Opening of two mega childcare centres in Jurong and Sengkang delayed

The mega childcare centre in Sengkang West run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool will open by the first quarter of next year instead of the third quarter of this year, as originally planned
The mega childcare centre in Sengkang West run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool will open by the first quarter of next year instead of the third quarter of this year, as originally planned. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Jurong and Sengkang locations affected by 'site constraints and technical complexities'

The opening of two mega childcare centres in areas with high demand for the service has been delayed.

Initially slated to open by the third quarter of this year, the centres in Jurong West and Sengkang West run by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool (MFS) are now due to open by the first quarter of next year.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times following a Lianhe Zaobao report, an MFS spokesman said construction work on the Jurong and Sengkang sites started last September and October respectively. But certain "unforeseen site constraints and technical complexities" emerged.

At the Jurong site, the need to re-route an originally planned sanitary line to a much longer route extended the time taken for construction work "considerably", while the Sengkang site faced some challenges due to soil conditions.

MFS said parents who have expressed interest in the centres have been informed of the delay.

LACK OF CHILDCARE FACILITIES

I was initially interested because of the intervention centre. It's very hard to find childcare in my area because there are many young couples with young children.

MS MARIANA IDRIS, a 32-year-old housewife who had been looking forward to placing her two daughters in the centre in Sengkang.

The Sengkang centre has a capacity of about 500, while the Jurong centre can take about 300 children. A Housing Board void deck centre usually admits about 100 children.

An Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children centre run by Awwa, formerly known as the Asian Women's Welfare Association, will be co-located with the Sengkang childcare centre.

The delay has upset parents like Ms Mariana Idris, 32. The housewife had been looking forward to placing her two daughters in the same centre. "I was initially interested because of the intervention centre. It's very hard to find childcare in my area because there are many young couples with young children," said Ms Mariana.

Her elder daughter, five, is autistic and goes to Awwa's Lorong Napiri centre, while her three-year- old attends a playgroup.

There are five mega childcare centres run by anchor operators.

Plans for these were announced by the Government last year in order to meet demand, and it was expected that the centres would add about 2,000 spots to the pool of childcare places.

These operators, which include EtonHouse International and PAP Community Foundation, get government grants and priority in securing sites in HDB estates. But they cannot charge more than $720 a month for full-day childcare, among other conditions.

Two of these centres in Punggol and Yishun have already started operations, with another centre in Woodlands to open by the year end.

An Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) spokesman said childcare capacity has grown by more than 30,000 over the past three years. This exceeds the earlier target of 20,000 more places between 2013 and 2017 that had been set by the Government, he added.

"ECDA understands the inconvenience faced by parents arising from the delay, and will continue to work closely with our anchor operators to expedite the completion and opening of the centres," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Opening of two mega childcare centres delayed'. Print Edition | Subscribe