Quiet and unassuming, the three-storey building at 819 Upper Serangoon Road is modest, economical and functional. Aptly, it is a rehabilitation facility for ex-convicts run by The Helping Hand, a Christian charity organisation founded in 1987.
The estate’s history however, goes farther back: in 1945, this was the humble birthplace of Sin Min Public School, what is known today as Xinmin Primary and Secondary schools.
Back in the years following the Japanese Occupation, education was a luxury, reserved for those who were well-off. Moreover, most schools were then located in Singapore’s central district: this made education less accessible to the impoverished, such as the predominantly Chinese children who populated the areas around present day Hougang and Serangoon.
Recognising this educational need, Yap Fun Hong, Heng Chin Soo, and Tan Choon Teng established Sin Min Public School in 1945. Five of Yap’s pigs were sold to finance this effort. Enrolling only boys, school premises comprised of three rented bungalows and could accommodate 620 students.
Five years later, in 1950, Heng took over the role of principal. By then, the school had grown to a thousand students. Basic amenities were provided, students were confined to eating at a cramped canteen, with only one stall, and playing at a small grass patch which served as their school field.
Funds were raised to accommodate the burgeoning student population. In 1958, an astounding $10,000 was raised: the money was used to purchase land, as well as additional classrooms, for future expansion at Hougang-Serangoon area in the later years.
Two subsequent rounds of fund-raising, in 1965 and in 1974, financed the construction of a school building. The first was a two-storey building, which was rebuilt into a three-storey classroom block accompanied by a dedicated administration block.
Under the lead of the Principal then Mr Chew Peng Leng, the primary section relocated to 9 Hougang Avenue 8 as an independent primary school in 1988─Xinmin Primary School. Eventually the secondary section shifted to 11 Hougang Avenue 8 in 1990 as Xin Min Secondary School, and the site was replaced by The Helping Hand.
Other notable milestones in Sin Min’s history include expanding admissions to include female students (1954), expanding its curriculum from primary school level to encompass the secondary school level (1956), and conversion into a full-fledged English medium school (1986).
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of October 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.