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No punishment against RGS girls who ‘prayed’ to Athena statue in school

Greek goddess Athena symbolises 'qualities crucial for daughters of a better age', according to a blurb on RGS' virtual campus tour. (SCREENCAPS: RGS website, Twitter)
Greek goddess Athena symbolises 'qualities crucial for daughters of a better age', according to a blurb on RGS' virtual campus tour. (SCREENCAPS: RGS website, Twitter)

SINGAPORE — No disciplinary action was meted to a group of Raffles Girls' School (RGS) students who were captured in photos allegedly "dancing, chanting and praying" to a statue of Greek goddess Athena located on the school's premises.

In response to media queries by Yahoo News Singapore, RGS principal Haslinda Zamani confirmed that an incident involving a "small group" of Year 1 students had caused some disruption to ongoing classes at the end of term 1 of the school year. The first term of the school year began on 4 January and ended on 11 March.

"Following this, the (head of year) sent an email to the Year 1 cohort on the incident, to encourage the students involved to take responsibility," Haslinda said.

The head has since spoken to the girls and listened to their explanation, the principal added.

"On the part of the girls, they reflected with maturity and have benefited from hearing from different perspectives. There was no disciplinary action meted," Haslinda added.

She also said that the school's approach has always been to have "open and honest conversations" with its girls, and to support "reflection and learning in a safe space".

Last week, screenshots of an email, as well as a photo attachment depicting the incident, purportedly circulated to all first-year RGS students and form teachers went viral on social media.

The screenshots of the alleged correspondence – which was not dated – showed that it was signed off by a Kamsir, who identified as the school's head for first-year students, and attached with a photo of the incident. The school's website listed a "Kamsir" as its head for first-year students.

In them, the school staff member purportedly wrote that a group of students had chosen to act on their "frustrations and anxiety over the pen-and-paper assessments (PPAs) by dancing, chanting and praying" to the statue of Athena.

The "inconsiderate acts" had disturbed their seniors who were still having their PPAs, the screenshots added.

Haslinda did not confirm the content seen in the screenshots, the nature of the incident, or whether similar incidents had happened in the past.

The alleged email continued to say the "unbecoming behaviour" had tarnished the reputation of all RGS students, noting that the group had not demonstrated the school values of "Principled" and "People Centredness" and "have instead demonstrated Self Centredness".

"'Praying' to the statue of Athena, even if done in jest, is unacceptable. If you do subscribe to a religion, let me remind you that your action is sacrilegious," it said.

"If you do not subscribe to a religion, your action is still unacceptable as it offends the school community that expects our school to be a secular environment for learning."

Athena is said to be associated with wisdom, and highly skilled in handicraft and warfare. The outdoor statue symbolises "qualities crucial for daughters of a better age", according to a blurb on the school's virtual campus tour.

The goddess is not the only symbol of Greek mythology adopted by RGS.

Its school song, "From High Olympus", is a reference to Mount Olympus, one of the most important sites in ancient Greece. Mount Olympus is said to be the home of the 12 Olympian gods, such as Zeus and Athena, and a meeting place of heaven and earth, according to Greek mythology.

Kamsir also purportedly called for the students involved in the incident to write a letter of apology explaining their actions by a deadline and why disciplinary action should not be taken against them.

The students would face an immediate booking if they did not respond to the order or if their replies were "insufficient".

"Know that pictures of your actions have gone viral online and have caused the online community to have a negative impression of all RGS girls. This is unfair to RGS girls past and present," the screenshots read.

The head also allegedly praised the students who witnessed the incident but did not join in.

"I hope that in future, you will go one step further in immediately telling off the girls who behave inappropriately. Let us help each other to be guided in behaviour that is not just acceptable but also commendable and admirable," the screenshots said.

The alleged email ended with a request to the students against circulating photos of the incident "online or otherwise" as "enough damage has been done".

The alleged email went viral on social media. (SCREENCAPS: Twitter)
The alleged email went viral on social media. (SCREENCAPS: Twitter)

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