Parliament: New grant by Mendaki and Muis to help families save for pre-school education

In a factsheet, Mendaki said the grant will be piloted from January this year to December 2023 for 100 pre-schoolers. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Low-income Malay/Muslim parents will get more help to save money for their children's pre-school education, with a new grant that will quadruple their savings.

The grant, set up by self-help group Mendaki and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), is open to Malay/Muslim families with children aged six and under, and a monthly per capita household income of $650 or less.

Grant recipients will receive a matching top-up from community funds when they save in their child's Child Development Account (CDA), which the Government will further co-match - up to a cap of $360 per year.

This means that if a parent saves $30 in their CDA, the Mendaki-Muis Pre-school Grant will top up another $30, and the Government will add a further $60 to the account.

Announcing the grant on Friday (March 6), Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad noted that some vulnerable families need extra support beyond existing schemes.

"For our young children, we want to equip them with a strong foundation so that they can achieve in life," he said during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Mr Zaqy, who is Mendaki's deputy chairman, was responding to MPs like Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) on plans to support the pre-school sector.

In a factsheet, Mendaki said the grant will be piloted from January this year to December 2023 for 100 pre-schoolers.

Most of these children will be identified through its Pre-school Outreach Programme, which promotes the importance of pre-school education to lower-income families and works closely with them to ensure their children attend school regularly.

A Mendaki spokesman told The Straits Times the group is setting aside $164,000 over the four years for the new grant.

Mr Zaqy told the House that several changes will be made to Mendaki's tuition scheme, which sees more than 7,000 primary and secondary school students attend extra lessons by volunteers.

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Mendaki said these changes, which follow a review last year, will include restructuring tuition centres and introducing cluster principals to oversee the tuition scheme.

Science classes will be introduced for Primary 3 pupils, and subject-based banding included in Mendaki's tuition centres.

A volunteer-run mathematics coaching programme will also be piloted under the tuition scheme, to help students who require more intensive assistance and coaching.

During the debate, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli also gave an update on a series of new community engagement platforms called the CiptaSama @M³ , which was announced late last year.

The purpose of these engagements will be to gather feedback and come up with solutions to improve the Malay/Muslim community, he said.

Mr Masagos added that such discussions have already been taking place with volunteers of the M³ @ Towns initiative, which bring community programmes to the heartland and create opportunities for people to volunteer in their neighbourhoods.

"We have started the conversation with the leaders and volunteers of the M³  @ Towns and we look forward to engaging members of the community from all walks of life in the coming months," he said.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story said that the grant is open to Malay/Muslim families with children aged six and under, and with a monthly household income of $650 or less. This should be monthly per capita household income. We are sorry for the error.

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