The St Margaret's Secondary principal in the Hair for Hope incident has now allowed the five girls involved to go wig-less after discussion with the students, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat in a post about the incident on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
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Here is Minister Heng Swee Keat's Facebook post, in full:
"Some parents have been asking if St Margaret’s Secondary School was harsh in asking some students to wear wigs after they shaved their heads to show support for children with cancer. I would like to share some thoughts on this.
"First, the teaching community and I are very proud when our students show great character, such as by showing solidarity with those afflicted with cancer. It is not easy for a teenage girl to shave her head - I fully appreciate and applaud the commitment it shows. I personally support the Hair for Hope campaign and, in fact, was happy to join the organisers last year when they invited me. I remember a 15-year-old cancer survivor who had his head shaved. I thought it was very brave of him to show the operation scar on his head. I could understand how much it meant to know others empathise with him.
"We want our schools to nurture young people with a natural empathy for those who have known suffering. I know that Mrs Tan, the Principal of St Margaret’s, feels the same way, which is why she gave her support to the students who first sought the school’s permission to shave their heads, on the condition that the girls would don wigs in school. Many have asked why Mrs Tan did not take into account the fact that in the context of Hair for Hope, going bald is a sign of solidarity and empathy for cancer patients. I know some may say, why is the school so rigid in the first place? Other schools let their students bare their heads for the same cause, don’t they?
"I understand that Mrs Tan’s rationale for asking the girls to wear wigs was because she was concerned that students of St Margaret’s should present themselves within the school’s guidelines. However, it is reasonable to ask if and how exceptions could be made, under special circumstances like the Hair for Hope cause. Or, are there other ways of showing support that are compatible with the school’s rules and ethos?
"Part and parcel of education are developing character, inculcating a healthy respect for views, and honouring commitments. The school had no issue with students having a heart – but the school was also trying to teach the girls that character is seen in how we honour our commitments, as much as it is seen in our charitable acts.
"I am happy to learn that yesterday, Mrs Tan and her teachers spoke with the students who participated in Hair for Hope. The girls shared with their Principal the learning they have had through this experience. Mrs Tan, on her part, has also reflected on her decision, and understood that the girls wanted to show empathy and solidarity with cancer patients which entail the experience of going bald. With this in mind, she has supported all 5 in their wish not to conceal their shaved heads. I am glad that the Principal, teachers and students of St Margaret’s Secondary School have resolved this and will move on from here.
"This, then, is the real heart of education, that everyone appreciates there is a learning moment in every situation, in every decision we make, in every promise we pledge. Our Principals and teachers have a huge responsibility to help shape our students’ characters. Of course, parents play a most important role, so I ask parents to work together with our educators to give our children the best experiences and lessons to become outstanding young people of character. Because ultimately that is what is really at stake."