Monday, 15th July 2024

Monday, 15th July 2024

How Fathers’ Groups are making a difference in our schools

14 Jun 2024

This Fathers’ Day, we check in at three primary schools where fathers actively participate in their children’s school lives. They strengthen bonds through shared experiences, set positive examples, and build a supportive community among fathers. These dads are stepping up in remarkable ways!

By Lim Jun Kang

Various “Daddy Day Camps” are increasingly popping up in schools today. No, not the movie but a welcome growing trend of fathers forming dedicated groups especially within Parent Support Groups (PSGs).    

These groups provide a platform for fathers to actively engage in school life too, planning and organising activities with the PSG. As you might expect from dads, these activities often incorporate outdoors and physical activities. Think of adventurous outdoor pursuits like cycling and hiking trips, or even a camp under the stars.

These dads are simply looking to get more involved in their children’s lives. And they are convinced that when both mothers and fathers get involved, the children clearly benefit. 

“There’s enough scientific evidence to show that involvement from both parents creates an environment where a child thrives,” says Mr Gerauld Wong, one of the founding members of the Fathers’ Group within the Parent Support Group at Bedok Green Primary School. He has two children at the school.

“More importantly, I get to experience a little more of my children’s lives and spend more time with them as they grow up. So, why not?”

Strengthening bonds with their children through active participation

In the two years since its inception, Bedok Green Primary School’s Fathers’ Group has organised activities from  camps to Amazing Race-style nature walks, parties and even career sharing sessions. While there was fun and laughter all around, the larger impact they left on their children was that their fathers were just as present for them as their mums.

Sometimes too, the men role modelled differently from the women, whether in speech, bearing or conduct. The parents demonstrated how their different traits and approaches to tasks complemented each other, and the successful collaborations present the children with a variety of adult behaviours to learn from too.  

At their Dads’ Camp for instance, fathers helped one another to set up tents, pump balloons and even take pictures, and it “showcased the power of rendering a helping hand – not just in offering advice, but being physically there to do the things”, recalls Mr Manjunath Shastry, another founding member of the Fathers’ Group. Mr Shastry still remains active in the school even though his son moved onto secondary school this year.

He appreciated the extra opportunities and time that he had to spend with his child at school, and was convinced that his involvement had a positive impact on the father-son relationship. “My son feels that I have been part of his growth and development,” he says, beaming. “He treats me more like a friend now, and shares most (if not all) about what he does in school, his friends and interests.”

Mr Manjunath Shastry (second from left), and Mr Gerauld Wong (fifth from left) at one of the football sessions the group regularly organises.

The fathers’ presence in the school likely also inspires some pride in their children. “They are always curious about when I’m going to the school again to do an event, because they want to help out and participate with me,” says Mr Wong. The Fathers’ Group’s events are often conversation topics at his house for months after, as the family has created precious shared memories.

“My children spend a significant amount of time in school, so it means even more to them when we do something together in school,” he concludes.

The best way to role model? Get involved

Mr Shawn Liu, a member of Northland Primary School’s Dads’ Core Group, believes, like the other fathers, in the power of leading by example.

“Your child is learning and observing what you do each day,” he says. “As you volunteer and contribute the best you can, these are opportunities for them to learn from your example while you bond.”

Both his children look forward to participating in the activities every year. “As they grew older, they have also even started to volunteer to help me in the planning process,” recalls Mr Liu, whose daughters are in Primary 4 and 6.

Mr Shawn Liu and his daughter at a camp organised by the Dads’ Core Group.

His elder daughter helped to plan groupings for 50 pairs of father and child at last year’s sleepover event with his guidance. She also assisted in registering the participants upon arrival, distributing team labels, name tags and event T-shirts.

And it’s not just being a role model to his daughters, but to his peers in the group. “Building the core team of fellow volunteer fathers has been a fulfilling journey. I know that I will have to leave the group one day, but there will be a group of fathers who will be able to continue the good work that we do.”

Building a brotherhood

It’s common to see ‘generations’ – yes, generations – of members of White Sands Primary School’s Fathers@WSPS group grabbing coffee together early in the morning.

These casual coffee sessions are where fathers discuss upcoming events or simply catch up with each other. Through these gatherings, they not only build a strong support network but also form lasting friendships.

All smiles at a breakfast meeting of White Sands Primary School’s Fathers@WSPS group. Mr Vinson Chua (third from right), Mr Lai Shu Hau (first from left) and Mr Edwin Song (second from right) are pictured with fellow members.

Mr Vinson Chua, founding chairman of the Fathers@WSPS group, emphasised that the group is also for fathers to find a community amongst each other. “We have about 60 volunteer fathers who journey with each other whenever and wherever help is needed.”

He recalls an example during the Covid-19 pandemic where one of the members, a newspaper vendor, was unable to hire workers who were under lock down at the dormitories. Some fathers valiantly stepped forward to help distribute newspapers, as a way to show support.

The fathers have grown to become like brothers, leaning on one another as sources of support. The community brings them together in many ways – it offers a space to de-stress, a resource to exchange notes on their children’s academic questions, and support for each other in times of need.

Mr Lai Shu Hau, an ex-chairperson of the group, echoed the sentiment. “We have formed a bond and a fellowship such that it is always a joy to work with this group of people. Even if other commitments do weigh down on some of us, we step in to help one another.”

Having fathers from all walks of life and different professions also helps.

“With our respective expertise in planning, operations, marketing, IT, finance and even the Food and Beverage industry, some members contribute their time while others share their networks and resources,” says Mr Edwin Song, the current chairperson. “We all manage busy work and family schedules but none of the members feel pressured or obligated to contribute equally.”

For more stories on Parent Support Groups in schools today, check out:

We are on Telegram! Subscribe to our channel: