Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday called on self-help groups to work more closely with his ministry to provide academic and social support for students from vulnerable families.
This is especially necessary for those who are on the verge of dropping out of school, he said.
Noting the ongoing debate about inequality here, Mr Ong said self-help groups have played a "critical and irreplaceable role" in complementing the Government's efforts to enhance social mobility.
This is despite these groups having a combined budget of $80 million last year - less than the budgets of some government ministries.
"Although their budgets are not very big, they are an important and integral part of the help infrastructure we have for needy families and children from vulnerable families," he said at the official launch of a self-help group centre in Yishun.
Named Vibrance @ Yishun, the centre is a joint project by four self-help groups Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Eurasian Association, Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and Yayasan Mendaki.
The centre offers programmes for students from various socio-economic backgrounds, such as enrichment programmes from kindergarten to O levels and a collaboration with tech giant Google on a coding programme for students.
SMALL BUDGET, BIG ROLE
Although their budgets are not very big, they are an important and integral part of the help infrastructure we have for needy families and children from vulnerable families.
EDUCATION MINISTER ONG YE KUNG, on how self-help groups help needy families.
The four groups had previously partnered each other on several initiatives, including a tuition programme for children of all races who come from low-income families.
Mendaki chief executive Rahayu Buang said such partnerships allow the self-help groups to tap each other's strengths and avoid duplicating services.
"Most importantly, Vibrance @ Yishun focuses on helping children from needy families," said Mr Ong, who is also CDAC chairman.
Programmes targeted at those from vulnerable backgrounds include Sinda's Literacy and Numeracy Programme that prepares pre-schoolers for primary one, as well as homework programmes by Mendaki and CDAC which provide after-school support for students.
Since the soft launch of Vibrance @ Yishun in January, more than 600 students have attended programmes at the centre - 57 per cent of whom are from needy families.
"This is substantial and I hope the centre will continue to do its utmost in this area," said Mr Ong. "I hope (Vibrance @ Yishun) is successful and if it is, we will definitely study if there are opportunities to open more centres such as this."