Sunday, 16 August 2015

Self-help groups to operate 30 school-based student care centres

Centres will offer after-school care to children mainly from disadvantaged backgrounds
By Amanda Lee Gui Ping, TODAY, 13 Aug 2015

The four main community self-help groups will be jointly setting up and running 30 school-based student care centres, with the first few expected to be opened from January next year.

These centres, which will all be sited in primary schools, will offer after-school care to children mainly from low-income, single-parent and/or distressed families, or who are sometimes left at home without adult supervision. The number of centres opening each year and their locations will be announced later.

The injection of places comes amid rising demand in recent years. Figures from the Ministry of Education (MOE) shows enrolment numbers spiking from around 3,000 to more than 10,000 in the span of five years, as the number of school-based student care centres more than doubled to 114 over the same period.

The Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Yayasan MENDAKI, Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) and the Eurasian Association (EA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the MOE today (Aug 13) to operate these centres through a joint venture company.

By joining forces, the self-help groups will be able to chip in with their resources for schools to give better support to students, especially those from less-advantaged backgrounds, the groups and the MOE said in a joint statement.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who witnessed the signing, added that the collaboration will allow his ministry to expand the number of school-based student care centres.

“By working more closely with the schools, we can design a whole range of innovative programmes that can stimulate the learning of our students, promote the holistic development of our students. This is particularly important for students who come from disadvantaged families where the home support may not be there,” Mr Heng told reporters. “This is an important aspect of our effort to promote social mobility and to give opportunities to our students regardless of their background.”

Currently, there are three school-based student care centres run by self-help groups. Yayasan MENDAKI operates one at Blangah Rise Primary School and the CDAC at Bendemeer Primary School and Chongfu School. The centres cater to students of all races.

CDAC deputy executive director Pok Cheng Chong said there is “good demand” for their centre in Bendemeer Primary School. Enrolment has doubled to 120 since they started operations in July last year.

“We work very closely with the school to identify students (who qualify for the student care centre). So far we have not come across cases where we have had to turn away students,” he added.

Yayasan MENDAKI chief executive officer Tuminah Sapawai said each self-help group will bring different strengths to the partnership. “That is where we can tap each other’s best practices and programmes that have worked for each self-help group,” she added.

Nine year-old Larisa, who comes from a single-parent family, looks forward to going to the student care centre after...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Thursday, August 20, 2015

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