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黄金春50万元效应 — 专访宏文学校董事长黄金春
The Effects of $500,000
By Law Sue Fan
Photos courtesy of Hong Wen School
Published: EduNation, Issue 5, September-October 2013
An Exclusive Interview with Mr Ng Kim Choon, Chairman, Board of Management, Hong Wen School

Hong Wen School was established in 1920 by the Hin Ann Huay Guan, which is composed of members of the Hing Hua dialect group. In its ninety-year history the School has moved four times, but although its journey has been eventful it has educated many scholars. In 1992 the School was classified as a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school, which was a remarkable achievement.

In 2005, its lease on the compound at Victoria Street was up, and the School was forced to move. If the Hin Ann Huay Guan wanted to retain the right to govern the School it had to raise $2.3 million for the School Management Committee Fund as well as bear 5 per cent of the construction costs, which amounted to $3.1 million. If this sum was not raised in five years, the Hin Ann Huay Guan would lose its right of governance.

The Board of Directors of Hin Ann Huay Guan had varied responses to the situation. Some were inclined towards relinquishing the right of governance to the Ministry of Education (MOE) so they could be absolved of all responsibility. $3.1 million, after all, wasn’t a small sum. However, there were others who didn’t want to see Hong Wen become a government school, and lose a legacy left to them by their forebears almost a century before.

Should the School be saved or abandoned? At a time when the Hin Ann Huay Guan was stuck between a rock and a hard place, Mr Ng Kim Choon, a Putianese businessman, donated a sum of $500,000, which saved the School for the Hin Ann Huay Guan.

Once Lost the School Would Be Gone Forever

In an interview with EduNation, Mr Ng said, “80, 90 years ago resources were scarce but our ancestors were able to build Hong Wen School with what they had. Today, circumstances are different and we have everything, so how could we lose the School? Once it was gone we would never be able to get it back. Money can be earned at any time but the time frame to save the School was a very short one. If we missed this opportunity there would be no School left.”

Mr Ng’s generosity created a wave of similar donations, and Hong Wen School received four separate gifts of $500,000 in quick succession. These came respectively from Indonesian businessman Mr Sukanto Tanoto, Honorary Chairman of the Hin Ann Huay Guan; alumni Mr Terence Tea Yeok Kian, Executive Director and Group CEO, Advance SCT Limited; and Mr Lim Oon Kuin, Founder of the Hin Leong Group; and an additional $500,000 from Mr Ng in response to the dollar-for-dollar contribution made by Mr Lim.

Together with donations made by committee members, members of the Hin Ann Huay Guan, parents and alumni, the final sum raised from 368 people was $4.5 million, which far exceeded the required figure. It allowed Hong Wen School to continue to be governed by the Hin Ann Huay Guan and teach Chinese values and culture.

In his spacious office located in Suntec Tower, we asked if he had any hesitation in stepping forward to help the School. “Giving up the School required only a word, which was very easy to do. What was difficult was to continue,” Mr Ng replied.

“If the School had been returned to the government, it might not have been able to keep its name. Looking back, I think we made the right move. If Hong Wen School had been closed the students would have been sent to other schools. This would definitely have made them unhappy and would have affected their development.”

Mr Ng feels deeply about the effects of school closure because he has lived through it himself as a young boy growing up in Indonesia at a time when there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment. His own school was forced to shut down and Mr Ng couldn’t complete his primary education there.

Prior to 2006 Mr Ng had no relations with Hong Wen School. He hailed from the province of Putian, and because he was busy building up his business he had never been involved in activities organised by the Hin Ann Huay Guan. It was only in 2004, when its former Chairman Mr Lin Jin Yuan and Mr He Wen Lin introduced him, that he joined the association.

When asked if he knew he would be jumping into a hole, Mr Ng said, “I wasn’t afraid. I work in the shipping business, so I have plenty of courage.”

Money Should Be Used Now

In 2008 Hong Wen School moved from its premises in Victoria Street to a new campus at Towner Road less than three kilometres away. The new building housed 42 classrooms; almost double what it had had before, and this increase allowed it to switch to a single session.

