Founder of Transitioning.org and activist Gilbert Goh has managed to raise over S$10,000 via his crowdfunding campaign to help children in need to pay off their school fees arrears, which will allow them to collect their public examination result certificates.
A total of S$10,677 was raised through the campaign “Pay backlogged PSLE/GCE N/O level school fees for needy children” on the Go Get Funding website as of 5.05 p.m. on Thu (19 Dec), with 147 people backing the fundraising effort.
Goh on his Facebook page today shared the news of an N Level student who had “managed to collect her exam result certificate today” after having her S$700 backlogged school fees paid.
S$500 of the total amount was paid using the funds raised through the crowdfunding platform, while the remaining amount was given by “a Good Samaritan”, according to Goh.
The student will be studying nursing at the Institute of Technical Education, he added.
Goh urged the public to alert him to similar cases involving unpaid secondary school fees “so we can review it quickly and pay it off”.
“Any unpaid school fee will affect the collection of the GCE exam result certificate. Don’t let your kids go home without the dignity of collecting the certificate due to unpaid school fees,” Goh stressed.
Goh has also managed to pay off part of the school fees arrears owed by a polytechnic student on Wed (18 Dec) through the crowdfunding initiative.
“Helped to pay off a semester of polytechnic school fees of $995 for a nursing needy student. One semester lasts six months and the fee costs around $153 per month.
“We used $500 from our crowdfunding platform and the rest is paid by a Good Samaritan,” he said.
Goh noted that the student’s application for financial assistance from the polytechnic is still pending, and that the breadwinner of the household “recently had a motorcycle accident and could not continue his job at the airport”.
“He is working part-time on internet assignment but is earning a fraction of his previous income of more than $3000 monthly,” he added.
Goh said that being able to settle the semester fees was “a huge relief off the mind of the 17-year-old”, particularly given that the payment deadline falls next Tue (24 Dec).
“I told him to study hard and pay it forward when he is working in future,” he added.
“If you know of anyone with default polytechnic school fees, please let us know so we can do a quick assessment before approving the charity pay-off,” Goh noted, adding that the maximum amount of school fee arrears that could be paid off by the crowdfunding initiative is S$500 for each student.
Goh on Monday posted about a “Good Samaritan” who had assisted in the crowdfunding effort by collecting funds from friends for the PSLE results certificate charity project, and said that he “felt very touched by such community spirit”.
He also invited the public to drop by a forum this Sat (21 Dec) where donors and beneficiaries of the charity project will “come together to share their experience”.
The forum will take place from 2pm to 5pm at The Mahota Studio, Blk 808. Level Three Kitchener Complex, Goh added.
Goh said that the school fees charity project will not only help “needy families to pay off their children school fees”, but will “also provide hope to a besieged population struggling with ultra-high costs of living”.
“No one should be left behind,” he stressed.
Last month in an email to Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, Goh urged MOE to waive the unpaid school fees for needy students and to issue the students’ public examination results certificates.
He highlighted the plight of a student whose original Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) result slip was withheld by the Ministry as her parents had incurred S$156 in unpaid school fees.
Goh described it as “rubbing salt into the wound of poverty”, saying that “the shame in getting a photostated copy of the PSLE result slip must have weighed heavily on the shoulders of those who are poor and needy when most of their peers have the genuine ones”.
A Good Samaritan, however, had paid the school fees for the student to enable the student to retrieve her PSLE results slip from the school.
MOE told Yahoo! News Singapore the next day in response to the issue that the real aim of doing so “stems from the underlying principle that notwithstanding the fact that the cost of education is almost entirely publicly funded, we should still play our part in paying a small fee, and it is not right to ignore that obligation, however small it is”.
“Further, students from lower-income families can apply for financial assistance that covers their miscellaneous fees, uniforms, textbooks, transport and school meals. If it is about money then the easier solution would be to reduce subsidies and financial assistance,” the Ministry added.
Goh said that while he applauds the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) “laudable financial assistance scheme (FAS) which benefitted thousands of needy students each year”, he stressed that some students “may fall through the cracks when it comes to application of FAS due to various unique reasons”, ranging from “incomplete filling of forms due to a missing family member” to a “sudden loss of a breadwinner through retrenchment or just missing out on the FAS criteria mark of S$2750 gross income per household or S$690 per capita income”.
He added that some may even feel ashamed to apply for financial help “due to their ego and prefer to tough it out worsening the problem for the innocent child”.
Following the student’s case, a petition was sent to MOE to urge the Ministry to delink PSLE certificates from school fees arrears. The petition garnered a total of 1236 signatories from people within and outside of Singapore as of 10 Dec.
Education Minister Ong, in response to the petition, said that while he “doesn’t agree with the views of some people that schools and teachers are uncaring and unfeeling”, he said that the practice of withholding students’ exam results slips in such a context “should be reviewed”, and that he will raise the issue in Parliament next year.
He said that he holds a different view from people who think that applying for financial assistance is “difficult and demeaning”.
“All government schemes will need some form filling, which cannot be helped. It is not a difficult form to fill, and school staff often help to fill up the forms for parents,” he added.
Ong also said that he does “not have the sense that children who did not get the original results slip were humiliated”, adding that educational institutions and educators are “on the frontline doing their utmost” and often go out of their way to help students from vulnerable backgrounds.
The students, he added, received their results like everyone else, and are able to apply for secondary school and progress with their peers.
“But I cannot rule out the odd cases, and we do have to question is this practice works at all in urging parents to do a small part in paying some miscellaneous fees”, he stressed.