Put vacated school buildings to good use

It would be interesting to know what plans the Education Ministry has for the 11 school buildings that will be left vacant after the schools' mergers ("22 secondary schools in big pair-up"; last Saturday).

Perhaps the authorities could consider converting the buildings into senior-citizen homes, rental housing for low-income families or boarding schools for children.

They can also be used for community and hospice care.

By combining various types of housing in the same site, we can cater to the needs of the occupants, as well as tap the resources of the occupants in ways that will complement one another.

As these school buildings are situated in mature estates, many senior citizens who need institutional care would be able to continue living in familiar surroundings, perhaps close to their families.

Some parts of the school sports fields can be developed into stand-alone housing for more independent seniors who prefer more privacy. This can provide a seamless transition from a more independent mode of living to more intensive nursing care later on.

Low-income families with children may be given priority to live in these homes, based on their willingness and ability to look after the senior citizens and run errands for them.

Besides providing a solution to the manpower issues plaguing senior-citizen homes, this scheme would also provide a source of income and meaningful employment for housewives and children from low-income families.

The school buildings can become gated communities and provide a safe haven for low-income families who may otherwise be exposed to unsavoury influences around their rental flats.

Besides practical considerations, senior citizens and children may find that interacting with one another becomes a source of comfort and emotional sustenance.

At the same time, senior citizens may also have years of experience and store of wisdom to impart to parents of low-income families on how to better their lives.

These arrangements can lead to a win-win situation for all concerned.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Put vacated school buildings to good use'. Print Edition | Subscribe