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National School Games to Return in 2021

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The National School Games (NSG) were cancelled in May this year, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused a nationwide lockdown and strict enforcement of social distancing measures.

However, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on 7 October that the NSG will resume in 2021.

Students excited for Games

The announcement was one that student-athletes and even parents are celebrating. Students The Straits Times spoke to were excited for a chance to compete.

“It’s going to be special, because I haven’t played a match in so long,” said Durga Devi Viknesyaran, a floorball player at Keming Primary School.

Nur Aliya Natasya, a Secondary 3 student at Peicai Secondary School was also happy to hear the news. She said: “I felt happy because next year will be my last year in school. It was sad [when NSG was cancelled] because we dedicated our time and effort to training, but [didn’t get to play].”

Parents concerned over safety

Many parents were concerned over the safety issues holding an event like the NSG would bring amid a pandemic but are eager for their children to start playing again.

“[The COVID-19 situation] is pretty calm in Singapore, so it’s good that the kids can start participating next year,” said May Ng, whose son plays squash.

Michael Teoh, whose two sons play floorball, is confident authorities would ensure measures are in place for the children to compete safely.

“When they open up, I believe they’ll be more stringent in terms of making sure that players get their temperature checked and that they’re healthy before they take part. They will probably [hold the NSG] without spectators, but at least that will give the kids an opportunity to play,” he said.

Coach advises ministry to take things slow

Although there is excitement over the NSG resuming, there are still some who are cautious over the enthusiasm to reopen early. Tohari Paijan, football coach at Angsana Primary School and Temasek Junior College, for example, is urging authorities to take things slowly with small pilots, such as inter-class games, before progressing to larger groups of players to ensure the safety of student-athletes.

“I care about the players’ welfare and don’t want them to be sick. We must see if it’s safe first and monitor the situation” he said.

Other school activities allowed to resume

The interschool games are not the only activities to see a resumption – MOE also announced that more co-curricular activities (CCAs) will be allowed to resume after the year-end examinations from the primary to junior college levels.

Up to 50 people will be allowed to take part in CCAs, except for higher-risk activities – an increase from 20 people currently.

Other inter-school activities, such as local Olympiads, the Singapore National Youth Chinese Orchestra, and the Singapore National Youth Orchestra will resume as well.

Orchestras in schools and junior colleges have already resumed, but wind instrument players have not been able to participate. They will be allowed to play in the orchestra from the middle of this month, but with a maximum of five players at once.

The same rule applies for other CCAs involving wind instruments and speech and drama programmes – a maximum of five participants at one time, with one teacher or instructor present.

The NSG, Singapore Youth Festival Arts Presentation, and Outward Bound Singapore learning activities will resume next year.

Safety measures in place

MOE has said that further details on the activities resuming next year will be available at a later stage. Currently, activities that can resume will have to adhere to safe management measures, such as keeping a 1m distance between students. For sports, which students practice unmasked, they must keep at least 2m apart. If a 1m distance cannot be maintained, students must abide to the “group of five” rule.

CCAs and activities that are considered high-risk remain suspended, such as those that involve singing, or high levels of body contact, like in taekwondo sparring and tackling in rugby. Overnight camps are also not allowed.

CCAs and school activities an integral part of student life

MOE has been actively trying to reinstate CCAs and school activities for students, as these help with holistic and socio-emotional development.

“They provide opportunities and platforms for students to explore their passion, build camaraderie, develop character and resilience, and strengthen mental well-being, which are important especially during these difficult times,” it said.

 

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