading the way to forge a stronger and more vibrant Rafflesian school culture.

In a recorded message, the Guest-of-Honour, Mr Kirk D’Souza, President of the 30th Students’ Council, highlighted the need for councillors to be steadfast but flexible, and to look both inward and outward in these trying times. Mr D’Souza encouraged the councillors to take the time for self-reflection and not get caught up in comparing themselves to others, because that would only paralyse them with bitterness and envy. Instead, he urged them to focus on “how [they] can improve [themselves] and be a better version of [themselves] each and every day”. These wise words undoubtedly left a mark on many of his viewers. 

The GOH, Mr Kirk D’Souza, encouraged councillors to look beyond the present circumstances.

The subsequent speech by Ma Fanghe (20S06L), President of the 39th Students’ Council, reinforced the idea of constantly striving to be better. “For every batch of councillors, the journey is really one about ownership.” He spurred the incoming batch of councillors to go beyond observing the things happening in school, and actively play a part in shaping it.

Outgoing President of the 39th Students’ Council Ma Fanghe delivers his speech.

Next, an appreciation video for the 39ths was screened. The photo montage captured milestones during the 39ths’ Council journey, including their Investiture last year, special events and department initiatives. This was followed by a thank you video initiated by the 40ths to show their appreciation for the contributions of the 39ths.

When asked about how they felt about stepping down, outgoing Secretary Ian Michael Yam (20A01A) described it as “bittersweet”, while outgoing MR House Captain Jannatun Tajrian (20S03A) expressed that the experience was “surreal”. Taj explained how she “spent this entire year being just so busy”, and “suddenly letting go [was] strange, especially with Covid-19, which didn’t give much closure.” This was poignantly expounded on by Ian, who described the feeling as “an acute sense of loss, because [the councillors] have given the best of [their] JC lives to this calling.” However, he expressed confidence in the incoming batch of Councillors and, quoting a line from a poem, remarked that “love [for what we do] is proved in the letting go.”

Up next was the long-anticipated blazer handover. For many who were worried as to how a blazer handover would take place online, the Investiture Committee definitely did not disappoint. They deftly stitched together individual videos submitted by each Councillor to form a jaw-dropping spectacle reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. Many Councillors were awed by the smoothness and coordination of the execution, which some described as “transcending the boundaries of time and space.” 

The blazer handover featured all the 39ths and 40ths, and the smoothness of its execution wowed many.

Following the exciting blazer handover ceremony, the incoming President of the 40ths’ Student Council, Cai Sirui (21S06A), stepped up to give her first address to the school, to echo the hopes and shared vision of the 40ths. “Similar to how individual notes come together to create music, the 40ths hope to bring Rafflesians together and build a community where we all feel like home. This is traditionally undetachable from a shared physical presence, and so it is now our challenge to create a sense of community that can thrive even beyond face-to-face gathering.” Considering the obstacles that the 40ths will have to face in navigating and working around social distancing guidelines, this aptly captured their commitment towards strengthening school spirit and culture even during challenging times.

Newly inducted President of the 40th Students’ Council Cai Sirui delivers her speech.

Lastly, to cement their commitment and responsibilities as members of the Students’ Council, the 69 newly-minted Councillors recited the Council Oath, which was led by Vice-Presidents Foo Loon Wei (21A13A) and Navin Sivakumar (21A01A). The synchrony and solemnity in their recitation of the Oath marked the steadfast dedication and duty that the 40ths were prepared to hold themselves to in their term ahead.

Unlike previous years, there was no singing of the Institution Anthem or the execution of school cheers. Yet despite its physical limitations, the unprecedented online investiture was nevertheless a memorable experience for all Councillors. Incoming Welfare head Tanya Tan (21S03O) praised the Investiture Committee, whom she felt “really did a great job organising and coordinating all the filming and video making”. Loon Wei also pointed out that the “essence of the Council Investiture has been kept; even without the form of a physical ceremony, the symbolic handing over of the leadership was preserved”. Indeed, this year’s investiture came with its own set of distinctive experiences. Many departments made it a point to meet up after the ceremony was over to bond and talk about their hopes for the term ahead. Some departments even pinned their department members’ videos during the investiture to recreate the atmosphere of being invested together. 

40th MR House Directorate having a meeting after the online Investiture to facilitate bonding.
40th MT House Directorate working around social distancing measures in a novel way.

The Investiture marked not only a cause for celebration for the outgoing 39ths and incoming 40ths, but also the official start of the 40ths’ term. What would the 40ths wish to accomplish in their term?

Incoming CCAD head Narakattuvalappil Netra (21A13A) shared: “Stepping up is quite scary and exciting—I’ve not really grasped the responsibilities and expectations that come with my position and it’s a learning process that seems very intimidating. But at the same time, I’m excited because the work that Council does is something I find very unique to the CCA.”

When asked about their thoughts on their role as Councillors given the Covid-19 situation, many underlined the need for creativity and innovation during their term. Li Jiaxin (21S06P), the newly inducted BW Captain, expressed her concern that “[the] situation has caused a barrier between councillors and the school, and more effort is needed to effectively reach out to everyone”. Incoming MT Captain Queena Lim (21S03E) added that she felt that Council had “an extra important role to play in integrating Rafflesians into the school” this time, as it is much harder for students to intermingle and bond beyond their classes. Sirui expressed her ardent hope for Councillors in addressing such concerns: “The situation has amplified the need for Councillors to not just plan our initiatives and events well, but also for us as individuals to exert a positive influence in the school community and beyond.”

As encapsulated by incoming Commz’D head Wesley Lim (21S03F), being a Councillor really means “being a beacon of hope and shining light on the way forward for the school community”. Indeed, just like the light associated with Apollo, the Councillors’ optimism shone through their words, and their enthusiasm was truly heartening. We wish the 40ths all the best in their term ahead as they navigate through the present circumstances, and lead Council, and the school, on to greater heights!

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