River Valley High death: MOE and schools will continue to be 'vigilant' about campus security
SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) and schools will continue to be vigilant about campus security following the River Valley High School death on Monday, said the ministry's director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong.
"Naturally, following this incident, some parents are understandably anxious about the safety of their children in our schools," Mr Wong said on Wednesday (Jul 21).
"Student safety has been and continues to be of paramount importance to all of us. MOE and our schools will continue to be vigilant about campus security."
A 16-year-old student from River Valley High was charged on Tuesday with the murder of a fellow student. The 13-year-old boy was found lying motionless in a school toilet with multiple wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police seized an axe as a case exhibit. Preliminary investigations showed that it was bought online, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.
READ: 'We cannot make sense of what happened': PM Lee offers condolences after River Valley High School death
Mr Wong said that "close friends and teachers" affected by the incident were invited to the school on Tuesday to get psychological first aid and trauma management.
"Some have already accessed the help yesterday," he said, adding that trained MOE specialists and school counsellors attended to them.
Mr Wong added that 97 per cent of River Valley High students returned to school on Wednesday following the public holiday on Tuesday. This is similar to the regular attendance on any given day, he said.
READ: Coping with trauma: Acknowledge incident and talk about emotions, say experts after River Valley High death
"This is the resilience of our students, and we are proud of them," he added.
"RV teachers used some time this morning to check in with their students and to help them process what happened. It is important to create safe spaces for our students to talk about and process their feelings."
Members of the public who wish to share messages of support can do so at a website listed on the school's Facebook page.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that MOE’s immediate priority is to ensure the welfare and well-being of River Valley High students, teachers and their families.
The ministry has set up a CARE (Caring Action in Response to Emergencies) post in the school for the next few days. It will be manned by ministry staff and school counsellors trained in trauma management to provide psychological support for staff and students.
“For the longer term, we will continue to keep a close eye on students and staff who are still traumatised or show prolonged distress symptoms, and will refer them to professional help as necessary,” he wrote.
“We will work closely with the relevant healthcare agencies and hospitals to render further support.”
READ: 'You are not alone': President Halimah says help available for those affected by River Valley High death
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday expressed his condolences to the family of the 13-year-old boy, saying that “we cannot make sense of what happened”.
Mr Lee called on staff and students to notify the school principals and counsellors if they know a pupil or a classmate who seemed troubled or under stress.
“We place great emphasis on safety in our schools, and the well-being of teachers and students,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“Our education system is not only about good academic performance, but also helping our kids to grow into happy and well-adjusted persons.”
Mr Wong said on Wednesday that there is "undoubtedly a long shadow cast by the tragic incident" as students returned to school.
"As a fellow educator I stand in support of the River Valley High team as they focus on bringing students back to school, and helping the school community process this incident with strength, grace and sensitivity," he said.
"On behalf of MOE and River Valley High, I'd like to thank everyone who has shown concern, and sent messages of support and encouragement. We are deeply heartened and grateful for all of this."