Singapore — Former students of ex-People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Zainal Sapari have on Teachers’ Day (Sept 4) thanked him for making a difference in their lives.
Mr Zainal, 54, was a teacher, principal and superintendent with the Ministry of Education, overseeing a cluster of 12 schools in the eastern part of Singapore. He was fielded and elected in the 2011 General Election as part of a five-member PAP team in Pasir Ris-Punngol GRC led by Minister Teo Chee Hean. He was re-elected as part of the PAP team in the same GRC in 2015.
The MP, however, chose to step down before this year’s General Election.
While Mr Zainal retired, a student of his in secondary school was elected in the recent elections. Mr Wan Rizal, 42, who is also an educator, had been fielded as a new candidate in Jalan Besar GRC.
Mr Zainal was later Mr Rizal’s political mentor, involving him in his Meet-the-People Sessions for a year in 2017. Mr Rizal joined the PAP the following year.
Mr Rizal sat down with Mr Zainal for a party video to mark Teachers’ Day. In the video, the first-term MP recalled that Mr Zainal gave him lots of advice when he was his student but he did not take in much of his teacher’s words at the time.
But one piece of advice that Mr Rizal took to heart was Mr Zainal’s call for him to become a teacher. Mr Rizal said it was the best decision he made in his life and it was what made him realise the value of Mr Zainal’s words. Later on, Mr Rizal took on Mr Zainal’s call to help him in the community — a call that eventually led him to join politics himself.
Mr Rizal added that Mr Zainal’s persona has not changed from what it was when he was a teacher. He said Mr Zainal’s way of interacting with people was something he replicated in his interactions with his own residents.
In the video, Mr Zainal playfully goes through his former student’s old report card before Mr Rizal presents him with a handwritten thank you card. The card said: “Dear Mr Zainal, thank you for your guidance, trust and belief in me. Happy Teachers’ Day!”
Wan Rizal regrets not taking the advice of his form teacher, Mr Zainal bin Sapari.Happy Teachers' Day to all teachers out there! Look out for more stories of how teachers can impact their students for life.#TeachersWhoChangedOurLives #PAP4SG
Posted by People's Action Party on Tuesday, 1 September 2020
Some of those who responded to the video said that they, too, were Mr Zainal’s former students. One was in Mayflower Primary School and another in Tampines Secondary School.
Perhaps the most heartwarming message came from Facebook user Md Hair, who said Mr Zainal made an invaluable difference in his son’s life.