The Ministry of Education “should’ve stepped up their game” in providing the students and teachers of River Valley High School (RVHS) with the proper resources required in dealing with the aftermath of the recent tragedy, said some students on the Wake Up Singapore Facebook page on Wednesday (21 July).
When students returned to RVHS two days after a 16-year-old student allegedly murdered a 13-year-old student in the school toilet, the school and MOE attempted to help the other students process what happened with a 2-hour CARE programme.
In an earlier feedback published on Wake Up Singapore earlier that day, a group of students—who remained anonymous—criticised the programme for being “not well thought through”.
One of the examples cited was the use of a “one size fits all solution worksheet” on coping mechanisms in which one of the strategies was “I was made for this challenge”.
The student remarked: “…some if not all of us found this particular option very inappropriate as a coping mechanism. It had no substance in helping us cope with the situation but downplayed what we’ve gone through because of the one size fits all solution worksheet they offered.”
“It felt like they just wanted to quickly pack matters up and move on,” the students added.
In a follow-up series of messages published on Wake Up Singapore later that same day to clarify what they meant, the students reiterated that they were referring to the MOE’s handling of the programme, specifically, and how the Ministry should have provided the school with proper resources.
“Our intentions were to raise awareness about MOE’s lacking in managing students’ mental health, as like many others, we also believed the teachers should not be the ones carrying out this care programme, but instead professional third parties from the MOE [should be doing it],” the students asserted.
They went on to say that it “disturbed” them to see the “obviously traumatised, tired and exasperated” teachers having to carry out a programme that they were not trained professionally to do.
The students explained that this was one of the reasons they wanted to bring this matter to the public.
However, the students also apologised for raising the issue publicly which caused “so much unnecessary additional distress” instead of bringing the feedback privately to their teachers.
Another series of messages from a different student, also shared by Wake Up Singapore on the same day, had similar complaints about the CARE programme which they felt “was not specialised” to their needs.
“My reason was that it did not even mention the word ‘trauma’ to validate the indirect trauma that many students face (which is recognised by experts in a Straits Times article too), instead portraying it as merely a highly stressful situation,” the student explained.
They went on to say that they did eventually understand more about the work that went into the programme after speaking to a teacher who was a Head of Department at the school.
According to the message, a team of professional counsellors was situated in the Care Centre in the school on Tuesday for anyone to speak to while urgent care was given to students in both the victim’s and assailant’s classes.
At the same time, the student said that teachers were working around the clock, the MOE formulated a specialised care programme lesson plan while the student development team in RVHS formulated slides for the teachers.
When students returned to school on Wednesday, MOE officers were standing by at the school entrance to usher students in and keep journalists from “swarming” them, while the police were on alert as well, the student noted.
They added that teachers were supportive of students and took care to talk to them and ease them back into lessons after the care programme.
In clearing up certain “misconceptions”, the author of the messages described the CARE programme as “very general” and meant to identify affected students to send for counselling.
“Perhaps this has caused some dissatisfaction as it was too simplified for some students and didn’t delve deeper into the impacts we were feeling,” the author suggested.
“The teacher also expressed the same sentiment,” they added.
In hopes of “de-escalating” the developing situation sparked by the earlier complaint about the CARE programme, this student reiterated that the school and teachers have been working hard to support students.
The student said: “All [in] all, what I want to say is that the Teachers and school is working really hard to support us BEHIND THE SCENES, they don’t brag about it, but I’m here to say this so we can show them a little more support and understanding.”