Students hang out at 'Games HQ' after school

ST VIDEO: AMELIA TENG

School-based centres gives students a 'safe space' for activities and social support

Every day after school, 16-year-old Muhammad Fauzi Ahmad does not go home. The Secondary 4 student of NorthLight School heads to a "games headquarters" where he hangs out with friends and plays video and arcade games.

He is one of about 30 students who drop in daily at the facility, which is within the school in Towner Road, in Bendemeer.

Most of them stay till it closes at 5pm.

The space 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 centre, which students have named Games HQ, has been open since 2015. It has Daytona arcade machines and Xbox games, a pool table and computers.

It was officially launched yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

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

A social worker and a counsellor from the Singapore Children's Society are stationed there to befriend students and listen to those who might need support and guidance.

Singapore Children's Society's Project Cabin, which students have named "Games HQ", has Daytona arcade machines and Xbox games, a pool table and computers.
Singapore Children's Society's Project Cabin, which students have named "Games HQ", has Daytona arcade machines and Xbox games, a pool table and computers. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY

It teaches me... to be responsible... I help to clean up the place... If any equipment is faulty or broken, I will also report it to the teacher.

SECONDARY 4 STUDENT VIN GOH , 16

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

Last year, Games HQ reached out to 350 students and registered more than 4,400 visits.

Ms Tan Khiaw Ngoh, chairman of the Singapore Children's Society's social work service standing committee, said that the collaboration between the organisation and the school 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.

Mr Tan said that the facility also provides opportunities for students to learn to lead and be responsible.

Student helpers are appointed to handle its operations, such as locking doors, distributing food and ensuring that their peers sign in.

Secondary 4 student Vin Goh, 16, said that being one of the students in charge of Games HQ has made him a better person.

Singapore Children's Society's Project Cabin, which students have named "Games HQ", has Daytona arcade machines and Xbox games, a pool table and computers.
Singapore Children's Society's Project Cabin, which students have named "Games HQ", has Daytona arcade machines and Xbox games, a pool table and computers. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

ACCESS TO GUIDANCE

I would get into fights... But now I come here… the counsellor also helped me to control my emotions and behaviour.

MUHAMMAD FAUZI AHMAD, 16

"It teaches me how to be responsible and take care of things. I help to clean up the place and sweep the floor every day at the end of the day, make sure that students don't eat or drink here. If any equipment is faulty or broken, I will also report it to the teacher."

His schoolmate Muhammad Fauzi Ahmad, also 16, spends about two hours a day at the centre playing video games and pool. "I prefer coming here instead of doing nothing outside or being alone at home," said the Secondary 4 student.

Talking to the social worker and counsellor there has helped him overcome his problem in anger management, he said.

"I was a bad-tempered boy and I would get into fights with people from other schools," he added.

"But now I come here after school… the counsellor also helped me to control my emotions and behaviour."

He added: "I like coming here because I get to meet a lot of friends and make new friends."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2017, with the headline 'Students hang out at 'Games HQ' after school'. Print Edition | Subscribe