The late Muhamad Taha Kasim was a teacher. So was his wife. And their six children and many grandchildren too.
Last count: 18 family members, including spouses, who are or have been teachers.
"Our father wanted us all to be teachers. He told us that teaching is a noble profession and it is actually more than teaching," said Fuhua Primary principal Fuziah Muhamad Taha, 62, the second-youngest child.
The former teachers in her family turned up yesterday for the first tea session organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to honour pioneer educators.
More than 350 retired educators and administrative staff, and their guests, attended the tea session which was held in conjunction with Teachers' Day celebrations.
These sessions will be held every Friday this month and the next, as part of the year-long celebrations to honour pioneer educators.
Ms Fuziah's brother, Mr Ismail Muhamad Taha, 68, a former sports specialist at MOE, said the session brought back memories of teaching in the early years. He taught for 42 years.
"In those times, teachers did everything. We trained the sports team, we upgraded our skills. We took pride when our students did well in competitions because we personally trained them," said the former head of department for physical education at Victoria Junior College.
Years later, they still bump into former students while shopping and at weddings.
Another sister, Madam Aishah, 65, who was a discipline mistress at Deyi Secondary School and taught for 38 years, said: "The difficult students - those we spent more time on - remember us more."
Former students from Siglap Secondary where she was a teacher still visit her, she said. They are now in their 40s.
Their sister, Madam Amnah, 70, who also taught for 42 years, said: "Teaching is about passion. These days, after five to six years, young teachers leave to find other jobs. But we stayed on for decades."
Such devotion to education and learning came from their father, a former principal of Telok Kurau Malay Primary and Telok Blangah Primary. Their mother, who died in 2011, was a Malay-language teacher.
"It was so natural for my siblings and me to go into teaching," recalled Ms Fuziah, who started teaching in 1955.
She can still remember her father's last words. On his deathbed 20 years ago, he placed a wad of $50 notes totalling $300 in her palm. "For you to buy books," he said.
This article was published on Sept 6 in The Straits Times.
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