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    • Schools, community groups offer students study spaces - and free food

       

      About one night a week for the last few months, a line forms at the canteen in Pioneer Junior College (PJC).

      Hot food like chicken wings and chap chye is dished out to hungry students who come to school at night to get some studying done before the year-end examinations.

      The food is brought and served by parents, while teachers often drop in as well in case students need help.

      In Singapore, where it is sometimes hard to find a quiet place at home to study, schools and community organisations like churches have stepped into the breach.

      At least 10 secondary schools and JCs allow self-study sessions on their premises at this time of the year. Students enjoy a conducive environment to study, and moral support from their peers and teachers.

      At PJC in Choa Chu Kang, up to 250 students will come to study, especially when dinner is provided.

      First-year student Clifford Foo, 18, said that he has been coming two or three times a week since the school opened its doors in mid-July.

      IT'S A PARTNERSHIP

      As parents, we provide them with healthy food. When we speak to them as they line up for food, it helps to lighten the atmosphere. We also get to informally check on how things are going as the exams can be quite stressful.

      MRS HARJIT KAUR, chairman of PJC's parent support group, whose son is in JC1.

      "When my friends stay back to study, I feel motivated to do the same," said Clifford, who lives in Lakeside.

      "It also helps that we don't even have to walk out to buy dinner."

      Mr Dennis Lee, PJC's head of department for information and communications technology, said different subject teachers are rostered to provide consultations during the study sessions. Students have the roster, which helps them plan ahead for their revision.

      About 30 parents are actively involved in helping out with the programme, said Mrs Harjit Kaur, 46, chairman of PJC's parent support group. Parents volunteer to prepare food for the students as most canteen stalls would be closed, she said. Students also appreciate the gesture and feel encouraged by it.

      "We see it as a partnership. As parents, we provide them with healthy food. When we speak to them as they line up for food, it helps to lighten the atmosphere. We also get to informally check on how things are going as the exams can be quite stressful," said Mrs Kaur, whose son is in JC1.

      Parent volunteers also help out at St Andrew's Junior College's (SAJC) night study sessions, where they are in charge of catering food for students a few times a week.

      "We try to make sure that they have balanced meals when they spend long hours studying in school," said Ms Christie Kamala, 59, the vice-chairman of SAJC's parent support group.

      At some schools, programmes start because of demand from students. Mrs Linda Chan, principal of the School of Science and Technology, Singapore, said that it started a night study programme in 2013 as students had asked for a quiet place for revision ahead of the O-level exams.

      Teachers supervise the sessions, and light snacks are provided. "The positive feedback we received encouraged us to continue with this practice," said Mrs Chan.

      Ms Celine Quek, the year head for Secondary 4 and 5 at CHIJ St Theresa's Convent, said the night study programme in her school has been popular with students since it started in 2009. Teachers take turns to supervise the sessions, usually attended by 40 to 80 students taking the N- and O-level exams.

      "They get moral support. Sometimes, you just need an extra pair of eyes around to (have the motivation to) keep quiet and study."

      Some night study programmes are also run outside of schools. Since 2014, the Woodlands Evangelical Free Church has opened its doors to students two nights a week for two months during the exam period. About 20 young people come each time - usually regular churchgoers who bring their friends along. It will start its programme tomorrow.

      The church's initiative was started by a parent who is a churchgoer, said Mrs Annabel Chau, 53, a staff member in the youth ministry. "He felt that students need a quiet place to study. Even at home, Grandma might be watching TV or something, which can be distracting."

      Students are free to use the ground-floor area, and some hot beverages are provided.

      A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2017, with the headline 'Catering to a night-time need'.
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