Sr Anne Wong: Expelling students not the solution

CN: Do you have any comments on the recent CHIJ drug case?

Sr Anne: Well, I stand by what I said in the papers (The Straits Times), which is, if I believe that something is right, then I will do it, because we are here to protect every child. And sometimes we make decisions, which are painful, which may not be shared by others, and we can even be misjudged or misquoted, it doesnít matter. If truth is on your side, youíll be fearless, and the Minister for Education (Rear-Admiral Teo Chee Hean) stood by us. It is all in the papers.

CN: How do you think this will affect your image of CHIJ, a Catholic mission school?

Sr Anne: God looks after that. Iím here not to look after the image of the school, Iím here to save souls. Let Him worry about that. Itís not Sr Anneís school. Iím only a servant, an instrument, so let Boss look after it. I know a lot of people donít share the same sentiments. Whatís in a name? What are we here for? Whose son or daughter are we going to sacrifice, when you protect the name of the school? Every student is somebodyís son or daughter. When you expel a student for something like drug-taking, you are not solving the problem, you are pushing it to society. If enough of us do that, society will have one big problem, and we will responsible for destroying society.

CN: What will you do with them later on if they do come back to school?

Sr Anne: The police will decide, actually. I will go by the decision of the police and the lawful authorities. I canít even speculate now, because itís not fair to them, itís not fair to trial the students by the media, itís not fair to speculate because for me, the minute you speculate, Iím actually appropriating to myself powers that are not mine. The law decides, and Sr Anne doesnít make the law.

CN: Would you give them any counselling?

Sr Anne: They have been counselled for more than 3 years. That is what the media doesnít know. We have an in-house counsellor. We have been helping every child. What has been extended to every other child has also been extended to them, which is, drug education, counselling when they get into trouble, parents have been notified, statements have been taken, undertakings have been received from their parents as well the children themselves. So, what more do you want us to do? God gave them and every one of us free will, and we decide. Even God canít take it back. Truth does not have to defend itself; truth is its own defence. It is only a matter of time.

Julius Caesar had a Brutus, who do you think you are that you should have no nemesis out there? How many times have our Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew been cursed? It doesnít matter. His Ďreport cardí is there for everybody to see. And there are a lot of cowards in this world unfortunately. A lot of cowards held back by fear, fear of judgement and failure. These are the people who never accomplish anything. Who are the people that are trailblazers? CHIJ was started by 4 little nuns, with no money, no (knowledge of the) English (language), no connections. Look at the 11 convents we have today. It was just sheer faith! And faith is its own reward. We are enjoying the benefits of whatever they did. So, what legacy are we leaving behind? You have to leave something behind.

CN: Iím sure you left a legacy here.

Sr Anne: (laughs) For better or for worse.

This article appeared edited in the August 6 2000 edition of The Catholic News.