Helping students to excel in sports

SINGAPORE - More support is on the way for Singapore athletes to help them balance their studies with their pursuit of sporting excellence.

The Athlete-Friendly Education Scheme (Afes) will offer flexible school arrangements and provide guidance and mentorship for those wanting to succeed in both the classroom and sporting arena.

The pioneer initiative was formally launched on Tuesday in conjunction with the Singapore Sports Council's (SSC) three-year memorandum of understanding with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

ITE's carded athletes will be the first beneficiaries of Afes. It will be rolled out to more educational institutions and schools in the coming months.

"We'd like to be a voice for athletes, a support foundation for them to lean on so they can stay in sports longer and balance their careers," said SSC chief executive Lim Teck Yin after the signing ceremony at ITE College Central.

"The interest of both the athlete and the school has to be attended to; it's always been the case where the school may find it difficult to make special arrangements for the athlete."

ITE chief executive Bruce Poh said the institution wants to be more athlete-friendly, noting: "Flexible schedules for our student-athletes used to be done on an ad hoc basis. But from now, we have a more formalised structure which will benefit all parties."

ITE College Central student Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid welcomed the move, which allows the national boxer to work out a personalised timetable around training sessions and enrol in private make-up lessons.

The 20-year-old said: "It's a big motivation knowing I have full support from ITE to keep boxing for my country without sacrificing my studies."

Besides collaborating to develop sports or fitness-related courses, the ITE-SSC agreement will also see 1,000 of its students employed as volunteers at the 2015 SEA Games to be held here.

This is SSC's first collaboration with an educational institution in the planning and execution of the biennial sporting showpiece. Said Lim, who is also the chairman of the Singapore South-east Asia Games Organising Committee (Singsoc): "We hope to provide authentic learning experiences at top sporting events such as the SEA Games.

"Their ideas, energy and passion will certainly help to deliver a great show to make Singapore proud."

The students, who will begin training next year in the build-up to the Games, will be deployed according to their interests. For example, paramedic and nursing students will serve as medical support staff, while those in event management will be offered roles in logistics and public relations.

ITE's three colleges - Central, East and West - will also be considered as possible training venues for the estimated 7,000 athletes and officials from across the region.

Although two years away, preparations for the Games are picking up steam.

The logo and tag line will be unveiled in January, and organisers are already in talks over the theme song as well as production of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Lim said up to 20,000 volunteers will be needed, including positions for those with physical disabilities.

He said: "We hope the Games will foster a sense of ownership and evoke national pride. In the end, the 2015 SEA Games is for every single Singaporean."

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