Feb 15, 2008

Lives of Dark & Quiet Desperation

ST Feb 15, 2008
Refuse to send your kids to school? Govt may step in
MOE may consider taking parents of six children to court if they do not respond to counselling
By Theresa Tan

THE Education Ministry (MOE) may have to consider court action against some parents who have refused to send their children to school.

The six children involved have stopped school for some time, or only show up for classes from time to time despite extensive counselling and mediation.

If the ministry presses charges, it will be the first time it is doing so under the Compulsory Education Act, which was implemented in 2003.

The Act stipulates that anyone who fails to ensure that his child attends school shall be guilty of an offence.

If convicted, the person may be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to a year, or both.

The authorities say they may have to consider using 'penal sanctions' because of the parents' poor response to counselling efforts by the schools involved and the Singapore Children's Society, a charity engaged by the ministry to counsel parents who do not enrol their children for Primary 1 classes.

In some cases, social workers have been trying to change the parents' minds for the last three years, but have come up empty.

When contacted by The Straits Times, the Children's Society said it was not authorised to give more details about the six cases.

But according to the ministry, there are several reasons why the children are 'not attending school regularly or stopped attending school for some time':

They come from dysfunctional families.

They have indifferent or lax parents.

They also may be influenced by older siblings who are school dropouts.

Opinion was divided on whether charging the parents would solve the problem or make matters worse.
What kind of parents wouldn't send their children to primary school?

Many kinds, actually. Let's see. Daddy could be dead, in jail, schizophrenic or completely broke. Mummy could be suicidal, alcoholic, disabled or regularly getting beaten up by her lovers. Or any permutation of the above.

So the kids have a big problem and it isn't the kind that is necessarily solved by fining or jailing one or both parents for not sending the kids to school. In fact, criminal punishment could well make things worse.

When I was a Deputy Public Prosecutor, I had sneak peeks into many lives of dark and quiet desperation. There are many people out there with huge personal problems, and some of them would end up in police files, and so I saw my fair share of them.

Today, as I type this, I recall one particular case of mine that crossed my desk many years ago. The man had been arrested for drug trafficking, following a dramatic CNB raid on his HDB flat. He, like his lover, was a drug addict.

The woman was pregnant. We had some suspicion that she too was a drug trafficker, but the evidence was too weak and so we proceeded on consumption and possession charges against her. As she was a repeat offender, she would be spending a long time in jail.

Whatever happened to that baby? Did the woman eventually give birth in prison? Who looks after babies whose mothers are still convicts? And if the baby was born at all, was it born normal? Or was its health permanently damaged by its mother's heavy drug abuse?

I don't know. I get sneak peeks, that is all, into these other lives. I read the police files, I appear in court, I prosecute my cases. Then I close the file and I move on with my own life, just as everyone else has to move on. Criminals and victims included.

That baby, if it had been born and if it had survived, should be a 7-year-old child by now. Time for primary school. Dear baby, do you even know your mother's name?


Ray said...

I guess that's why you stopped being a DPP eh? Too heart-breaking to continue.

ugene said...

i would say $, and work scope also played a part....

Anonymous said...

That's quite what I felt too upon reading this morning's article. Despite the qualifying "...in some cases, social workers have been trying to change the parents' minds for the last three years, but have come up empty..." statement, I asked myself, "surely there are some other workarounds which the authorities would be open to exploring, such as, say, home-schooling, etc?"

While I've not seen the things you have personally, I have had my fair share of encounters with those who live on the fringes of society and, based on what I've seen, brute force doesn't go very far.

Thank you for your write up, MW

The neo-Geographer said...

the intention of getting the kids to school is good, but the effects will be borne heavily by not only the children but also teachers.

Home-schooling is not an option because these kids may not even have a home to begin with. Fault may not lie with the parents cos in some cases, the kids really have no inclination to study and go for written exams even as they are only interested and good in certain things like art and music.

And that's the sad part.


kids should be taught by tramps, drug addicts and prostitutes. Only then will they understand the reasons for many of our worlds problems.

My lifestyleguides solves most of these



HaveAHacks said...

But Compulsory Education had nothing to do with helping underprivileged children. It had everying to do with bringing the madrassahs under government control.

