Outreach, Welfare

Enriching students’ future

THE METHODIST WELFARE SERVICES (MWS) runs four Student Care Centres (SCCs) in different parts of Singapore. Nestled in the HDB heartlands, the SCCs were set up to meet the needs of lower-income families, offering affordable after-school care for children aged seven to 12 years.

About 34 per cent of the students at Daybreak SCC, iConnect Student Care, D’Joy SCC, and Sembawang Family Service Centre SCC pay subsidised fees. However, a good number of families are unable to pay even these reduced fees. With their parents struggling to meet daily living needs, the children often do not enjoy a family environment that is conducive for studying and they lack the motivation typically given by attentive adults. Many children are failing, unable to cope with the curriculum’s demands.

To this end, the MWS has introduced two special programmes for students who are underprivileged, and whose families do not have the resources to support them in their studies and development.

One-to-one tutoring
Under this scheme which started in January 2011, made possible with a substantial donation, tertiary students were hired at market rates to give one-to-one or one-to-two tuition to our SCC students. Besides possessing good grades in English, mathematics and science, these young tutors had to have some prior experience working with children.

So far, 22 youths have been hired to tutor 33 students and the results, although anecdotal, are very encouraging. In a survey carried out by the SCC supervisors, after six months on the programme, about 80 per cent of the students displayed increased levels of motivation towards learning and doing their school work.

The mother of a boy in Primary Three said: “I am very pleased with my child’s improvement. I have realised that he is more an independent learner now. With some coaching, he is even able to do more complicated maths problems. His English composition has also improved.”

The single father of another Primary Three student said: “I can see that my son attempts to do work independently at home. The tutoring programme has helped him to focus on his task. Before this programme, I was desperate to get help for my son and I almost gave up on him. Now, I’m very happy this programme was offered to my child.”

Apart from getting help with their academic work, the children also enjoy the exclusive attention they get from their older “brothers” and “sisters”.

For some of the young tutors, the extra income came in very handy as they could supplement their own family’s income. Roshitha, a tutor at iConnect Student Care, shared: “I’m glad I can ease my family’s financial burden, as I don’t have to depend on them as much.” Evelyn, a fellow tutor, is also saving the money for her polytechnic fees and future studies.

Through another generous donation, the MWS allowed children from less-privileged backgrounds to benefit from a dance and drama programme. Research has shown that enrichment activities of this nature boost children’s physical, emotional and social development. They can also boost learning development, improving memory and building confidence. These activities encourage creativity and self-expression.

A company specialising in teaching arts to young children was engaged to run weekly sessions for 64 children from the SCCs. The children will be engaged in musical theatre, drama, choral speaking voice works and improvisation for a maximum of 25 weeks. The programme is offered free to subsidised children and a token sum is paid by families of non-subsidised students.

The programme has started on an encouraging note. Said the mother of a girl in Primary Two: “My child speaks better English and with confidence now. I wanted her to join the programme to make her more physically active and to mix around with other children in the centre.”

Another parent of a son in Primary Two who has mild autism added: “I enrolled him to let him have fun and it is possible that he may learn more through playing with the group.”

One SCC Supervisor observed that “the younger children may not be fully aware of what they are learning but they totally enjoy the programme”.

“To them, this is something different from the classroom setting, where someone allows them to play a lot, make them read aloud, speak properly and act funny. The components of the programme are widely used to bring out the innate abilities of the children. We look forward to the dance component next year!” she added.

With these enrichment programmes, the MWS hopes to give children from low-income families the chance to enjoy some of the activities and programmes that are very much part of the lives of children from better-off families. It may be a small step in providing them with a stronger platform to carve out a better future, but it could be significant.

At the end of the sessions, there will be a combined performance in November 2011, where the children will showcase what they have learnt to their parents and classmates.

Mrs Jenny Bong, the Group Executive Director of MWS, summed it up succinctly: “There are income-related gaps that affect a child’s access and success in education. It is our hope that by providing this extra academic help, it will allow children from low-income families to reach a better position in life. We have children who are waiting to get into this tutoring programme. I appeal to our Methodist churches and members to come alongside the MWS to serve these children.”

Join us as tutors!

There are still many students from low-income families who need extra academic help and personal attention. We are looking for more qualified tutors who have a heart for children to join our team! If you are studying in a tertiary institution and would like to be an MWS tutor, please contact Mel at 6478-4716 or MelLee@mws.org.sg

Michelle Tan is the Senior Executive (Communications) of the Methodist Welfare Services.