4 more pre-schools to close after Frobel owner's jailing for contempt of court

School House ByTheGarden @ AMK is one of four pre-schools under Friedrich Frobel Holding that will close from Oct 12. ST PHOTO: PRISCILLA GOY
School House ByTheGarden @ AMK is one of four pre-schools under Friedrich Frobel Holding that will close from Oct 12. ST PHOTO: PRISCILLA GOY

SINGAPORE - Four more pre-schools under Friedrich Frobel Holding will be closed with effect from Oct 12. This follows the recent closure of three other pre-schools under the company run by Song Fanrong, 45, who is in jail for contempt of court.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), the Education Services Union (ESU) which represents pre-school teachers, the Ministry of Manpower and the police said in a joint statement on Wednesday (Oct 4) that various agencies and community partners have been working together to support families and centre staff affected by the closures.

ECDA has facilitated alternative pre-school places for all children in the three pre-schools that had closed, by linking parents up with other pre-schools in the vicinity, and is doing the same for parents of children in the four pre-schools that are closing soon. The statement added: "Given the circumstances, we understand that some operators are supporting parents with the initial enrolment costs."

There is one remaining pre-school under the company, in Cashew Terrace. The Straits Times is checking with the company about the centre's status.

Parents or caregivers who need help with or clarifications about finding alternative pre-school places can contact the ECDA officer in charge of their pre-schools or contact ECDA at www.ecda.gov.sg/pages/contactus.aspx

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

For the affected staff, the Ministry of Manpower, Central Provident Fund Board and the ESU will help those who are owed salaries and CPF contributions. ESU will help affected staff in finding alternative jobs.

School House ByTheGarden @ AMK, which has 35 children enrolled, is one of the four pre-schools that are affected. The centre's acting principal Bonita Chan said staff and parents were informed on Wednesday.

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, keeping them updated, but obviously they're still shocked about the centre closure."

She said various authorities have been helping the children get places and the staff get jobs elsewhere. As for parents who had left deposits with the centre, she said they have been advised to go to the Small Claims Tribunal.

Song was jailed on Sept 11 for breaching a Mareva injunction by selling a stake of her kindergarten business, despite the 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 collected from selling off the stake of her business.

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

"Separately, the Singapore Police Force has initiated criminal investigations following the filing of several police reports. The Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office is also monitoring the company's status closely."

ECDA said its priority is to safeguard the safety and well-being of the children in pre-schools, and that it will continue to closely monitor the situation and coordinate with relevant agencies to minimise disruption to children and parents as far as possible.

The four pre-schools to close from Oct 12 are:

- Buttercups Kindergarten (Pasir Panjang)

- Buttercups Kindergarten (Rochester)

- Frobel Preschool Woodlands

- School House ByTheGarden @ AMK

The other three pre-schools that closed recently are:

- Buttercups Montessori Kindergarten

- Happy Brainy Kidz in Wonderland

- Frobel Lilac

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