Helping the poor isn't really a big priority around here.

Anonymous said...

Management by numbers.
Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

The first person that should be prosecuted, is probably the government. The government has failed to provide the necessary conditions for a child to attend school. One of which would be a functional family to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

"The first person that should be prosecuted, is probably the government...failed to provide the necessary conditions...One of which would be a functional family to begin with."

the govt has done a fantastic job to implement the compulsory education.
simply put in a narrow scope, no edu = lesser talent pool = higher chances of general population being poorer = financial difficulties - the bane of many dysfunctional families

also, its pretty unreasonable to blame the govt for failling to "provide" functional families. govt is Not equivalent to God. but if you think u can do a better job than them, dont complain and start doing something on your own to help those dear kids.


Kaffein said...

And we have a principal who wants 100% passes, and no misfits or outcasts in the class. So where do the government want to put these kids with dysfunctional families when even the school principal doesn't even support them?

Sometimes I wonder how these kids who are trying hard to make it in life can survive with such criticisms.

Look I know that negative criticisms do sometimes spur someone to rise above the challenge. But more often, it does not.

Words are powerful tools that will trigger and impact lives. It takes years to build a man up, but just mere words to tear him down in seconds.

And I don't buy the crap about you've got to be stronger within and not let what others say hurt you. People hurt you most with words.

Guessed I have digressed. More like it's to be for the teacher/principal article way below.


Anonymous said...

The punishments for parents who failed to send their offsprings 'to school' for education, appears to add salt into wounds. Some great Policy Makers, no wonder first world also means first class ineffectiveness!

Anonymous said...

Education up to A-Levels should be free for all citizens. There should be support programs like after school care for those that need it. Even during vacations, there should be programs to help enrich and develop these kids.

All these should be provided by the government, god knows they can afford it. If the government is not willing to invest in the future generation, then it is indeed very short sighted.

onlooker said...

Seems that there is a spike in cellphone theft in recent years(which prompt the bak2u technology). To understand the problem look at the offenders.Yes one might say that those youth want newest model of phone but among these offender some stole due to the fact that they don't have millionaires dad.
Some even come from single parent families.It easy to overlook them and pretend that they don't exist just because we the more fortunate ones can.
PS The bullying in school(usually for pocket money) as mention by Miss Thio have the same demographics you just have to know where to look.
PPS Singapore have a bully culture look at the politics.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Quote: "There should be support programs like after school care for those that need it."
For your info such programs do exist in schools i.e. The Rainbow Club implemented for students who have single parent or are living in relative poverty. (ppl in SG are usually subjected to relatively poverty rather than abject poverty in 3rd world countries.)

Quote: "Even during vacations, there should be programs to help enrich and develop these kids."
When i was in secondary school, i remembered my holidays were filled with enrichment programs, it didnt feel very enriching anyway. a neighbourhood school that is.

Quote: "If the government is not willing to invest in the future generation, then it is indeed very short sighted."
The govt do invest in education i.e. scholarship, subsidies...
short abstract from MOE web..."co-funding formula is for undergraduates to pay 25% of the operating cost of their university education while the Government pays the remaining 75%." if the govt were to subsidize 100% of the education im afraid the taxpayers have to cough out a larger proportion of income because the nature of education is costly.


Anonymous said...

>if the govt were to subsidize 100% of the education im afraid the taxpayers have to cough out a larger proportion of income because the nature of education is costly.

That's a lie that has been brainwashed into you. If I collect $100 from you and then give you back only $4 and you demand me to double that to $8, is it justifiable for me to ask you to pay me $200 first? Can I not simply give you $8 out of the original $100?

And this is not hypothetical. World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that Sg spent 4% of its GDP per capita, on health care whereas developed countries such as USA spent 16% of its GDP per capita on health care. Now do you think it make sense for PAP to say: "sure, we can also quadruple our health care spending to 16%, but you people have to pay us 4 times more tax"? 66.6% fools seem to accept such an argument, but fact is: for the same $100 in GDP/tax, our govt is not spending enough on health care compared to developed countries. Extra money goes where? Reserves! Temasek! GIC! Likewise for education.

Anonymous said...

