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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

PAP kindergartens mark 25th year

SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party's Community Foundation (PCF), which runs kindergartens island wide, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Speaking at the celebrations in Ang Mo Kio GRC, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it is very important that children have good quality, affordable pre-school education, so that when they get to school, they will be ready.

PCF may be 25 years old but the Party's been running kindergartens for more than 50 years, Mr Lee said.

"We've been doing this for a long time. The PCF is only 25 years old, but in fact, the PAP has been running kindergartens since... the early 1960s," he said.

"Because in every constituency, the community leaders and the volunteers would set up kindergartens in every available space which they could find -- it could be shophouses, it could even be a wayang stage -- and parents would bring their children.

"And as the centres became popular and enrolment increased, we set up more centres, so that by the time we created the PAP Community Foundation 25 years ago in 1986, we had this big place of kindergartens which we could convert to PCF kindergartens.

"And we improved on them, from there. The standards, the curriculum, the teachers' quality, the training of the teachers, the facilities in the centres, to reach where we are today".

As a result, nearly one million children have gone through the doors of PCF so far.

"The PCF is a key priority for the PAP still, and will be for many years to come," Mr Lee said.

"We go out of our way to make sure that nobody is missed, that we cover all the children in our constituencies.

"We work with grassroots leaders to encourage poorer families to send their children to school, and we do our best to keep the fees affordable.

"So the government has schemes like the Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme, and the PCF has its own headstart fund.

"Any needy student can tap on these schemes, and the burden on the parents is very, very low.

"In fact, low-income families can pay less than $10 a month for their children to be in kindergarten."

Meanwhile, a pilot programmed called the Psychological education@Geyland Serai (PEGS) has been set up to address the psychological needs of children.

MP for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef said: "What we are going to do, is we are going to have sessions and seminars for educators at PCF so that they can identify psychological disturbances and symptoms early in our children and youth, and bring them forward for counselling, and we can make the necessary referrals.

"This is necessary because we have one in 10 children in the ages ranging from 6 to 16 who has been identified to have psychological disturbances of some kind.

"That would put the number at 50,000 in Singapore currently.

"Out of this 50,000, 5,000 are serious enough to need counselling and also referrals to psychiatrists".

Meanwhile, the PCF anniversary event was a hive of activity for another reason.

With Singapore's next General Election around the corner, the PCF 25th anniversary carnival was an apt occasion for some new faces from the People's Action Party, to familiarise themselves with the ground and the various constituency activities.

Twenty-seven-year-old Tin Pei Ling has been understudying MacPherson's incumbent MP Matthias Yao, who will be stepping down.

Mr Yao said: "Pei Ling is already familiar with grassroots work, having been active in Buona Vista for a long time already.

"What I will be briefing her about, is more to do with campaign period activities -- that part, she is not so familiar with.

"Wherever she goes to, including MacPherson, I think those points will be useful for her.

"I hope I have done enough to building and upgrading the estate and building the community into a more cohesive one.

"At the same time, there are new challenges to be met. The estate is ageing quite rapidly, in terms of the population profile and working together with the various government departments, Pei Ling would have to bring MacPherson into a new phase for an active ageing estate.

"At the same time, there is a turnover of younger families coming through the estate, so one must not neglect them at all.

"One must work equally hard to look after the aspirations of the new families. In that case, Pei Ling's challanges are quite big, but I am sure she can meet the challenge".

Ms Tin ,a business consultant, is also on the executive committee of Young PAP.

"Despite being young, I am keen to learn and help the elderly because, the elderly, when I look at them, I am reminded of my parents and grandparents, so there is instant connection and affinity there already," Ms Tin said.

"But with time, as I understand more of them, I would be better able to come up with meaningful solutions and initiatives to help them better.

"At the end of the day, the energy and youth is on my side and I have the potential to help them more."

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong -- who has on the Marine Parade Facebook page welcomed reports that the National Solidarity Party and the Democratic Progressive Party intend to contest in the Marine Parade GRC -- also revealed that Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who is an MP in Marine Parade GRC, has been moved to Nee Soon GRC.

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