Selvarani Gnaneswaran

Her story may be a simple one but it shows how an ordinary woman can go beyond one’s own measure to nurture an entire community. Mrs Selvarani Gnaneswaran needed some coaxing to open up and share her life story, but her charitable nature was awe inspiring and left a deep impression on us.
For all of her adulthood, she had the pleasure of sharing her endless love with small children. She had a way with them that made her amazing at what she did and enabled her to guide them onto the right path from the very beginning.


Mrs Gnani taught for over 30 years, starting with her first teaching stint at a convent in Kuala Lumpur. However she did not merely ‘teach’, she was a confidante and mentor to all her students. Her deep-rooted passion and sincerity towards teaching garnered her offers of higher positions in the teaching profession such as Vice Principal at May Primary School. She however needed no award or promotions to do what she was good at – looking after the children under her care as if they were her own. 

“The child goes for someone she feels safe with. You know - they can sense it.”


Mrs Gnani retired at the age of 60 years old. That was when her journey with SINDA began and filled up most of her life for the next decade.
If not for its founding members like Mrs Gnani, SINDA could not have seen such immense progress since its inception in 1991. SINDA’s mission was to assist the children from broken homes and low-income families to do better academically. However academic help alone would not brought about the intended changes. Empathy and genuine care for the children from teachers like Mrs Gnani were important factors in yielding the results seen today. The families touched by teachers like Mrs Gnani remain ever grateful for the sacrifices made and effort taken to achieve SINDA’s goals. 

“It is nice to see them as lawyers and doctors – I gave tuition to all of them.”

When Mrs Gnani recollects the times she spent growing up in Pahang and studying in Kuala Lumpur, her face lights up and she is all smiles. She has fond memories of the immense love that her parents and especially her brothers had for her. From playing cricket with her brothers to studying together after playtime, she recalls how well she was taken care of and doted on by her siblings.
When she got married, she wished she had more children so her daughter could experience the joy of being raised with many siblings just like her. However, Singapore had already passed the ‘Stop at Two’ policy and the cost of living had become too high to bring up a big family.


“I don’t want to have all the money, lead a high life and be unhappy.”

Having had an extremely pious mother, Mrs Gnani too has a strongly rooted belief system. This led her to be involved with the Hindu Centre where she performed many duties. The experience of starting the school library at May Primary School came in handy in her work to organise the precious religious books that were donated to the Hindu Centre. She also taught religious classes at the Centre.
When Mrs Gnani decided to help some of the most destitute children of the society, she began visiting the Institute of Mental Health once a month. She would make agar-agar every time she visited the children and gave it specially to each child. Sometimes, she also brought them toys and bought materials to stitch clothes for them. After retirement, she also began to render her services to the Sai Baba Centre. This is where she met more children and youth who were mentally affected. It broke her heart to see such youngsters suffering in silence. She prays and hopes for greater attention and support to address the needs of children like them.


“Where did we fail? As teachers where did we fail?”

With computerization and changes in syllabus, Mrs Gnani is no longer able to tutor the kids in her neighbourhood. But she is constantly in the minds of the many kids from her estate she has taught. Even now, they drop by; all grown up, some even married with kids. To them and many others, Mrs Gnani was the teacher who went out of her way to put every child who passed through her hands on the road to success. 50Faces thanks teachers like Mrs Gnani for going beyond their call of duty. 


A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.