Games centre at NorthLight School for students to hang out 'in safe environment'

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DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam on a tour of Project Cabin at NorthLight School

SINGAPORE - For the past two years, students at NorthLight School have been hanging out at a "games headquarters" after school, playing video and arcade games - with their parents' consent.

The facility, which has been running since February 2015, is within the confines of the school in Towner Road.

It has Daytona arcade machines and Xbox games for students to play, and a space for them to congregate over a game of pool, use computers, or just relax.

The space, which is the size of a classroom, is the Singapore Children's Society's latest Project Cabin, an after-school centre where secondary school students can rest and take part in enrichment programmes. The charitable organisation has 15 other such school-based centres.

The facility at NorthLight School, which students have named Games HQ, was officially launched on Friday (Sept 22) by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

NorthLight School principal Martin Tan said that the centre "offers a very safe space" for students to engage in activities after school hours.

"It's better than our students hanging out at McDonald's," he said in a speech at the launch.

The centre also has a qualified social worker and a counsellor who can listen to students who might need support and guidance.

NorthLight School is a specialised school for students who are less academically inclined and more keen on vocational studies.

Games HQ has reached out to 300 to 400 students in each of the past two years. On average, 30 students drop in every day, and most of them stay until the place closes at 5pm.

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Mr Tan said that the facility also provides opportunities for students to learn to lead and be responsible. Student helpers are appointed to handles its operations, including locking doors, distributing food and ensuring that their peers sign in.

Ms Tan Khiaw Ngoh, chairman of the Singapore Children's Society's social work service standing committee, said that the collaboration seeks to "provide greater social support for students to manage issues that they are facing".

It also allows students to "socialise meaningfully and form their identities through various forms of engagement" in a safe environment, she added.

The Singapore Children's Society has plans to set up new Project Cabin centres in more schools to meet the needs of at-risk secondary school students.

Last year, the centres reached out to 6,240 students from partnering schools, and registered about 40,000 student visits.

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