>The govt do invest in education i.e. scholarship, subsidies...

Really? How come I don't know? Let's compare:

American public school
School bus = free

Class size = 10 students to 1 teacher (20 students in a classroom with 1 subject teacher and 1 assistant teacher, at lower primary level).

Primary school teacher's qualification = university degree in the subject matter (eg. Science) with Masters in education.

School rules = hair should be neat. Clothings must be neat. If lower primary school students are late for classes, parents will be called up because at lower primary level, it is the parents' fault for not ensuring that their kids arrive on time and not the 7 year old's fault.

Tax = 15% at the lower level (highest level is 35%, but are you a millionare? I am not. Rich people in general do not emigrate just because they pay high taxes, for if that were the case, we should see Americans/Australians emigrating to sg in droves, rather than singaporeans leaving for australia/America!)

GST = essential item s such as diapers, milk powder etc excluded.

Executive President's salary = US$600,000

Singapore govt sch
School bus = pay yourself

Class size = go pay for your own private tutor if you find your child not getting enough attention in a classroom with 40 students and 1 teacher.

Primary school teacher's qualification = A-level generalist teaching English AND Math And Science!

school rules = Having neatly bundled hair is not enough. Primary school girls must wear only black hair bands, not any other colour eg. pink. Watch bands must also be black, not catchy clours. (This is not confined to just a few schools. Many schools impose these rules). If late, 7 year old will be punished directly via retention in school etc because somehow, the 7 year old is responsible for driving/walking herself to school late!

Tax = super high tax for everyone including the poor, via working for nearly free for 2 years in NS (go ask the regulars who worked side by side with you doing the same job how much they were paid), via high HDB flat price which exceed building cost, via TV licensing fee, via exorbitants fines for various offences, via high passport fee etc etc.

GST = everything is taxable

NON-executive president's salary = US$4,000,000

No wonder Singaporeans are emigrating to USA!
LKY should speak to me to find out why - put simply, in USA, you get more bang (in education alone) for your tax money! And we are not even talking about civil liberties and those sort of things. Just education.

Anonymous said...

lenovo sounds like a MIW or civil servant living in the ivory tower. :)

Jc said...

In a society where the top echelons are filled with scholars who are there by virtue of their pursuit of perfect GPAs, this trait permutates itself.

The disconnect between perception and reality may be evidenced by recent policies that have seen a stronger than usual response. e.g. the Compulsory Annuity aka Lifelong Income.

Forums and blogs have allowed people at the top to have an alternative peek into the real world, vs the world presented to them by the armies of scholars. Attempting to disrupt such channels of information is hardly in the long-term interest of those at the top.

Singapore has come far and done extremely well under the stewardship of MM Lee.

When a child who scores 90 marks, a parent can choose to emphasize the 90 marks the child has, or the 10 marks that the child does not have.

Singapore, it ain't perfect, but it sure is pretty.

Anonymous said...

The AG's office should not have prosecuted that pregnant woman. Or should have prosecute her under a much milder section of the law (if it does indeed exist?) where the usual punishment is such that she will be sentenced to undergo mandatory drug rehabilitation in a non-prison environment. This will be much better for her and her baby. Unfortunately, in SG's context, where Judges, DPP and law makers were educated in a segregated environment away from the down and trodden, such a situation is not possible. As Mr. Wang said: He gets only a peek into these other lives...

In some other countries, they ensure diversity in the classrooms eg. a certain number of economically deprived pupils must be present within each school, and within each class. In sg, we do the opposite - putting all the elites in one school, and even within the school, we put the top in the top class.

In general, if an sg male finds NS an eye-opener, then this is an indication that he has led a frog-in-the-well school life. I was one of those.

Anonymous said...

"Education up to A-Levels should be free for all citizens."

And where will all that money come from? We just have a PR complaining about paying 10% more than citizens, despite their non-commital stance of not wanting to become citizens, after 2 generations of priviledges in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

"In sg, we do the opposite - putting all the elites in one school, and even within the school, we put the top in the top class.

In general, if an sg male finds NS an eye-opener, then this is an indication that he has led a frog-in-the-well school life."

O! And guess what, they have been putting potential scholars in 1 same platoon! So that they all can go scholarship interview during training slack mah. Easy planning you know. Why they need to mix with Ah Beng, the Ah Bengs still cannot be scholars you know.

Somehow, scoring 4 As in A levels with some S papers, auto qualifies you for officer school also.

Anonymous said...

Anon of February 18, 2008 1:13 AM,

The money will come from the foreign reserves. Singapore has one of the highest foreign reserves per population. Higher than Australia, I think. We do not need to put away so much money. As an analogy, NKF has tens of millions in its reserves, and "subsidised" patients only 1 cent per $1 collected. Ask yourself: if we want NKF to subsidise patient more, can NKF ask: "And where will the money come from"?

Some people (eg. Chee of SDP?) have said that NKF is just a mini version of PAP. Ask yourself if there is some truth to it. For eg. if we want more welfare, more healthcare, more education, is the govt justified to ask: "And where will the money come from"? They have collected more than enough money to dole out a little bit more! As I understand it, GIC is managing over $100,000,000,000 <-- 12 digits - 100 BILLIONS!!

Benjamin said...

Make kids go school. Dun let them become social leeches. Make sure they can fend for themselves.

Seems to make policy sense, seems to make existential crap. We got a shitty deal: little land, few people, grand ambitions (hub this hub that). There is no help for those that stumble on the way to utopia.

Anonymous said...

not rocking the boat or anything.. but i think it is time that SG has progressed enough to provide free education, at least up till the JC level, for ALL Singaporeans regardless of race..... as far as i understand, there is no reason why we should indulge in minority politics the way it is done in our neighbouring countries. if education can be provided free for some, it would be in the national interest to extend it to ALL citizens, perhaps.

have to give it to SG that education is already very highly subsidised--so how much more would that cost? it would be a good nation building exercise, too. make citizens feel like citizens and not second-class PRs who serve NS.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymus at 17Feb,

Thanks for replying/enlightening. I acknowledge many of the points you mentioned.

quote point: "Can I not simply give you $8 out of the original $100?" Yes im well aware of that argument, its my sentiments too. The part where i said taxpayers may have to cough out a higher tax is what i thought the govt might initially reply in view of the public wanting/insisting free education, healthcare etc.
There's probably a hundred and one thing to pick on the govt i.e. new ERP gantry near heartlands (some with extended peak hr + increase in rates)?! price increase in PUB. holding on to CPF while they invest. giving rebates to the citizens in one year and upp GST next, accelerating our inflation of course, etc.

Well i just thought the govt has its merits too. We started out from scratch...to what SG is today. quote JC Feb17, "Singapore, it ain't perfect, but it sure is pretty."


Anonymous said...

We started out from scratch...to what SG is today - a paradise for foreigners where citizens are second class, a country where corruption is legalised, where the Contistution is disregarded and a living hell where old people are left to fend for themselves.

There you go - The complete part to your unfinished sentence!

> i just thought the govt has its merits too

Legalised corruption sure has its merits - to those who benefit from it. Are you one of those?

Anonymous said...

"The part where i said taxpayers may have to cough out a higher tax is what i thought the govt might initially reply"

That's a plain lie. The "higher tax" part is YOUR rebuttal to the argument that some commentators made about free education. It was never a "I think the govt will reply.." thing. That's plain as hell, from the context of your comment.

The "govt" part is something you cooked up now, AFTER I had debunked your argument. You are now pretending to be on my side by claiming that "it's your sentiment too". You even proceeded to list out some common complaints about the govt. In doing so, you hope to appear rational and to gain some acceptance among anti-govt commentators, since you now appear to "agree" with some of our arguments. Having done so, you then push forward your main (and only) message: "i just thought the govt has its merits too".

What a cheap trick!

Anonymous said...

Those people who claimed that Singapore started Independence 'from scratch', I recommend that they read up Thrachymacus' Blogs.

In any case, this jewel of an island, though small like a diamond, is well endowed with strategic location, free from natural disasters and (polished) well developed with solid foundation by the British before She handed it to the locals.

There was not the slightest struggle to have it given on a platter with the added continued protection(national defence) thrown in by the Ex-master. Are You aware? My friends. saintmoron.