SINGAPORE: Crowds of curious students lined the staircases and upper-level hallways of their school, wielding mobile phones and craning their necks in anticipation of the arrival of their royal guest.
And they did not wait in vain. As the car carrying Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived at the school’s drop-off point, cheers filled the air. The Duchess, who is accompanying her husband, Britain’s Prince Charles, on a four-day visit to Singapore, was there to tour the school and meet participants of the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, the world’s oldest schools’ international writing competition. Last year, a Temasek JC student won an award in the competition.
And for many students, it was a proud moment. Some – who are due to take their A Level exams in a week’s time – took time out of their study schedules to catch a glimpse of the Duchess as she walked through their school.
“We just want to kaypoh,” said JC2 student Tan Guan Yu. “I just feel proud and privileged that out of every school in Singapore, she chose to visit ours.”
“I just wanted to follow from a distance, because it’s interesting,” added his friend, Nicole de Cruz. “I’ve never seen royalty before, and it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
Other students, who got the chance to meet and chat with the Duchess, were taken by how personable and friendly she was.
Fourth-year IP student Grace Hoten was studying a poem with her classmates and teacher at a bench along the Duchess’s tour route, and was pleasantly surprised when she stopped for a chat.
“When the teachers said she might stop and talk to us for awhile, I didn’t really expect that,” she said. “I thought she would just walk past. But she came to every single table to chat. That was really nice.”
“My mum would definitely have liked me to take a photo with her,” she added, to laughs from her classmates.
The Duchess also observed students taking part in a music activity, and visited the school’s drama centre where Singaporean poet Alvin Pang was leading a workshop for competition students.
Students had been told not to block her route, but many – including their teachers – watched and waited quietly on the sidelines of every stop she made, hoping to catch a glimpse – and a quick snapshot – of the Duchess.
The visit ended with a posed photograph with students and staff before the Duchess signed the school’s guestbook. Crowds of students had lined the sides of the school’s driveway, and were waiting in silence to say goodbye.
But as she got into the car, what initially started off as a few scattered claps and cheers turned into a wave of applause, as teachers, students, school leaders and even the cleaners came together to say goodbye to their royal visitor.