SINGAPORE - After weeks of uncertainty over whether the National School Games (NSG) would proceed owing to the coronavirus pandemic, there was some relief for student-athletes, coaches and teachers after the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Thursday (March 19) that the annual school competition would continue to be suspended till after the June school holidays.
The NSG announcement is part of the MOE's enhanced precautionary virus measures announced yesterday, including the suspension of co-curricular activities for two weeks from next Monday.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on its website that the measure was necessary to protect students and schools.
"I hope we make the best out of the situation, and use this moment to help our young ones learn how to cope with disappointments, and unexpected twists and turns in life," he said.
While there is no guarantee that the NSG will resume after the May 30-June 28 holidays, student-athletes like swimmer Ardi Zulhilmi Mohamed Azman remain hopeful. The 16-year-old is competing in his final year for Outram Secondary School and wants to end the competition on a winning note.
He said: "I'm not that disappointed because they just suspended it, they didn't cancel it. It's good that they postponed it for the safety of everyone.
"I wanted to try and win another gold medal because they (the school) have been supporting me a lot."
After Singapore upped its disease outbreak response level to Orange on Feb 7, MOE suspended the NSG till the end of the March school holidays, which end on Sunday. Some 60,000 student-athletes compete across 29 sports in the NSG, originally scheduled for January to August.
Despite the uncertainty, Nanyang Junior College's volleyball team continued training three times a week. Its teacher-in-charge Tam Choon Chor said: "I hope that it will still go on, even if it's on a smaller scale. They've been training very hard and are looking forward to it."
Track and field coach Shawn Wee, who coaches Crescent Girls' School and Red Swastika School, said that while his charges have been training, some of them have asked to compete in fewer warm-up meets as they are sitting their O-level exams this year.
A revised NSG schedule could result in a clash between competitions and exams for many student-athletes. Mother-tongue exams for the O levels begin as early as June, while the written exams are from October to November.
ST has reached out to MOE for more information on how the NSG will be conducted upon resumption.
It usually runs over eight months but may now have to be completed in two months due to the exams.
There will also be manpower constraints if it resumes in late June.
Netball Singapore chief executive Cyrus Medora said it would be challenging to provide officials if over 1,000 games across the A, B, C and junior divisions were played at once.
He said: "We usually have over 300 teams playing over 1,000 games, with two umpires for each game. If it all comes together, finding that many umpires may be hard and we may have to use a lot of teachers."