World Down Syndrome Day: Fernvale schools launch buddy reading scheme

The only gate (friendship gate) that links a mainstream and special education school in Singapore.
The only gate (friendship gate) that links a mainstream and special education school in Singapore. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) commemorate World Down Syndrome Day with a special celebration between MINDS Fernvale Gardens School and Fernvale Primary school.
The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) commemorate World Down Syndrome Day with a special celebration between MINDS Fernvale Gardens School and Fernvale Primary school.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Guest of honour Toh Puan Noor Aishah (centre in blue) was welcome by student of Intellectually Disabled of Singapore's (MINDS) Special Education School, MINDS Fernvale Gardens School with Fernvale Primary School.
Guest of honour Toh Puan Noor Aishah (centre in blue) was welcome by student of Intellectually Disabled of Singapore's (MINDS) Special Education School, MINDS Fernvale Gardens School with Fernvale Primary School.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - The Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore's (Minds) Fernvale Gardens School and Fernvale Primary School on Tuesday (March 21) launched a new buddy reading programme to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day.

Since 2010, the two schools have been linked by a satellite partnership, as well as a physical gate - dubbed the "Friendship Gate" - that aims to facilitate interactions between pupils.

The new reading programme, called Eat And Read With Me, will be rolled out later in March to help pupils from Fernvale Gardens improve their literacy.

Fernvale Primary School's library has been moved to the ground floor to allow for easier access, and was also officially opened on Tuesday (March 21). It contains a set of books supplied by Fernvale Gardens School.

At the launch, guest-of-honour Dr Noor Aishah, widow of Singapore's first president Yusof Ishak, joined some 80 pupils from the schools who tied friendship knots onto the gate.

Fernvale Primary School allows students from Fernvale Gardens School to use their facilities - such as the canteen and library. The students also get to interact during sports activities, dance performances and craft sessions.

Said Fernvale Gardens School's principal Chan Kwai Foong: "It's unique that in this satellite partnership, our schools are located side-by-side. For safety reasons we find the gate very useful. There's no need to cross the road."

Fernvale Primary School pupil Anshu Velagala, 10, said he enjoyed playing basketball with Fernvale Gardens pupils during recess, and would also teach them how to play floorball.

The Primary 5 pupil said: "They are very nice, active and kind towards us. They make jokes and take their work seriously. At first it was a bit tough communicating, but I tried my best by smiling and using hand signals."

Anshu added that he was excited about the new buddy reading programme.

"We'll be able to read together with them, and help them understand books better," he said.

Minds serves nearly 2,400 adult and children clients, of whom about 30 per cent have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, noted its president Jeffrey Tan.