SINGAPORE: Classes in primary and secondary schools were cancelled on Friday (Sep 25) because of the worsening haze situation. However, schools stayed open to look after students whose parents were unable to make last-minute childcare arrangements.
At De La Salle School in Choa Chu Kang, for example, 20 students showed up in the morning. Said Ms Daphne Sing, the school’s principal: "Most of their parents are at work and they have no other caregivers so we do the necessary to help the parents take care of their children."
Teachers were on duty to keep the children occupied in the school library till it was time to head home. Ms Sing elaborated: "Earlier this morning when they came in, they were in a little room reading books, doing some quiet revision of their work.
"Later on, we felt we should occupy them with some fun activities. Or else it is terrible to sit down all the time. So we decided to give them games and we divided them into stations, so they could actually move from one station to another."
For older students preparing for the Primary School Leaving Examination next week, heading to school was a chance to get some studying done. "My parents are always working. When they are not at home, I tend to do a lot of things - sit down, watch TV, play computer games. So to get away from all of that, I came to school today to study, said one student, Abhiramarooban Katherasn.
If the haze worsens and schools continue to stay closed, some principals said that plans are already in place for home-based learning - for example, through e-learning portals. This will ensure continuity in their students' lessons.
Principal of Si Ling Primary School, Mr Richard Lim, noted: "Right now, they can actually get into the portal because we already have some lessons there. And they can do some work there. But because it is just one day, we will wait until it is a long closure, then we will download a lot more programmes and lessons into it."
Fourteen students had turned up at Si Ling Primary School - located in Woodlands - which stayed open till 6.30pm. They too were kept busy with activities like educational games.
Meanwhile, kindergartens and childcare centres stayed open but activities were scaled down and kept indoors.
Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin commented: "It is a recognition that with preschool children, it is a bit different. Primary school and above, I think children are a bit more independent, preschool a bit less so. And if parents do not have childcare arrangements, it can be a bit difficult.
“But in reality, what happens on the ground is largely the same. Parents who are not so comfortable, they prefer to keep children at home - please by all means do so. But if they do not have the child-minding arrangements, then they are able to bring the children to school and the children will be looked after."
At both EtonHouse preschool in Newton and childcare centre Smiling Star, just about half the usual number of students turned up on Friday morning.
The Education Ministry said about 98 per cent of childcare centres received children though attendance was lower, and about 3,300 students reported to school, less than 1 per cent of the total primary and secondary school cohort.