Tuesday, 25 November 2014

SG50 Baby Jubilee Gift: Goodies in store for babies born in 2015

Gifts chosen from over 6,500 ideas after round of voting by the public
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2014

MORE than 200 parents and children had a sneak peek yesterday of a specially designed suitcase filled with items to be given to babies born next year, as part of the SG50Baby Jubilee Gift.

The eight items, which were announced in June, are a medallion, a shawl, a baby sling, a set of baby clothes, a diaper bag, a scrapbook, a photo frame and a set of baby books. The gift set is to commemorate the country's Golden Jubilee next year.

The designs of two of the items were revealed last week: a white, five-picture photo frame and a scrapbook with colourful stickers.

Yesterday, the suitcase and the designs of the rest of the items - except the medallion, which will be shown on Jan 1 - were unveiled by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu at a community event at Suntec City mall.

Ms Fu said staff of the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) under the Prime Minister's Office worked with various partners over nine months to decide on the gifts.

Singaporeans also contributed their views in focus group sessions and public voting sessions held over two months.

More than 6,500 suggestions were collected by the NPTD, which is leading the SG50 Baby Jubilee Gift project.

An advisory panel of five parenthood advocates shortlisted 15 ideas from the suggestions.

The 15 items were put up later for another round of voting by the public and eight were picked.

Ms Fu thanked Singaporeans who contributed their ideas.

"Each contribution by the community is meaningful, making it truly a gift for Singaporeans, by Singaporeans," she added.

Leaving your kids with neighbours

Some Singaporeans do not ask neighbours to help with childcare, but mums in a group called Kampung Wives are looking out for one another
By Venessa Lee, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

Asking her neighbours for help to look after her children never crossed Ms Bliss Tan's mind - not even when her younger son suddenly had an attack of food poisoning.

"Reece was taken ill and vomitted just as I was about to take my elder son Riley to school, which was 10 minutes away by taxi. Usually, I would take the kids together but I had to leave Reece alone at home," says the 39-year-old teacher of the incident that took place last year. Riley is now eight and Reece, five.

Ms Tan adds: "When I got back, I could hear Reece crying for me in the toilet. I felt terrible but there was nothing else I could have done. I couldn't have taken him with me in the taxi waiting downstairs because he was vomiting."

She did not think of approaching a neighbour for help because "there's very little interaction" among the neighbours in her condominium block. "It doesn't feel right to burden a neighbour I don't know when a child is sick," she says.

Like her, other Singaporeans who live in close quarters would not think of approaching their neighbours for help to take care of their children.

In a year-long study reported in June, about 2,200 residents in five HDB towns ranked "exchange of greetings/small talk" as the most frequent activity with their neighbours. Displays of trust such as safekeeping of house keys, and borrowing and lending household items ranked the lowest. Analysts have said that such behaviour is common in cosmopolitan cities.

Parenting the Swedish way

The Swedish find it strange if dads don't stay home with the child
More couples are splitting their 16 months of parental leave more equally
By Tan Tam Mei, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

In his spare time, Mr Viktor Wallstrom, 29, grabs his hiking boots, windbreaker and hunting gear and sets off for his cabin in the woods north of Stockholm for a week. He also packs lots of diapers for his 14-month-old son Henry.

Bundled in warm clothing, the toddler gets a ride on dad's back, snug in a modified baby seat. Mr Wallstrom packs light for these father-and-son trips: no baby bottles, no baby toys, and no prams.

Though this might seem like a scene out of Survivor: Baby Edition, he is doing what many Swedish fathers do - he is on long parental leave to look after his child while his wife is at work.

"I'm the outdoorsy one, and my wife is the musical one. I like going into the woods, hiking and plucking mushrooms. So I usually take Henry on these expeditions since I'm the one on parental leave now," he says.

He is part of a growing tribe known in Sweden as "latte papas" - men who go on state-funded leave to be their children's primary caregivers, a role still associated mainly with mothers. While their wives or partners are at their jobs, the men do everything for their babies and toddlers, mostly still bottle-fed and in diapers.

Latte papas can be seen everywhere in public, one hand on a stroller and the other holding a mug of coffee. You see them in parks, or chilling with fellow dads and kids in cafes.

Mr Wallstrom, into his fourth month of parental leave, took time off from his public relations job in a telecommunications firm to stay home, look after Henry and handle the cooking, washing and cleaning up.

He plans to stay at home for six months until Christmas. His wife Linnea, 31, stayed home for almost a year after Henry's birth before returning to her job as an international coordinator with the Stockholm police.

"Taking parental leave is good for everyone. My wife gets to go to work, it's a good thing for her career. Henry gets to spend time with two parents who are active in his life. I get to bond with him during this stage of his life, so I think being on parental leave is fantastic," says Mr Wallstrom.

