Cleaning up not just in school, but also in the community

Juying Primary School pupils (from left) Chong Jin Yi, 11, Lily Zhang, 12, Wang Xin Yue, 12, and Chrystal Lee, 11, picking up rubbish at the HDB block opposite their school in Jurong West. Yesterday, Juying became the first school to take part in a p
Juying Primary School pupils (from left) Chong Jin Yi, 11, Lily Zhang, 12, Wang Xin Yue, 12, and Chrystal Lee, 11, picking up rubbish at the HDB block opposite their school in Jurong West. Yesterday, Juying became the first school to take part in a pilot programme that gets pupils to work with the community to clean up the environment.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

For about an hour yesterday, Juying Primary School pupils went around with tongs and rubbish bags.

But the 180 Primary 5 pupils were not picking up litter in their school, but in high-traffic areas near the school in Jurong West.

Six months after the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced plans to make daily cleaning of common areas in all schools here compulsory by the year end, Juying Primary has gone a step further by joining voluntary community cleanup efforts.

Yesterday, it became the first school to take part in a pilot programme that gets pupils to work with the community to clean up the environment.

There are also plans for the school to continue its cleaning efforts regularly in future.

Called Day of Service, the initiative is by the South West Community Development Council in partnership with organisations like the Public Hygiene Council (PHC).

As part of the programme, an appreciation ceremony was also held for 27 cleaners from the school and the community, with pupils presenting handmade cards to them.

Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, who watched a live screening of swimmer Joseph Schooling's historic Olympic victory with the pupils before the ceremony, said there is a need to acknowledge the work of "everyday heroes" even as Singapore celebrates its national heroes.

Ms Low, who is also Mayor of the South West District, said the programme will be extended to 51 schools in the district, as well as to other groups in the community.

While schools are progressively rolling out cleaning initiatives as part of the MOE plan, Day of Service can instil in pupils a greater sense of responsibility for the environment not just in schools, but also in the community, she added.

She said: "This supports the PHC's aim of inviting the community to come together to focus on litter- prone areas in the neighbourhood, and reshape behaviour in the area.

"Each of us can play a part, and keeping the environment clean is not solely the job of our cleaners."

Responding to queries from The Sunday Times, MOE said most schools here have introduced daily cleaning activities since May.

It said it has had positive feedback from schools, students and parents, and that good practices on how schools have implemented daily cleaning are also shared among schools.

Chrystal Lee, a Primary 5 pupil at Juying Primary, said she would get her friends to pick up litter around the neighbourhood after yesterday's exercise.

"Not many people do this because they think that the rubbish is disgusting, and it doesn't belong to them. But we should pick the litter up because the neighbourhood belongs to us, and we should help the cleaners, who work so hard."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline 'Cleaning up not just in school, but also in the community'. Print Edition | Subscribe