International Campus

Catering to children with different needs

The Canossian family has started an inclusive pre-school that takes in both mainstream children and those with special needs.

The group closed its Magdalene’s Kindergarten last December to renovate the compound and turn it into a childcare centre, in response to the growing demand for childcare services.

The new pre-school, which comes under Canossaville Children and Community Services, has 70 children, seven of whom have hearing loss. It is located in the Canossian Eduplex in the MacPherson area.

Besides extra safety belts for seesaws and swings, the playground will have a sensory water play feature and a treehouse.

Sister Marilyn Lim, supervisor of Canossaville Children and Community Services, said it received funding from groups such as philanthropic organisation Lien Foundation, as well as alumni and the public.

A team of pastoral workers and specialists – including a speech therapist, an educational psychologist and a social worker – is being set up this year to cater to children who have special needs or learning difficulties.These experts will also help pupils from Canossa Convent Primary School and Canossian School. The latter is for pupils with hearing loss, and both schools are housed within the eduplex.

After 77 years of caring for orphans and vulnerable children, the Canossian family closed its children’s home last April because of dwindling enrolment and the larger societal shift towards foster care.

It has channelled its efforts to its student care centre, which now has about 80 children. About 60 per cent of the children there are from lower-income families in nearby estates in MacPherson and Aljunied.

Sister Marilyn said the latest initiatives, collectively called Circle of Care, give priority to needy families.

Fees for the pre-school range from $850 to $1,250 a month before subsidies. Those who need more help can tap an education fund.

“We’re always looking out for the needs of children, physically, emotionally, spiritually. We want those from poorer families to have the same playing field for success,” said Sister Marilyn.

Instead of being just an after-school facility where the children complete homework, the centre – which can take up to 150 children – also has a kitchen where pupils can learn to bake and cook.

They also get to try activities such as sewing, while a rock wall is being set up by June.

“We work as a team at Canossaville… it takes a village to raise a child,” said Sister Marilyn.