Mr Ng, who has been the Chairman of the Board of Management since 2008, is delighted at the School’s overall development, and said, “The decision to save the School then was the right one. Our School is very well received by parents and students.”

About designing the blueprint for the School, Mr Ng said, “Building a school requires far-sightedness. For example, we decided from the start that we wanted an indoor gymnasium, even before the government had made its decision. It was only when construction was underway that the government gave the green light, so the cost was borne by them, and this saved us $1 million.”

Mr Ng elaborated on the ceilings of the first storey, which were a metre higher than usual. “This allowed a grander appearance, and made for better air circulation. Although we had to spend more money we decided this was something we wanted done. Although the money needed to be used wisely, we were also prepared to spend if it was on something that was going to benefit the students and their education.”

He went on to explain other considerations that went into the design of the School, including building a 200-metre running track on the roof, and laying strong enough foundations to support two more storeys should the need arise. “Building two more storeys would increase our capacity by four to five hundred students, and you can’t have a field without a track,” said Mr Ng.

Now Hong Wen School has a majestic building in Towner Road, and one that is deeply infused with the flavour of traditional Chinese culture. The School has incorporated Chinese orchestra, chess, weiqi, calligraphy, Chinese ink painting and martial arts into its curriculum, and the most striking thing about the new campus is the widespread evidence of music, chess, calligraphy and painting — the four accomplishments of the Chinese scholar — together with the teachings of Chinese sages. At the door of the School hangs a couplet which declares its aim to strive higher and better while laying a strong foundation for Chinese culture. There is also a horizontal banner displaying the four Chinese characters of its motto — honesty, perseverance, diligence and thrift.

The administration building is named after Mr Ng’s father following his sizeable donation to the School. The library is called “Treasury of Knowledge”, the meeting rooms “Collective Thought” and so on. All of these features bear witness to the School’s efforts both to cultivate in its students a love for Chinese art and culture, and to promote effective bilingualism in their early years. As an SAP school, Hong Wen’s mission is to promote Chinese culture.

Educating Students to Become Good People

While Mr Ng hasn’t spent much time in school himself he feels that education has a deep and lasting impact on a person’s life, and for him the most important factors in education are always the school and its teachers. “The school must teach its students well, and by that I don’t mean academic excellence but rather how to be a good person.”

As Chairman for the past five years, Mr Ng stressed that education is a specialised profession, so the Board of Management assists with the plans put forward by the MOE or by the Principal, but only from the sidelines. “The building of education-related infrastructure is largely handled by the government, but private corporations and individuals still have a role to play. By donating money they can help increase a variety of construction or other development projects, and activities to promote the Chinese tradition and culture, for example.”

As an example of its encouragement to the School’s students and teachers to learn about Chinese culture, the Board of Management has, since 2010, donated $15,000 annually to subsidise immersion trips by teachers and students to China.

“Even foreigners are actively learning Chinese, so how can we as Chinese not do it?” said Mr Ng.

Valuing the Alumni

Mr Ng feels that the members of the Board of Management are united in their goal to help the School, and on top of fundraising they have also done much to promote its development. “We encourage one another a lot, and we also learn from the Hokkien Huay Kuan because it manages many good schools,” said Mr Ng.

Mr Ng also sees the value of the Alumni Association, and hopes that it will continue to collaborate with the School. He wants the Alumni Association to remain active because “only when students participate in alumni activities will they remain in contact. Otherwise they will lose touch.” To show his support, Mr Ng attends important Association functions like dinners, lectures and exhibitions. He has also sponsored the renovation costs of the karaoke room and provided a new set of karaoke equipment so that alumni can enjoy themselves and connect with each other at the same time.

From Fishing Village to International Shipping Business

Mr Ng’s attitude in stepping forward to help Hong Wen School without hesitation can also be seen in the way he handles his business.

Born in 1947, Mr Ng grew up in the Riau Islands in Indonesia. Both his parents were from Putian and the family caught and sold fish for a living. Mr Ng senior passed away when his son was 15 years old. In 1963 Mr Ng left his hometown to come to Singapore. After apprenticing at a watch dealer’s he went on to work in a shop selling bicycles. When he got his driving license, he became an oil truck driver, which saw his salary go from $70 to $200. Two or three years later, he began a small business with a friend. Together, they rented a plot of land where they sold diesel to taxi drivers. The business later expanded to selling diesel to ships. A turning point in his life occurred when the huge land reclamation projects of the 1970s gave him a golden opportunity to expand his business’ footprint.

