River Valley High students' return to school shows resilience, 'we are proud of them': MOE's Director-General of Education

"It is important to create a safe spaces for our students to talk about and process their feelings," said Wong Siew Hoong, MOE's Director-General of Education.

Nigel Chua | July 21, 2021, 06:19 PM

The Ministry of Education (MOE)'s Director-General of Education, Wong Siew Hoong, spoke to the media on the River Valley High School (RVHS) incident today (Jul. 21).

Wong outlined the response taken by the team at RVHS in the past two days and thanked concerned members of the public for their support and encouragement.

He also commended RVHS students for showing resilience in returning to school from Jul. 21.

Wong then outlined the steps that are being taken to continue to support students and staff at RVHS, and promised continued vigilance from MOE and schools regarding campus security, in light of parents' concerns about their children's safety in schools.

Response by RVHS team

Wong began by expressing support for the RVHS team, who are now focusing on bringing students back to school and helping the school community "process this incident with strength, grace, and sensitivity".

"On behalf of MOE and River Valley High, I'd like to thank everyone who has shown concern and sent messages of support and encouragement," said Wong.

"We are deeply heartened and grateful for all of this," he said.

Wong added that those who wish to share messages of support may do so on an online site, accessible via the school's Facebook page.

Support for students and staff

Wong shared about the actions taken to support students and staff since the incident, saying that "the immediate aftermath of a tragedy like this is critical and sensitive."

RVHS, with support from MOE HQ, "has been proactively reaching out to affected staff and students to offer all our support," Wong said.

He shared that "close friends and teachers who are affected by the incident" were invited to school yesterday (Jul. 20) so that MOE specialists and school counsellors could provide necessary support.

Those providing support are trained in psychological first aid and trauma management, Wong said.

"Some have already accessed the help yesterday," he added.

Since Jul. 20, a room has been set up in the school, and affected staff, students, and parents can walk in for support.

The room will be open throughout the whole of this week, Wong said.

RV students' return to school shows resilience

Wong shared that 97 per cent of RV students returned to school, similar to the regular attendance on any given school day.

"This is the resilience of our students and we are proud of them," he said.

He added that teachers took some time this morning to check in with students, and to help them process what happened.

"It is important to create safe spaces for our students to talk about and process their feelings," he said.

Helplines for staff, students, and parents

Wong said that the school, with MOE's support, has provided helplines for staff, students and their parents, and will continue to "keep a close eye" on students and staff who are still traumatised, or show prolonged distress symptoms.

This is so that help can be provided to them in a timely manner.

Wong urged students facing difficulties to reach out to their parents, teachers, or a trusted adult, saying that "we will extend our fullest efforts to support you through this difficult time."

Further action to be taken

"This tragedy has inevitably sent shockwaves across our schools and education fraternity," said Wong.

"All our schools and teachers stand ready to help and are on vigilance to look out especially for at-risk students and those who are struggling to deal with what happened, to provide them with prompt support," he added.

Culture of peer support

Wong spoke about a "culture of peer support" in schools, saying that it would be "very useful during this period of time", as students could help look out for and support one another, and encourage a fellow student who may be in distress to seek help from trusted adults, parents, teachers, or counsellors.

"Our schools will continue to closely work with parents to monitor and support their children's mental and emotional well being, and provide them with information resources on where they can seek help, if needed," Wong said.

MOE and schools will be vigilant about campus security

Wong also acknowledged understandable concerns from parents about the safety of their children in school, but promised continued vigilance, saying:

"Student safety has been, and continues to be of paramount importance to all of us. MOE and our schools will continue to be vigilant about campus security. We have put in place the necessary processes to ensure that."

Time to process and heal

"Some time will be needed for all of us to process and heal from this incident," said Wong.

"For the young minds that we nurture in our schools, it is a difficult episode to make sense of, which is why MOE and our schools are fully focused on helping them draw useful lessons, and making available the necessary support to those in need."

Top image by Andrew Wong