Coronavirus pandemic

Pre-schools stay open for those who need care support

Pre-schoolers, whose parents are working in essential services and cannot find other caregivers for them, can still stay in school during the nearly month-long closure.

The PAP Community Foundation (PCF), Singapore's largest pre-school operator catering to 40,000 children, said at least two-thirds of its centres will offer limited services for about 3,000 children during the circuit breaker period until May 4.

A spokesman for NTUC First Campus said about 7 per cent to 10 per cent of pupils enrolled in its pre-schools will be attending school.

Mr Peh Yi Han, chief operating officer of Global EduHub, the parent company of pre-schools Mulberry Learning, Little Green House and Alphabet Playhouse, said 18 of its 24 centres will remain open to accommodate about 110 children.

Mr Peh said its 30 school-based student care and Kindergarten Care centres, providing before-and after-school care for children at the Ministry of Education kindergartens, will have 500 children using their services during this period. The usual enrolment is around 4,300.

Dr T. Chandroo, chairman and chief executive of Modern Montessori International Group, said about 35 children in its schools will require support. They come from eight centres, with one to five children from each.

He said lessons will continue normally for these children, and centres will have non-teaching support such as cooks and cleaners.

Ms Marini Khamis, senior director of PCF's pre-school management division, said the centres will provide custodial care and engage children in "light" activities across areas like aesthetics and creative expression, language and literacy, and motor skills development.

Dr Carol Loy, director of curriculum and professional development at Kinderland Educare Services, said 10 per cent of parents had requested support. The children at home will have scheduled time slots for live lessons with classmates and teachers.

Most teachers will work from home, said Dr Loy. They will plan and review teaching materials, engage parents, check on the children's well-being, and attend professional development e-courses.

Mrs Patricia Koh, chief executive of MapleBear, said less than 10 per cent of children at 35 centres opted to stay on, while some centres did not have children who needed the support.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development said on Monday that all pre-school operators have to offset 50 per cent of fees for Singaporean children not attending school this month due to the suspension of general services.

But Global EduHub will be giving a 20 per cent discount for non-local pupils, said Mr Peh, because foreign children account for more than 70 per cent of the enrolment in some of its pre-schools.

"Expatriate households are given limited assistance under government schemes but may face similar financial pressures due to Covid-19," he said.

"We know that the amount may not be large, but we hope that this small gesture provides parents with relief to some extent, and also is a sign of solidarity that we are here to support all parents, regardless of nationality, during challenging times."

Ms Suratmi Misadi, a nurse, said she was relieved that her son's pre-school, Little Green House at Hougang, is taking care of him.

"I was very concerned at first when I heard the news about pre-school closure. I have no helper, my parents are working, and my in-laws are not well," said the 34-year-old whose husband works in manufacturing, also an essential service.

"My son knows there are fewer kids in school and he's quite scared of this virus situation. I tell him not to worry because the teachers will take care of him. I have a positive mindset - eventually we will get through this," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2020, with the headline 'Pre-schools stay open for those who need care support'. Subscribe