TO GIVE children from low-income families a leg-up beyond financial support, The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) has launched a programme to boost their English skills.
About 100 Primary 5 and 6 pupils from six community help agencies, who are getting aid from the fund, will be involved in the pilot phase.
It starts next week and ends in September.
Volunteers will use worksheets based on content in The Straits Times at individual tutoring sessions which will also help the pupils beef up their know-ledge of current affairs.
The worksheets, crafted by The Straits Times School Team, are in line with the Ministry of Education syllabus.
Speaking at the launch of The Straits Times education programme STep-Up at Safra Mount Faber yesterday, SPMF chairman Han Fook Kwang said the fund wants to do more than just provide pocket mo-ney.
'If we can help these students do well in school, they can get good jobs and help their family members,' said Mr Han, who is also managing editor of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division.
This is a first since the fund started in 2000. It helps about 10,000 children and youth with school-related expenses each year. Last year, more than $4 million was given out.
In the STep-Up scheme, each pupil will be assigned to a volunteer from five schools - Raffles Institution (RI) as well as Jurong, Meridian, Serangoon and Victoria junior colleges.
There are currently 120 volunteers who will conduct the weekly 90-minute sessions at the six community help agencies.
Ms Martina Wong, general manager of SPMF, said more volunteers will be tapped as more community help agencies are expected to come on board.
Ms Sharon Ng, a social worker with the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres, one of the agencies taking part in the pilot phase, said many pupils do not have the luxury of getting individual tuition and that the programme will help them develop a love for reading.
'I think many of them do not have the opportunity to read the newspaper at home; this will help them develop an interest in current affairs, which is important,' she added.
Lee Ya Yu, 17, was among the 120 volunteers at an orientation workshop yesterday to learn how to use the teaching materials and deal with children.
'I joined this because I wanted to help these young children gain confidence and having a good grasp of English will help,' said the Meridian Junior College student.
RI student Rebecca Teng, 17, said that growing up, she was fortunate to have parents who had time to read to her which helped her develop a passion for the language.
'I understand that not all these pupils have that, and rather than just being a teacher to them, I also hope to be a companion,' she added.