Seniors steal the show at student forum

SINGAPORE - It was labelled a student forum but it was the seniors who stole the show.

Aimed at finding ways to bring back the "kampung spirit", some of the 11 seniors present reeled off anecdotes of their experience of village life to the 55 university and polytechnic students.

The forum on Wednesday was part of the opening of Avenue 1960s - a heritage exhibition on how life was like in Singapore from the 1960s to 1980s. Chaired by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower Hawazi Daipi and Dr Chua Ai Lin, the president of the Singapore Heritage Society, the forum included discussions on what the kampung spirit meant in modern Singapore and how it could be revived.

Retiree Yeo Hong Eng, who like the other seniors, was born in the 1960s, said Singapore's increasing wealth has eroded some of the kampung spirit he experienced in the past. "Nowadays, there is a spirit of distrust and things are given so freely, so you don't need anyone's help."

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student Nicholas Chan, 24, echoed his sentiments. He said: "I feel that I'm being robbed of the camaraderie and trust in neighbours and strangers that existed then."

Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan, who was at the forum, said: "Today the irony is that we have so much but we don't want to share. The kampung spirit is about reversing this."

Yet, Mr Hawazi said, listening to the discussions, it was apparent the kampung spirit was still strong. He added that civil society efforts by youth also showed they cared about what was happening in Singapore. "I have confidence that the kampung spirit is alive and we should encourage the broadening and deepening of this spirit," he said.

There were also many suggestions on how to strengthen the kampung spirit.

If today's social media scene is the contemporary version of the village, then netizens can help look out for bad online behaviour and advise against it, said Dr Wan. Meanwhile, Dr Chua said she believes public spaces can be designed to encourage interaction between people.

The exhibition, which was organised by four final-year NTU students, is on till today at the Arts House.

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