Budget debate: Lower cost for Muslim marriage preparation programme

The course caters to first-time Muslim marriages registered under the Registry of Muslim Marriages. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Eligible soon-to-wed Muslim couples will pay about one-third less for a marriage preparation programme from next month, as the Government expands support for families in the community.

Such couples will receive a rebate of $70 for the Cinta Abadi marriage preparation course, which currently costs between $200 and $260, announced Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkilfi on Monday (March 8).

The course caters to first-time Muslim marriages registered under the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM), where grooms are at least 25 and brides are at least 21, and at least one of them is a Singaporean or permanent resident.

The two-day course, which went online due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, has been attended by more than 10,300 people since it started in 2014. Couples learn effective communications skills, financial literacy tips and how to manage challenges in their marriage, among other things.

It was refreshed last year to include new content, to make sure families are equipped with relevant information, said Mr Masagos, who underscored the importance of supporting families in the community as their needs become more diverse.

Figures released by the Department of Statistics show that the number of Muslim divorces is on the rise. There were 1,697 divorces among Muslim couples in 2019, up from 1,682 in 2018 and 1,637 in 2017.

"To continue nurturing a community of success, we need to strengthen our Malay/Muslim families, who are the key building blocks of our community. A key area that requires attention is the changing needs of families," Mr Masagos said during the debate on the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's budget.

He also gave updates about the Bersamamu scheme, where Muslim couples applying to register their marriages must first meet their solemniser before their ceremony to receive advice on marriage and family life. Since Bersamamu started in July 2019, close to 10,000 couples have attended such meetings.

The minister said a new Bersamamu Community of Practice has been developed to allow these solemnisers to regularly meet and share best practices to help support Muslim marriages. Some 50 solemnisers attended the first of such meetings last November.

More support for children

During the debate, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad announced that self-help group Mendaki will pilot a pre-school education programme to help Malay children perform better in school.

The Kelas Siap Sekolah (KSS) pilot programme will support 100 children to better prepare for Primary 1 by helping them develop in areas such as computational thinking, mathematical concepts and literacy skills.

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Mr Zaqy, who is deputy chairman of Mendaki, stressed the need to equip the young with necessary skills to thrive in a digital economy.

He warned: "If the foundation is weak, there will be the risk of being left behind in life, compared to other children."

Responding to Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), Mr Zaqy said Mendaki plans to recruit 850 mentors this year to mentor 1,700 students in the group's schemes, which include tuition programmes.

He added that more than 1,000 mentors aged between 18 to 35 have signed up since the office was started in 2019. Over 600 of these mentors have been trained to support mentoring programmes.

Appealing for more to contribute, Mr Zaqy said: "We would like to encourage more within the community to step forward with their expertise and knowledge to play a part in moulding the future of the community."

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