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National athletes step up to get tech help for kids during circuit breaker period

Former national sprinter U.K. Shyam receiving a laptop donated by National University of Singapore medical student Caitlin Wee Fern as part of an initiative to collect devices for less privileged students.
Former national sprinter U.K. Shyam receiving a laptop donated by National University of Singapore medical student Caitlin Wee Fern as part of an initiative to collect devices for less privileged students.PHOTO: COURTESY OF U.K. SHYAM

Team SG aims to collect at least 600 devices for those who need them for online learning

Former national sprinter U.K. Shyam has always had a soft spot for the underdog and over dinner with his wife Chia Hui Ping on Sunday, he was mulling over how he could help lower-income families during this circuit breaker period.

Ms Chia, a teacher at Eunoia Junior College, pointed out that one area her husband could explore was the shortage of laptops and tablets as all schools were moving to home-based learning from this week and many students did not own such devices.

Full home-based learning will last until at least May 4.

Drawn to the suggestion, Mr Shyam, 43, who still holds the national record in the 100m sprint, sprang into action.

On Monday, he got in touch with his Sport Singapore colleagues - Mr Jeremy Pillai, manager of Team Singapore affairs, and Mr Mark Richmond, team lead of Team Singapore.

Mr Shyam, who is a senior manager at the Singapore Sport Institute in character and leadership education, said: "We want to have an impact in every way possible and not only in sports. If we can help the kids in learning or give them a chance to make learning a smoother experience, we will."

"A lot of what Team SG does is that we use sports as a force for good and it sort of embodies the Singaporean spirit to serve the wider community. Throughout my career as a national athlete, I understood the importance of education and it has empowered me to become the person I am today."

Mr Shyam, whose single mother barely made ends meet as a tutor, added: "My childhood has put me in a position where I understand the importance of not taking things for granted."

It was Mr Richmond's idea to get other national athletes on board with their project. In his message sent out to them, he wrote: "Our colleagues at the Ministry of Education and the various social services are doing their best to provide these devices to the students, and we can also help in this effort.

"I believe you share the same beliefs as us; that every kid should be given an opportunity. This is our time to come together as One Team Singapore to ensure that we lend as much support as we can to our future... These children are part of Team Singapore. And as a team, we should leave no one behind."

They are targeting to collect at least 600 devices and are working with Mr Johann Annuar, executive director of Engineering Good.

 
 
 

The non-profit organisation helps reformat and refurbish the second-hand electronic gear before distributing them to underprivileged children.

National golfer Jen Goh and short-track speed skater Lucas Ng contributed 11 laptops and tablets between them and have also reached out to their friends and family to collect more.

Another 18 national athletes, including SEA Games gold medallists Jowen Lim (wushu) and Brandon Ooi (canoe), have committed to donating.

Miss Goh, 24, said: "We take our electronics for granted. There are so many people out there who need these electronics to do their home-based learning so if we have unused laptops or tablets, we should give back to the community to ensure every student can learn during this period."

Mr Ng, 31, said: "Some students may not be able to access the learning materials without a working device. We hope to fill that missing link with these donations."

Mr Shyam said Engineering Good is still working on the laptops and will need some time before they are ready to be delivered.

 

Mr Shyam gets in touch with schools and those who need such equipment are selected. He lets the schools' respective IT department heads decide who will get the laptops as they have the background information of the students.

• Visit engineeringgood.org for more information on how to donate.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2020, with the headline 'National athletes step up to get tech help for kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe