| Singapore | 26 Sept 2017 | Asia Samachar |
Born in December 1929, Mr Jeswant Singh Bandal lost his mother when he was just four years old. His early childhood was also rather unsettling as he spent his early years living in different parts of the region. When he finally settled in Singapore, he embarked on a life journey that saw him carving a name for himself in Singapore society and the Sikh community.
As an infant, Jeswant was raised in Tronoh in Perak, Malaya. His grandfather, Mr Ran Singh, was brought from India to Taiping in Malaya as part of the British military police to control the communists operating in that area. He finally retired in Tronoh and soon after, settled in India. Jeswant recalled his early years, “My father, Mr Assa Singh, served as a priest first in Sumatra and then in Kuala Lumpur. We moved with him.” When Jeswant lost his mother, the family decided to move to India. After a year, Jeswant and his family returned to Malaya.
In 1935, Jeswant started his education in Sentul in Kuala Lumpur where he attended the Loyola Institute. Subsequently, he moved to Kedah and enrolled into Sultan Abdul Hamid College for another two years before finally moving to Singapore and enrolling in Rangoon Primary School to complete his primary education.
The Japanese occupation of Singapore took place in 1942 when Jeswant was only 13 years old. For all Singaporeans, the arrival of the Japanese was a time of pain and suffering. However, Jeswant took advantage of the situation and started learning the Japanese language and over time, honed his knowledge of the language and culture. This led to a recommendation for him to be a language interpreter initially for the municipal office and then with the Inspector General of the Japanese Police Commissioner. Jeswant continued to further study the language and was among one of only two Singaporeans who passed the ‘Tokkyu’ – the Highest Special Grade Examination. The other individual is Singapore’s former President, Mr S R Nathan.
With the help of his uncle, then a senior teacher at Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur, Jeswant was able to secure a place at Raffles Institution. He realised that he was performing rather poorly in Mathematics and needed help if he were to pass his examinations. He approached his Mathematics teacher, Mr K M R Menon, for additional help. Through his guidance, Jeswant graduated with a credit average in the Cambridge Examinations. Unfortunately, his desire to study further was cut short when he could not pay the tuition fee. He stated that, “I was superannuated to the effect that I was suspended from classes for not paying my tuition fees.”
Jeswant decided to enter the teaching profession. By the age of 23 years, he was a qualified teacher and he started his teaching stint as a teacher demonstrator for two years before becoming a Mathematics teacher at Outram Secondary School. Jeswant was appointed principal of a primary school when he was 30 years old. Thereafter, he was seconded to the Singapore Police Force as a Police Education Officer for three years.
Such career progressions were the first of many for him and he took each and every posting professionally, believing that it was an opportunity to further enrich himself. He went on to serve as the principal of Charlton Primary School and finally took on the task of guiding senior students who were dispassionate when it came to their studies in his role as the principal of Baharuddin Vocational Institute.
Taking a break from his teaching and leadership stints, Jeswant took up a Public Service Commission scholarship and pursued a training course in the United Kingdom. During the two years, he trained to be a specialist Mathematics teacher at the Institute of Education in the University of Kingston Upon Hull, Yorkshire.
Upon his return to Singapore, he was appointed as an Assistant Inspector of Schools (Mathematics). He was eventually promoted to the post of Inspector of Schools at the Ministry of Education (MOE). This would be Jeswant’s longest serving post – it lasted 22 years. In 1989, at the age of 60 years, Jeswant retired from the education service.
Not one to sit idle, he continued to lecture part-time at the Singapore Productivity and Standards Board for another eight years before finally deciding to devote most of his time to his family.
Throughout his life, while Jeswant advanced in his professional career, he was also committed to giving back to the nation and community. In 1987, he formed the Board of Visitors (Drug Rehabilitation Centres) under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Through this initiative, he carried out inspection visits at various Drug Rehabilitation Centres to assess their conditions. He stated: “I had the strong desire to continue serving on the Board of Visitors for as long as possible. It was a noble effort.”