Experts in Sweden say that when fathers take more parental leave, it benefits not only their own families but can also enrich the labour market and reduce gender discrimination.

Forty years ago, Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce parental leave, giving both parents an equal chance to stay at home with the child.

Seletar Airport to be rebuilt in upgrading plan

Expanded operations there will help raise efficiency at Changi Airport
By Karamjit Kaur Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2014

SELETAR Airport, which currently handles mainly private and pilot training flights, will be torn down and rebuilt to expand its operations, as part of a bigger plan to increase the efficiency of Changi Airport.

The upgrade - slated to start next year - will see the new Seletar Airport equipped to handle more traffic, thereby allowing Changi Airport to make better use of its runways.

This will ultimately boost Singapore's position as a hub for intra-Asian and global air travel.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said: "With the growing demand for air travel and increased aircraft and passenger traffic at the Singapore air hub, there is a need to optimise the air hub's capacity. Smaller and slower aircraft, including turboprop aircraft... will be moved from Changi Airport to Seletar Airport in due course."

While flights by such aircraft make up a small proportion of the total number at Changi Airport, they require disproportionately larger air space.

For safety reasons, smaller planes need a greater separation distance from other aircraft when taking off or landing, aviation experts said. This is because smaller planes are more affected than bigger planes are by air turbulence that the latter generate.

In some cases, two landing slots are needed for one turboprop aircraft, which means less runway efficiency, they added.

New pedestrian mall J Link to boost connectivity at Jurong Gateway

By Alice Chia, Channel NewsAsia, 23 Nov 2014

A new pedestrian mall in Jurong Gateway was officially opened on Sunday (Nov 23), boosting connectivity and vibrancy in the area.

Costing about S$4.8 million, J Link is located between JCube shopping mall and a row of shops at Blk 135 Jurong Gateway Road.

With the 270-metre long shopping area, residents can now enjoy a wider and uncluttered covered walkway from Jurong East MRT station to the Science Centre at Lakeside.

Izabella Chia, a Jurong East resident, said: "In the past, there wasn't this walkway. So when it rained, it got really bad. With the increased sheltered walkways, I think it helps to prevent us from getting wet. Also, during the rainy season, (if I am) without an umbrella, this is really a lifesaver."

Previously, the covered walkway was narrow and the outdoor display area was cluttered with merchandise. Since then, the outdoor display areas have been removed or reorganised to display goods in a neater manner.

The worn-out canopy along the walkway was also upgraded with aluminium roof panels.

Other improvements include a sheltered walkway to Jurong Regional Library. Previously, there was no direct connection to the library from the area, and people walked on dirt tracks on the grass patch.

Surge in demand for blood in last 5 years

More stocks needed as population ages and donor pool shrinks
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2014

THE demand for blood has surged over the last five years as the population ages and grows.

Figures from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) show that 108,100 units of blood were used for medical transfusions last year, up a quarter from 86,300 in 2009.

An ageing population requires more blood as the elderly are more likely to develop age-related medical diseases such as cancer, which can cause anaemia, a condition where one lacks healthy red blood cells, said HSA.

"Unlike younger patients, the elderly often have a lower tolerance for anaemia due to conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and, thus, are more likely to need blood transfusions to prevent complications," said an HSA spokesman.

As people age, they also tend to need more operations which require input of blood.

By 2030, the number of elderly people here will triple to more than 900,000. Nearly half, or 14,511, of the 32,000 patients who received blood last year were aged 65 and above. The number of seniors who had blood transfusion grew 18 per cent from 12,310 in 2009. Blood use is projected to go up by 3 to 5 per cent annually, though there was a 7 per cent jump last year.

To meet transfusion needs and emergencies, blood stocks are usually kept at a level enough for six days' usage. However, the reserves can dip during the holidays when donors are away.

Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin William said an ageing population not only means demand has risen, but it also means the supply of blood may drop.

"The donor pool may shrink as regular blood donors can no longer donate if ill health strikes when they get older," said Mr William.

"We know this silver tsunami is coming, so we can prepare for it, or wait and hope it doesn't hit us, which would be complacency."

Monday, 24 November 2014

Get-well wishes pour in after ESM Goh's surgery

By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

Scores of Singaporeans sent their wishes for a speedy recovery to Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who underwent successful surgery yesterday for prostate cancer.

Many, including grassroots leaders and volunteers who work with him in his Marine Parade ward, were surprised by news of his cancer, although book publisher Tan Wu Cheng said that keeping quiet about it was typical of Mr Goh's low-key style.

