United in grief, Singaporeans mourn slain teen student

Gifts sent to the school by the public. Photo: River Valley High School/Facebook
Gifts sent to the school by the public. Photo: River Valley High School/Facebook

Singaporeans are pouring their hearts out to mourn a high school student murdered on campus this week.

It has been a solemn several days since a 13-year-old, Sec 1 boy died at the hands of another student Monday at River Valley High School. School administrators, political figures including the president and prime minister, and members of the public have left uplifting messages of condolences at the campus and online.

“We share your grief and your pain. We fail to find words to convey our sorrow. A griping sense of loss seizes us. As we struggle to make sense of it all, we hold space in our minds for the two lives extinguished, and the many lives scarred,” reads one of thousands of messages compiled by the school from alumni and other schools. “We send our prayers to be with all of you. May you all see light and find strength as you walk out these dark days in unity.” 

The school said last night that all the kind words have not gone unnoticed.

“Thank you for your support in so many ways, we are immensely touched by your show of solidarity with the RV Community,” River Valley High School admins wrote last night. “The sudden passing of a son, brother and friend leaves a heartache no words can heal, but love leaves a memory that no one can steal. We will get through this difficult time as one RV family and emerge stronger over time.”

Other messages of support were signed by other schools.

“As fellow educators, it’s beyond words to describe how you are feeling and what you are going through. May you find the inner peace and strength within you to emerge stronger as one individual, one school and one community!” a message by neighboring school Frontier Primary School read.

Members of the public including Education Minister Chan Chun Sing have joined the school in changing their Facebook profile photos to a black and white version of the school’s logo in tribute to the tragedy. 

President Halimah Yacob yesterday encouraged those emotionally affected by the incident to reach out to support helplines and “be kind and compassionate to one another.”

“It is hard to make sense of what happened. It is even harder to fathom the unimaginable trauma and grief experienced by the families, loved ones, friends, students and teachers affected. Some people, including our youths and students, may be shocked and scared by the news, while others feel helpless and confused,” she wrote.

On Tuesday, a 16-year-old River Valley student suspected of using an axe to kill the unidentified boy was charged with murder. Students have found themselves hounded by reporters on their way to school.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday he “cannot make sense of what happened” and urged the public to refrain from any speculation.

“The police are still investigating this case, to find out the motivations behind this tragedy, and if something could have been done to avert it. Let us wait for them to complete their work. Let us not worsen the trauma and grief of the affected families with speculation and rumour,” he wrote.

News of the killing left the nation, where school murders are a rarity, numb. The victim was found dead in one of the school’s toilets, where the axe believed used in the attack was later seized.

The 16-year-old suspect was charged the next day with murder and remanded for psychiatric assessment. Police previously said the suspect had been assessed at the Institute of Mental Health in 2019 following a suicide attempt. The next court hearing will take place Aug. 10.

If you are in distress and are in need of support, please reach out to the following:

National CARE Hotline: 1800 202 6868

Fei Yue’s Live Chat Counselling Service: ec2.sg

TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252

Stay Prepared (A directory of support helplines) 

Other stories you should check out:

Cancel National Day? Some Singaporeans’ say this isn’t time for a party
Straits Times apologizes for ‘unfortunate’ axe ad next to school killing story
‘A neverending nightmare’: Singapore gets COVID whiplash as situation goes ‘backwards’

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