SINGAPORE – Five years after the four ethnic-based self-help groups agreed to jointly set up student care centres in schools, 30 of them are up and running with two set up just last month.
Ministers and representatives from the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Eurasian Association (EA), Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and Yayasan Mendaki joined 20 students from Big Heart Student Care @ Zhangde Primary on Thursday (Feb 18) to celebrate the anniversary of their joint venture as well as the opening of the latest centres.
The Big Heart Student Care centres, which have more than 4,200 students enrolled, began operating at Xishan Primary School and Zhangde Primary School in January this year.
Ms Low Yen Ling, Mayor of South West District and chairman of the self-help groups’ joint venture company, said: “It’s with the support of the self-help groups and community partners, that Big Heart has been able to meet our aim of providing quality and affordable after-school student care services for students from all backgrounds.
“This mission is all the more vital today as more students and families are impacted by the challenging economy due to the pandemic,” added Ms Low, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry as well as Culture, Community and Youth.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, who is chairman of CDAC, noted that Big Heart Student Care was a key platform for the self-help groups to collaborate and support students.
“This sits alongside other schemes and programmes that each self-help group uses to focus help on students of its community. This is an appropriate and good balance in a multiracial, multicultural society, where we are all Singaporeans and at the same time, wish to help the weaker members of our own ethnic community,” he said.
In the Resilience Budget last year, the Government doubled the $10 million grant to self-help groups over two years to enable them to help more families.
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, who also represents the interests of the Eurasian community in Cabinet, said the self-help groups had done “commendable work in building an inclusive and welcoming environment for students from all backgrounds to learn and grow”.
More than one-third of the enrolled students benefit from the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Student Care Fee Assistance scheme (SCFA) under which eligible households can receive monthly fee subsidies for their child’s student care fees.
Cumulatively more than 2,000 of the SCFA eligible students are given further subsidies through the self-help groups’ Programme Fee Subsidy (PFS) scheme. PFS subsidies are granted according to the families’ household income/per capita income and will help to cover costs such as full day programme fees, learning journeys and holiday enrichment workshops.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, who is Sinda’s president, said Big Heart Student Care ensures students have “a safe and constructive after-school environment in which they can supplement their classroom learning with enrichment programmes and good social activities.”
Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, who is Mendaki chairman, said: “Various educational programmes provided by Big Heart help to build (students’) resilience and enhance their development. Together with the other self-help groups, we will continue to support our children’s aspirations and education journey.”