At the same time, he was part of the Management Committee of Ashram, a half-way house for drug offenders under the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB). He also held the position of Chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board and was actively involved in fundraising efforts for community projects, including for the Central Sikh Temple. He is currently a Member of the Council of Elders in the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation.
Jeswant’s social and community contributions have not gone unnoticed. He is the recipient of various medals. In 1989, he received the Pingat Berkebolehan (Efficiency Medal) for his service in MOE, the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) in 2006 and the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) in 2013 for long and outstanding service on the Board of Visitors, and the Pingkat Bakti Setia (Long Service Award) in 2009 for his service to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
In spite of his achievements, Jeswant remains a humble and unassuming person. Today, he is 86 years old and he still lives by the belief that “you must keep on trying persistently and you are likely to succeed.”
Such a belief system cannot possibly be wrong – Jeswant kept on trying with determination and persistency and despite hurdles along the way, he achieved success in the education and social services sectors in Singapore.
“I am blessed to have been associated with Jeswant for more than 30 years. Both of us have been active volunteers in our nation’s fight against drug abuse through SANA and on the Board of Visitors (Drug Rehabilitation Centres) under MHA. We have also been in the Management Committee of Ashram, a half-way house for drug offenders under the HEB, for many years. The nation-building role Jeswant played as an eminent personality in Singapore’s education service is remarkable. He is an honest and straight forward gentleman with an analytical mind. He mixes well with people and has a golden heart, ever ready to help others irrespective of their race or religion.”
DR RAMASAMY KARUNANITHY PBM,
Former Professor of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore
 Interview with Mr Jeswant Singh Bandal, August 13, 2015.
 Baharuddin Vocational Institute was part of the Vocational and Industrial Training Board which was the predecessor to the Institute of Technical Education, a post-secondary institution that provides pre-employment training to secondary school leavers and continuing education and training to working adults. See www.moe.gov.sg. Baharuddin Vocational Institute was the first tertiary school dedicated to manual and applied arts in Singapore. See http://www.queenstown. org.sg/heritage-2
 The PSB was formed from the merger of the National Productivity Board and the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research in 1996. It was the national agency for productivity and standards. See http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_26_2005-01-09. html. Today, it is called SPRING Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry responsible for helping Singapore enterprises grow and building trust in Singapore products and services. See https:// www.mti.gov.sg.
 Interview with Mr Jeswant Singh Bandal, op. cit.
 The HEB is a statutory body set up under the Hindu Endowments Act in 1968. Its role, as set out in the Act, is to administer those endowments placed under its administration. See http://heb.gov.sg.
 The Pingat Berkebolehan was instituted in 1969. It is awarded to any of the following persons for exceptional efficiency or exceptional devotion to duty or for work of special significance: public officer; officer employed by any statutory authority; any person who in the service of any organisation, association or body rendering services in the field of education; or any person employed in any company which is whollyowned by the government and which is carrying on business mainly as an agent or instrumentality of the government. See http://www.pmo.gov.sg/nationaldayawards.
 The Pingat Bakti Masyarakat was instituted in 1973. The medal is awarded to any person who has rendered commendable public service in Singapore or for his or her achievement in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. See http://www.pmo.gov.sg/nationaldayawards.
 The Bintang Bakti Masyarakat was instituted in 1963. It is awarded to any person who has rendered valuable public service to the people of Singapore; or who has distinguished himself or herself in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. Ibid.
 The Pingat Bakti Setia was instituted in 1962. The medal may be awarded to any person who has completed 25 years continuous service in the service of the government, any statutory authority, any organisation, association or body rendering services in the field of education, or any company which is wholly owned by the government and which is carrying on business mainly as an agent or instrumentality of the Government, and who is of irreproachable character. Ibid.
 Interview with Mr Jeswant Singh Bandal, op. cit.
[This article is courtesy of SINGAPORE AT 50: 50 SIKHS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS, a book published in 2015 by the Young Sikh Association, Singapore (YSA) in conjunction with Singapore’s 50th birthday]
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