In the meeting room that overlooks the vast expanse of Marina Bay, Mr Ng described the landscape of the area some thirty years ago. Instead of the towering skyscrapers one can see today, it was then just a vast empty space filled with sand and rocks and still being reclaimed. Appointed as the contractor to transport diesel to the dredgers, he bought his first 50-ton ship for less than $100,000. After this first purchase he didn’t look back. Today his transportation business covers an extensive network of routes from Singapore to the Middle East and East Asia, and his largest vessel weighs in at a massive 100,000 tons.

Bosses Need to Be Hardworking

During the interview, Mr Ng was inundated with phone calls, and had to step out once to handle a problem. Having seen how busy he was, I remarked that it must be hard to be a boss. “Being a boss means you have to go out of your way to look for hard work. I was never afraid of it, and I would do my best in whatever I had to do, whether it was in my studies or when I was working,” replied Mr Ng, whose diligence and determination clearly laid the foundation for his success.

When Mr Ng came to Singapore to forge a career for himself forty years ago, he didn’t give up on his studies despite the fact that he was working. After he passed his Primary 6 examination, he went to St. Joseph’s Institution to attend night classes for his secondary education. Reminiscing about this period of his life when he worked and studied at the same time, he has nothing but fond memories. “I had to rush to school right after I knocked off work at 6 pm. There wasn’t even time to have dinner, but I never felt hungry. Hard work is necessary in the quest for knowledge!”

Mr Ng knew the importance of the English language, so he transferred to the English-medium Victoria School when he was in Secondary 3, hoping to improve his proficiency in the language. In Secondary 4, however, he was unable to keep up with the pace, and because his business was also expanding, he finally had to quit.

Buying and Repairing Stranded and Wrecked Ships

When it comes to buying ships, Mr Ng has only one principle. He uses the least amount of money to buy the most suitable ship in the fastest amount of time. This is his survival strategy in the competitive industry of international shipping. “When I first started I would buy damaged ships and send them for repair. Also, I would buy stranded or wrecked ships because no one else dared to buy them. They were all sent to Shanghai for repairs,” said Mr Ng.

Mr Ng feels that the way to go about doing things is by being pragmatic, and understanding that many events are out of our control. There are bound to be ups and downs in any business, and while some businesses allow you to recover, others just wane and become part of history. Even after having seen as much as he has, Mr Ng can still miscalculate the market. Therefore, he stands by the rule of flexibility. “When the economy is doing well one has to be prudent, and when the economy is in a slump one has to ensure survival. One learns to go with market trends and where the wind blows. It is the same with sailing a ship — you must never go against the wind, but your hands are tied if the wind goes against you.”

A Simple Man, A Simple Life

With his children helping him handle the business, it frees up some time for Mr Ng to take part in more community activities. Besides being the Chairman of the Board of Management of Hong Wen School, Mr Ng is also Chairman of the Hin Ann Huay Guan. He feels that the activities organised by the Huay Guan have to be close to the participants’ hearts, so he encourages them to stimulate member participation by organising events around food so that they are family-friendly and create a cosy atmosphere. Whether it be Hong Wen School or the Hin Ann Huay Guan Mr Ng gives generously of his time and money. In recent years whenever he visits Malaysia or China he tries to go with the Huay Guan.

He has strong feelings for his ancestral home of Putian, and he has also visited his father’s hometown in Qi Hu Village to pay his respects to his ancestors. Here he has helped improve local infrastructure and built a new basketball court for the school. And every year, he donates a sum of money for presents for the children on Children’s Day.

Mr Ng has always been a low-key person, and has never felt he was particularly successful. “I am a simple man who goes into big cities to compete with other people for a little business.”

After the interview was over, we were taken for a tour of his office. On his desk were several computers and large-screen monitors. The furnishings and equipment on display told us that this man was still striving hard.


 


封面故事 > 黄金春50万元效应 — 专访宏文学校董事长黄金春
黄金春50万元效应 — 专访宏文学校董事长黄金春
文:刘素芬
图:宏文学校提供
刊载:《新学》, 第5期,2013年9月-10月
宏文学校是由莆田兴化人组成的新加坡兴安会馆在1920年创办,90多年来学校四次迁徙,尽管路走得崎岖,却作育无数英才。1992年学校被列为特选学校,成绩有目共睹。

2005年,宏文学校在维多利亚街的校地租约期满,必须搬迁。兴安会馆如要在2007年后继续保留学校承办权,必须筹措230万元的学校活动发展基金以及负担5%的建筑费,总数估计约310万元。五年内筹措不到这笔钱的话,兴安会馆将失去宏文学校的承办权。

兴安会馆的董事对学校面对的困境态度不一,有者倾向放弃承办权,把学校归还教育部,会馆不需再承担责任,毕竟310万元是一笔大数目。但也有人不愿宏文转为政府学校,让新加坡再失去一所由先贤在战前创办的学校。

“保校”还是“弃校”?进退两难之际,身为莆田商人的黄金春挺身而出,先以50万元捐款制止了把宏文归还政府的声音。

他接受《新学》新加坡教育双语双月刊访问时说:“八、九十年前,先贤可以在物资匮乏的情况下建立起宏文学校。如今我们生活在这么繁华的都市,丰衣足食,又怎能因此放弃学校的承办权呢?学校一旦失去,就永远没有了。钱什么时候都可以赚,但救宏文的时刻却不能耽搁。时机不把握,连学校也没有了。”

黄金春的慷慨解囊,仁风义举,产生了一股“黄金春50万元效应”学校接连着接到四笔50万元捐款。这四笔50万元,是兴安会馆名誉主席印尼富商陈江河的50万元,宏文年轻校友郑耀键的50万元,莆中高平公会名誉主席林恩强的50万元,以及与林恩强捐款配对,黄金春再捐出的50万元。

结合兴安会馆理事们及会员、莆中高平公会、校友会、宏文校友和家长们的捐献,最终筹得450万元,以远超过预期目标的态势,让兴安会馆续办宏文学校,也保住了该校能够传承中华文化的校风。

在黄金春位于新达城大楼的办公室,本刊记者和他谈起当年挺身捐款保校是否有任何犹豫,他淡然而坚定地说:“放弃办校,只须一句话,很容易。一旦放弃了教育事业,要回头已是不可能的事,所以不能轻易说放弃。”

他及时的义举,让兴安会馆保住了宏文学校的承办权。学校用了数十年的校名、校歌得以传承下去。他说:“如果把学校交还政府,学校不一定用回原名。回想起来,当时所做的决定还是正确的。稍微想一下,国家这么兴旺,学校却因某种原因被迫停办,使到学生必须在不同的学校上课,这对孩子的成长会有不好的影响,也一定会让他们很伤感。”

黄金春在印尼成长,因当地排华,所读的学校关闭,以致无法完成小学教育。因此对学校关闭所产生的影响,自有他的一番深刻体会。

学校一旦失去,就永远没有了

2006年以前,黄金春和宏文学校毫无来往,他祖籍莆田,因忙于生意,向来没有参与兴安会馆活动。他是2004年才在兴安会馆新旧会长林金源和何文霖的邀请下,加入兴安会馆,希望能为会馆出点力。

记者问他可知后来有这么一个大坑,要他跳下去。他说:“我不怕,我们做船运的,胆子很大。”他也很坦然面对后来要负起的责任。他说:“这可能是个时机。”他虽然对宏文学校一无所知,却打从心底珍惜兴安会馆拥有宏文学校的承办权,希望凭自己的力量让宏文学校在兴安会馆的承办下,弦歌不辍。

黄金春深知募款工作只要有人扛起责任,就能一呼百应。不过,他也做好了如果反应不热烈,自己必须“包底”的心理准备。幸好,筹款活动在他登高一呼后,善款源源不绝而来。

钱要用就要现在用

成功筹款后,宏文学校在2008年顺利从维多利亚街搬到三公里内的陶纳路新校址。新校舍有42间教室,比原来的增加近一倍,学校开始实行单班制。

黄金春也从此担任宏文学校董事主席至今,他对学校的整体发展感到欣喜:“当初决定‘保校’是对的。如今新校舍宏伟壮观,受到同学和家长们的喜爱。”

