Preschool retracts letter promising “priority access” for parents to be grassroots leader

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Popular preschool, MindChamps, has retracted a letter it had sent to parents in which it claimed that they could get “priority access” to become grassroots leaders if their children enrolled with the school.

“You, our champion parents and guardians, have been given priority access to sign up as grassroots leaders with River Valley Neighbourhood Committee (RVNC) which will allow you to receive recommendation letter for schools within our precinct, for example River Valley Primary School,” the letter, dated 27 July, said.

It added that as the school “already assists the [RVNC] in many activities, our parents can take the lead to organise these activities to gain active grassroots leader status.”

“In order to be an active grassroots leader, you will need to participate actively in their program and organise up to two activities/major events.”

The aim, the school said, of all these “is to help parents ease the stress during Primary 1 enrollment exercise.”

“At the same time, contribute back to society as well as foster greater synergy and ‘espirit de corp’ amongst Singaporeans,” said the letter, signed off by the school’s director, Ray Ong.

The RVNC Facebook page, however, responded to the letter by saying that there are no such arrangements between the school and itself, and that the content of the school’s letter to parents “are inaccurate and factually wrong.” The RVNC added that the Liang Court branch of Mindchamps, which had sent out the letter, had done so without its knowledge.

“While MindChamps did it with good intention to encourage parents to contribute to the community, unfortunately, the information cited in the letter was inappropriate and inaccurate,” the RVNC said.

“We have since communicated with MindChamps and they are apologetic in this whole incident. They have agreed to retract the letter.”

Mr Ong later appealed to parents to disregard the letter and to return it to the school.

Under rules of the People’s Association (PA), grassroots leaders receive special privileges in certain areas, such as priority in Primary 1 registration under Phase 2B. Grassroots leaders, however, have to have “two years of continuous and active service in the GROs” before they can apply for this.

Under the Ministry of National Development (MND) Grassroots Organisation Scheme, grassroot leaders who have “three years of continuous and active service in GROs can apply for HDB BTO flats and Executive Condominiums under the Scheme.”

They also get special parking permits which allow them to carry out their community work in housing estates. The permits allow them to park for free until 11pm every day.

These special privileges for grassroot leaders have always been controversial, with some accusing the government of dishing out privileges in order to buy the loyalty of these volunteers, many of whom would also help out the ruling PAP during elections.

In March last year, Workers’ Party member Gerald Giam came across a leaflet apparently left at the door of a resident in Fengshan. The brochure urged residents to join the grassroots, and listed “some recognition” (that is, privileges) which volunteers would receive.

These included “free courses at the National Community Leadership Institute”, besides those mentioned earlier.

There are about 1,800 grassroots organisations in Singapore, with more than 30,000 grassroot leaders. They all come under the umbrella of the PA, which is headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and deputy chairman, Chan Chun Sing.