The Straits Times Causes Week: Readers' submissions

ST Causes Week 2019: 'National service' of the mentoring, tutoring kind

Six NSFs provide free weekly tuition for kids living in rental flats

A Budding Minds tuition session in progress at the We Love Learning Centre in Henderson. Mr Chua Tze Hean, who started the project, says the volunteer tutors try to make content more interesting by showing the children real-life applications of their
A Budding Minds tuition session in progress at the We Love Learning Centre in Henderson. Mr Chua Tze Hean, who started the project, says the volunteer tutors try to make content more interesting by showing the children real-life applications of their textbook concepts.PHOTO: BUDDING MINDS

Outside of their regular duties as full-time national servicemen, a group of six NSFs also spend their Saturdays running a free tuition programme for children living in rental flats in the Henderson area.

Mr Chua Tze Hean, who started Budding Minds in October last year, roped in five former schoolmates and friends to join his cause.

"I felt that our education system is good but there are some groups that need more help. I didn't want to just complain, I wanted to be on the ground and do something about it and help these students," said Mr Chua, 20, who is executive director of the non-profit group.

He approached We Love Learning Centre in Henderson, a volunteer-run centre that provides reading, art and tuition programmes to needy children, to collaborate.

In March, Budding Minds held its first tuition session at the centre. The students came from the nearby rental flats.

The two-hour weekly sessions are held on Saturdays, with breaks during the school holidays. Each child is usually paired with one tutor. While the sessions now average about 30 children from Primary 1 to Secondary 5, Budding Minds plans to expand the collaborative effort to help 60 students over two weekend sessions next year.

The tutors, most of them aged under 20, help the students with their homework, mostly in English and science, and revision of foundational concepts.

"We try to make content more interesting by showing them real-life applications of their textbook concepts," said Mr Chua.

Books, stationery and other materials are self-funded, said Mr Chua, and the group hopes potential sponsors can help cover these costs.

 
 
 

Budding Minds also plans to expand the programme to more low-income neighbourhoods next year, and try out new practices to engage the families of the students.

"One such practice is to conduct home visits to better understand the families' goals for their children," said Mr Chua. "This can help build a better relationship between families and tutors, and tailor our teaching style for the child."

NSF Lee Danyang, 20, part of the group's core team, said he and the other tutors also try to understand the kids better and build up a mentor-mentee relationship.

The tuition sessions have made a difference, said Mr Lee.

"For the two boys I've helped this year, their attitude towards school has changed. They used to see it as a chore, but now they are intrinsically motivated to chase what they want and work hard," he said.

• To find out more, go to facebook.com/BuddingMindsOrganisation or instagram.com/budding.minds/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 22, 2019, with the headline ''National service' of the mentoring, tutoring kind'. Subscribe