他分享了当年设计蓝图时的经验:“建新校舍,一定要想得高、看得远。当时政府还没规定要建室内体育馆,我们就已经决定要建了。第一份设计蓝图完成后,政府才决定出资建设室内体育馆,无形中让我们省下100万元。”

谈到宏文学校的建设,他特别介绍了学校的第一层楼增高一米的设计。“这让学校有更宽敞的感觉以及加强空气的流通,费用虽高,我们还是决定这么做。钱不可以乱花,只要是对学生、对教育有帮助,就不能省。”

他再解释设计校舍时的多方考量,包括有两栋教学楼的地基特别多打了两层,以备将来有需要时可以在顶楼加盖,以及添设200米的跑道。他说:“多打两层地基,以后可以多收四五百个学生,运动场也不可以没有跑道。”

如今巍峨壮丽的宏文学校新校舍已经在陶纳路堂皇矗立起来,这是一座中华传统文化气息浓郁的建筑物。校方把华乐、象棋、围棋、书法、中国水墨画、武术等编入课程。校园里触目是琴棋书画和圣贤名训。首先是校门竖立起以校名冠顶的“宏图展创新添翼,文德兴化育扎根”对联,中间横批是校训“诚毅勤俭”。还有以捐款人黄金春父亲黄协恩冠名的行政楼“协恩楼”,以林恩强父亲林和义冠名的礼堂“林和义堂”,以及雅致的角落“毓修斋”,图书馆也称“藏知馆”,会议室称“集思阁”等等,都给人看到学校“以文化艺术让学生修身养性,并从中探索中华文化的博大精深,为国家培养双文化的幼苗”的心志。宏文学校是特选学校,发扬中华文化是他们的使命。

尽量把学生教好,学生要学会做人

黄金春小五辍学,上学的时间虽然不长,但他坚信学校教育对一个人的成长有深远的影响。他认为“教育很重要,每个人要花很多年的时间在学校上课和学习。”

对于学校的期待,他语重心长地表示:“一所好的学校应该尽本分把学生教好。”他认为自己不是教育家,只是觉得学校和教师扮演的角色很重要,“学校要把学生教好,所谓好不是说功课好,而是要学会做人。”

带领宏文董事部五年,黄金春强调教育是专业,所以董事部尽力配合教育部和校长的计划,从旁辅助。“教育建设主要由政府负责,但企业私人还是应该捐钱资助,加强学校的各种建设和其他发展项目,例如推动发扬中华文化的活动。”

宏文学校的校园洋溢着浓厚的中华文化,为了鼓励师生学习中华文化,董事部从2010年起每年拨款1万5000元,提供五份中华文化浸濡奖学金,让教师及学生到中国学习。

黄金春说:“外国人都积极学习华文,我们华人哪能不好好学习?”

重视校友会

黄金春率领的董事会理事们众志成城,除了负责筹款,还一起推动学校发展。他说:“我们大家互相鼓励,同时也向创办了许多学校的福建会馆学习。”

除了在籍学生,黄金春也十分重视校友会组织。宏文校友会和学校配合,为学校多做一些事情。这也是他对校友会的期许。

他衷心希望毕业同学参加校友会,因为“学生毕业后参加校友会才会保持联络,要不然大家就散了。”为表支持,他身体力行,出席校友会的所有重要活动,如校友会常年会员大会、讲座、展览等,还赞助了卡拉ok室的装潢及伴唱器材,让校友们可以相聚唱歌,增加休闲活动,联系感情。

渔村小伙子跨入国际航运业

黄金春慷慨捐助宏文的豪爽作风,从他经营航运业生意经验可以找到一丝脉络。

1947年出生的黄金春在印尼廖内群岛长大。双亲从莆田南来,捕鱼兼做渔业生意,父亲在他15岁时去世。1963年他离开家乡到新加坡。为了谋生,他曾先后在手表店、脚车店当店员。过后他学会开车,驾驶运油车,月薪从70元升到200多元,生活逐步改善。两三年后,他和朋友合伙做生意,租了一块地售卖柴油给德士,后来供应石油给轮船。这也迎来他生命的转捩点。改变他事业版图的黄金机会是新加坡在1970年代进行大规模的填海工程。

