'Breakfast club' boosts punctuality, forges ties

Dunman Secondary form teacher Wong Li Qin and her Secondary 4 students having a surprise birthday celebration for Nur Anisa Dzulraini (holding bag). Having breakfast together in the canteen every Friday has helped to forge closer ties between the stu
Dunman Secondary form teacher Wong Li Qin and her Secondary 4 students having a surprise birthday celebration for Nur Anisa Dzulraini (holding bag). Having breakfast together in the canteen every Friday has helped to forge closer ties between the students and improved punctuality.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Every Friday morning, a group of about 20 students gather for breakfast at two tables in Dunman Secondary School's canteen.

While others are dragging their feet to school, the students from the "breakfast club" are enjoying a sumptuous spread, between 7am and 7.20am.

Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches often jostle for space with bowls of cereal, hot dogs and Milo, milk tea and teh tarik.

The breakfast club started last year, borne out of a need for the Normal (Academic) class' form teachers to improve punctuality.

"We thought of bringing the students together for breakfast and encouraging them to come early," said Ms Wong Li Qin, the form teacher who accompanies the Secondary 4 class during breakfast.

The students use their class fund - made up of small donations from classmates - to buy food and drinks from supermarkets and convenience stores during the week. Ms Wong also helps to match the class fund, dollar for dollar.

Soh Jing Wen, 16, who turns up as early as 6.30am to prepare the breakfast spread, said: "It is something to look forward to... I feel that our class is special because it is the only one which does this."

Classmate Lutfilhadi Irwan, also 16, said: "We have conversations with one another, and also speak to quieter classmates to get them to open up.

"(Our teachers) often have to rush to other classes and we don't really get much time to talk to them."

For some special occasions, like the last breakfast of the school year, the group ordered 60 pieces of roti prata and invited students and teachers from other classes to join them.

They also started celebrating birthdays every two months with cakes and doughnuts.

Ms Wong, who has been with the class since Secondary 1, said that beyond improving punctuality, the initiative has forged stronger bonds between the students.

Almost half of her class of about 40 students come from broken families, she said, adding that community work has also given them more impetus to do better in their studies despite their problems.

Last year, a group of them interacted with children from a daycare centre in Malaysia's Kluang town.

"The students matured and began to see problems beyond themselves," said Ms Wong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2018, with the headline ''Breakfast club' boosts punctuality, forges ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe