Communities and Engagement

NUS students serve as volunteers in support of students from underprivileged families

banner image

For the first half of this year, NUS student Zhang Jun Rong (second from right) and his fellow schoolmates have been regularly volunteering at Tanglin Secondary School, offering academic coaching for students in need and planning for afterschool activities to enrich their mentees’ lives. Photo taken in April 2021. PHOTO: NUS

1 September 2021

The National University of Singapore (NUS) launched its 3-year Teach Singapore (Teach SG) mentoring initiative this year in a university-wide recruitment of student volunteers to provide academic coaching and mentoring for primary and secondary school students in need of help. As of mid-August, the Teach SG initiative has recruited 320 student volunteers to render assistance for more than 260 disadvantaged students.

SINGAPORE – Coaching students in their academic studies and planning leisure activities for these mentees such as bonding over sports – students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) step up and volunteer to render support for youths from vulnerable families, in hopes of motivating these disadvantaged students to stay positive and thrive.

This year, NUS rolled out a 3-year Teach SG mentoring initiative in a university-wide recruitment of student volunteers to coach and mentor primary and secondary school students in need of assistance.

A synergistic collaboration with the UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) team from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and community partners such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and Yayasan MENDAKI (Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community), this outreach initiative will see NUS empowering and assigning student volunteers to appropriate roles, taking on tasks for projects that will run for at least three months at a time. As of mid-August, Teach SG has recruited 320 volunteers and rendered assistance to more than 260 disadvantaged students. The initiative hopes to attract a total of 1,000 student volunteers over the course of 3 years.

25-year-old NUS student Zhang Jun Rong is one of the volunteers participating in this initiative. Between February and June earlier this year, Zhang has been volunteering at Tanglin Secondary School along with his fellow student volunteers once a week for two hours each time. Typically, the volunteers would tutor the students for an hour before engaging the students in sports games or other activities, in a bid to hone their life and social skills such as instilling resilience or offering tips on time management.

The volunteers have also brought their mentees on a planned excursion to the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands to enhance and enrich afterschool programmes.

Zhang Jun Rong mentioned in his interview: “During my schooling years, I was blessed to have met wonderful teachers and friends who were great role models. I hope that I can be a role model for the younger generation as well, to set by example and inspire them. This initiative emphasises on students’ all-round development, rather than merely focusing on academic excellence. This is something that sits right with me and thus I made the decision to come onboard.”

Zhang added that from his perspective, the secondary school students under his mentorship have been quite proactive, even taking the initiative to seek volunteers’ advice on factors for consideration when choosing future courses of study - an indication of the aspirations held by these mentees. He recalled an incident when the students wanted to continue tackling more questions at the end of the academic coaching session. In that moment, he felt a gratifying sense of accomplishment, seeing how driven they were.

20-year-old Zhan Xin Yu, another NUS student volunteer, has been mentoring students from Christ Church Secondary School together with her teammates since May. As Covid-19 restrictions tightened during this period, their team were faced with the challenges of conducting activities over video conferencing instead.

Zhan pointed out, as both parties were meeting virtually on computer screens for the first time, the initial awkwardness was inevitable, and it took more time to foster relationships with these students. Personally, she had the experience of conducting online tutoring last year to fall back on, but her other teammates have had to adapt to coaching these students via video conferencing.

Other than academic coaching, the volunteers also engaged in online gaming with their mentees and would try to give students more opportunities to speak. The team has even once held a high intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise session where volunteers and students alike sweat it out together, virtually but vigorously.

Zhan expressed that her greatest sense of satisfaction from volunteering, is seeing the students she mentors make progress in their studies, and when they open their hearts and view volunteer mentors as their friends.

She further revealed that the team and herself were deeply moved when the students presented a short video filmed by the students to thank the volunteers during their last lesson together. Although the mentorship has officially come to an end after three months, Zhan and her teammates are still actively coaching students in need of their help, on their own initiative.

Associate Professor Ho Han Kiat, Dean of Students at the NUS Office of Student Affairs, underscored that Teach SG serves as a platform for NUS students to give back to society by putting their knowledge and skills to good use; the key goal isn’t to provide free tuition but to encourage these students in the process, motivating them to thrive and in turn, boost their academic confidence.



Translated by Office of Student Affairs

This article was first published in Lianhe Zaobao, p8. Written by Hu Jie Mei (