站在眺望着滨海湾的公司会议室,黄金春向本刊述说这地区在30多年前的面貌。他说,现在高楼环绕、寸金尺土的金融中心,在1970年代是挖泥船密集、沙石堆积,如火如荼地进行着填海工程。这是他发迹的起点。他在此获得油公司的生意,将柴油载给挖泥船,自此跨入航运业,买进了第一艘不到10万元,只有50吨的小船。其后逐步将生意触角伸入航运业,航线从新加坡到西亚、中东、日本及韩国,船只最大的有10万吨。

老板要自己找辛苦

访问多次被来电中断,黄金春中途急需处理业务。看着他忙上忙下,记者说做老板真辛苦。黄金春轻松地表示:“做老板就是要自己找辛苦,不能怕苦,我从来不讲辛苦两个字。我是能做什么就尽心尽力去做,该学习就学习,该工作就工作。”就是这种勤奋苦干、坚韧不拔的心志奠定了他成功的基础。

40年前他从印尼到新加坡打拼,平日除了努力工作,并不放弃上夜校学习。考过小学六年级试后,他到圣约瑟书院读黄昏班中学。回忆起这段日出而作、夜深才休息的半工读生活,他只有珍惜而毫无怨言:“6点多下班就赶到学校上课。为了读书我连饭都不吃,也不觉得饿。求学问就是要用功嘛!”

黄金春知道英文的重要,中三他转到英校维多利亚学校夜间部,希望加强英文能力。但素来英文底子不强,读到中四跟不上进度,加上已经开始做生意,非常忙碌。在无法兼顾的情况下,他决定休学。

买搁浅触礁的船再整修

谈起在变化迅速的国际航运业的求存之道,他买船的原则是用最快的方法、最少的钱买进最合适的船。“初期是买坏了的船,再送去修理。还有,就是去买搁浅触礁的船,那是没有人敢买的。买来后都送到上海去修理。”

推崇简单生活

现在事业有子女帮忙,黄金春可以抽空参与社团事务。现在他除了出任宏文学校董事长,也是兴安会馆主席。他认为会馆活动要让人感觉亲切,他鼓励会馆通过美食来吸引乡亲参加活动,让大人多带小孩来,营造合家和乐的气氛。无论是宏文学校或兴安会馆,他都以实际行动支持。这几年他尽量抽空跟随兴安会馆大队到马来西亚和中国各地参访。

他对祖籍莆田有深厚感情,曾随母亲返回父亲故乡淇沪村祭祖,并协助改善当地的基础建设及替学校兴建篮球场,每年还捐钱给当地小学资助儿童节礼品。

他向来作风低调,自谦自己并非特别成功,“我只是一个普通人,跑到大城市谋生,跟人家竞争。”他说话虽然简短,却不时蹦出一些发人深省的精句,很有启发性。

访谈结束后,记者参观了他的办公室。他的办公桌有几台电脑和荧幕。办公室的摆设告诉了我们,这名低调实干型的企业家,至今还是努力打拼着。

黄金春/Ng Kim Choon
Mr Ng Kim Choon started his business in the early 1970s dealing in petroleum products produced by the Singapore Petroleum Company and British Petroleum Singapore. In 1995, he incorporated Glory Ship Management. Today, Glory Ship Management manages a fleet of 15 bulk carriers and tankers. Mr Ng is currently a council member of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and the Honorary Chairman of Phor Tiong Koh Peng Association. He is also the Chairman of the Hin Ann Huay Kuan. 黄金春在1970年代初期与生意伙伴合伙,成为新加坡石油公司及英国石油公司的代理与分销商。1995年他成立Glory Ship Management公司,独资经营船运行业。至今,其公司拥有15艘散货船及油轮。他也是新加坡兴安会馆主席、新加坡福建会馆理事及莆中高平公会荣誉主席。

 

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