Pritam Singh's former teacher says that he was a 'quiet' boy with 'non-elitist' background

PHOTO: Facebook/St-Thomas-Secondary-School-Singapore

He may have been a "quiet" and shy" schoolboy but Pritam Singh, the secretary-general of the Workers' Party (WP) and official Leader of the Opposition has certainly come a long way.

Fresh off the high of GE2020, where Singh led WP to its best election showing in history by scoring two GRCs and one SMC, his alma mater took to Facebook on July 12 to congratulate him, sharing a post from a former teacher that highlighted Singh's humble beginnings.

In the post, originally shared in 2018, Lorene Nalpon reminisced about her days teaching Singh at St. Thomas Secondary School, writing:

"Who would have thought that one of my quiet shy boys from Sec 1 Normal (5) of Saint Thomas would turn out to be a wonderfully eloquent and enigmatic leader of the opposition of Singapore's political arena.

"All the more, I think being in [a] non-elitist school prepares an individual to understand and appreciate all that we have in Singapore and how to truly move society forward."

Our Thomasian, Workers party Mr Pritam Singh. We are so proud of you 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻.Thanks classmate Vipin for the photo .

Posted by St. Thomas Secondary School Singapore on Sunday, July 12, 2020

Unconventional academic journey

Singh, 43, had moved on to Jurong Junior College after graduating from the Normal stream at St. Thomas Secondary School.

Opening up about his educational background in a commencement speech at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2018, he admitted that he had "fumbled badly" in the Primary School Leaving Examination and "bumbled" his way into junior college and university.

Congrats Pritam Singh for the win! 👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽

Posted by Noorazan Ahmad on Friday, July 10, 2020

But he found his groove at NUS and even won the Straits Steamship Prize in 1999 for being the top history and political science undergraduate of his cohort.

Despite his academic success, Singh also made sure to stress that "a degree is only as good as your work ethic, attitude and diligence."

From 'quiet' to Opposition firebrand

Singh joined WP in 2010, quickly making a name for himself as a firebrand with his passionate and vocal demeanour.

https://twitter.com/dauntlust/status/1279366038937731072

He may have been on the quieter side in school, but former WP chairman John Gan spoke highly of his performance in Parliament back in 2018, saying: "Pritam is daring in Parliament and able to voice out on many issues, which is why many are behind him."

Apart from crossing swords with People's Action Party MPs in Parliament on issues such as the Keppel Offshore & Marine corruption scandal, Singh has also spoken up to defend "loving critics" of the establishment.

And who can forget his spirited speech in 2015, hitting back at Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong who had previously said that the PAP could "ownself check ownself".

https://twitter.com/dauntlust/status/1279368786856964097

Singh took over the reins of the party from Low Thia Khiang in April 2018.

Following the release of the GE2020 polling results, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singh would be formally appointed as Leader of the Opposition, a first for any opposition leader in Singapore. 

kimberlylim@asiaone.com