"He likes to keep a low profile. He doesn't want to worry his residents as he knows we will be quite bothered about it," said the volunteer, who has been with Mr Goh since he was elected MP for Marine Parade in 1976.

A statement from Mr Goh's press secretary yesterday evening said that the 73-year-old, who was prime minister from 1990 to 2004, had successful surgery.

His doctor, Dr Sim Hong Gee, senior consultant urologist at Gleneagles Hospital and visiting consultant at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), said Mr Goh is expected to make a full recovery as the cancer was localised and detected early. He will remain at SGH for a few days for observation.

Mr Goh, who had been holidaying in Fukuoka, Japan, a week ago and returned home on Thursday, was expected to be present at a dinner and awards ceremony last night to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Action Party.

Base S'pore identity on common future: Chan Chun Sing

By Samantha Boh, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

Identity is not just about the past but our "common future", Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing told a youth forum yesterday.

He said a Singaporean identity is difficult to define based on a shared past as many in the population have different roots, grew up in different environments and speak different languages.

Instead, the Singaporean identity should be based on a common future which the Republic can move towards with a shared perspective.

"While we look at the past to find a source of strength for our values, we must not let our past be a source of division," he said.

"Instead, we should let the future be a unifying force for us."

Mr Chan was addressing 300 local and foreign tertiary students at the Institute of Technical Education College East on embracing diversity.

The event was organised by the National Youth Achievement Award Gold Award Holders' Alumni (GAHA).

Some students raised concerns about competition from foreigners in the job market, while others asked about their assimilation into society.

Mr Chan explained that there is a need for foreign transient workers for jobs which cannot be filled by Singaporeans as well as for those in new industries where there is still a lack of local talent.

But he said the Government has tightened the labour demand in certain sectors to ensure that companies do not become reliant on "quantitative labour inputs but qualitative labour inputs".

Ball court gives way to pre-fab childcare centre

By Toh Yong Chuan, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

A multi-purpose ball game court in Sengkang which attracted complaints about noise from local residents was torn up and replaced with a much-needed childcare centre - all within six months.

The NTUC First Campus' My First Skool in Compassvale Link - the first in Singapore to be built using pre-fabrication - was opened officially yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, anchor minister for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

It took just 41/2 months to build - half the usual construction time - because half of it was made and assembled in a factory and transported to the site for installation.

However, the ward's Member of Parliament Gan Thiam Poh would not be drawn into saying whether similar conversions will be made for other hard ball courts that have attracted similar complaints.

"(The conversion) had the support of my residents. I cannot speak for others," he told The Sunday Times.

The centre opened its doors to children in March and it soon won over locals. It currently provides 181 childcare places for three- to six-year-old children.

A retiree, who gave his name only as Mr Ng and is in his 60s, said: "It is better to hear the sound of children playing at 9am than teenagers making noise playing soccer at 9pm."

The development also helped to address the shortage of childcare places.

A school by another name isn't the same

Qiaonan and Griffiths hold plenty of history and memories for former staff and pupils
By Pearl Lee And Ho Ai Li, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

What's in a name?

Plenty of history and memories, say former staff and pupils of Griffiths Primary School and Qiaonan Primary.

They are upset that the two pioneer schools, which together have been around for 145 years, will be merged to form Angsana Primary School - a name with little connection to its predecessors.

"Why Angsana? Why not something like Griffiths-Qiaonan?" asked 86-year-old Eunice Tan Khe Tong, a retired principal, who was there for Griffiths Primary School at its start, and its end.

She was among Griffiths' first teachers when it opened in Towner Road in 1950, and was at its Tampines Street 22 location earlier this month for its closing ceremony. She has already written to the National Heritage Board to ask for the Griffiths name to be preserved.

"A name represents a school's history," said Mrs Tan, who "taught math, science, English, art, and even singing" in her eight years with the school.

A street away from Griffiths is Qiaonan, which was started in 1933 by the Wenzhou clan association. Its name is most likely a reference to Chinese migrants (qiao) who have moved south (nan).

Qiaonan Alumni Association president Lim Eng Kiong, 57, who first studied there in 1965, said the group, which has around 200 members, has also appealed to the Ministry of Education (MOE) and met its officials to try to save the school name.

"I have strong feelings for Qiaonan. If I can help keep its name, I will try my best," he said.

Singapore Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye, 65, also a former pupil, added: "It's such a good name, why not keep it?"

The MOE said Singapore's birth rate has fallen sharply since 2000, leading to declining enrolment in some schools in mature estates.

This "does not allow them to offer a good range of educational programmes and co-curricular activities", explained a spokesman. In the past five years, two other primary schools were merged, while four secondary schools were combined into two.

A Schools Naming Committee decides on the new name, taking into account the previous schools' histories and whether it will resonate with the community.