Frobel pre-schools

Four more centres to close after owner is jailed

Frobel Preschool at Kallang is closed.
Frobel Preschool at Kallang is closed. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

About 200 children affected; agencies on hand to help families and staff

Parents of about 200 children will have to find places at other pre-schools, with the impending closure of four more centres run by a company mired in lawsuits and whose owner is in jail.

The pre-schools, owned by Friedrich Frobel Holding, are in Ang Mo Kio, Pasir Panjang, Woodlands and Rochester, and will close from Oct 12.

Three others closed in the past two months - they were in Kallang, Namly Place and Sembawang.

Friedrich Frobel Holding is owned by Song Fanrong, 45, who is serving a further five months' jail for flouting a court order.

About 80 children were enrolled in the three pre-schools that closed, and all of them have found places elsewhere.

The remaining centre not yet slated to close is in Cashew Terrace. Neither the company nor Song's husband, Mr Teo Kuei Yang, responded to queries about its fate.

Various agencies and community partners have been working to support families and centre staff affected by the closures, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), the Education Services Union (ESU), which represents pre-school teachers, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the police in a statement yesterday.

ECDA has helped and will help parents find alternative pre-school places. It has also ordered the company not to enrol any new students.

Several grassroots advisers and a volunteer lawyer have offered to guide affected parents in matters pertaining to deposits and fees.

The ESU will help affected staff find other jobs.

MOM, the Central Provident Fund Board and the ESU will also help those who are owed salaries and CPF contributions.

"The closure of these pre-schools... is complicated by the many stakeholders involved, as well as the ongoing lawsuit between various shareholders of Friedrich Frobel Holding Pte Ltd," said the statement.

Song was jailed on Sept 11 for breaching the Mareva injunction by selling a stake of her kindergarten business, in defiance of a court order freezing her assets pending the outcome of another lawsuit.

On Sept 27, she was sentenced to five more months in jail for contempt of court, after her lawyer told the court she was "unable to raise any funds" to return the $300,000 she had received from selling her stake.

Meanwhile, the police have started criminal investigations into the company, following the filing of several police reports about deposits that it had allegedly failed to return.

The Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office is also monitoring the company's status.

School House ByTheGarden @ AMK, which has 35 children enrolled, is one of the four pre-schools set to close soon. Its acting principal Bonita Chan said staff and parents were informed yesterday.

Ms Chan, who has been in the pre-school sector for about 10 years and joined the centre just three months ago, said: "We knew the company's situation and pre-empted the parents, but they are still shocked about the closure."

Parents who have paid deposits to the centre have been advised to go to the Small Claims Tribunal, she added. Parents were also given a list of six pre-schools nearby that they could contact as options.

Church worker Steven Loh, 45, whose five-year-old daughter has been at the Ang Mo Kio centre since she was an infant, said: "I am shocked about the closure, but what to do? We'll just have to move on and we have started looking for other pre-school places."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'Four more centres to close after owner is jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe