We take a look back at the past year to bring you the family edition of 2016 highlights which made the headlines here at home and around the globe.
From shocking suicides to inspiring victories on an international stage, 2016 has been a whirlwind of a year for us Singaporeans. While some happenings have given us hope, some others have plunged us in uncertainty or fear. Having said that, it’s safe to conclude that the past year has seen its fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly – most of which have had or will have an impact on the lives of Singaporean families in one way or another. Here’s our annual roundup of the top 10 events that caught our attention in 2016.
1. Police Procedures Involving Minors Questioned Following 14-year-old Benjamin Lim’s Suicide
An alleged molestation that took place the previous day led to police officers turning up at 14-year-old Benjamin Lim’s school for investigations on 26 January 2016. At 4.36pm on the same day, the teenager was found dead at the foot of his block. Apart from the unnatural cause of death, what baffled most Singaporeans was that not one or two, but five police officers in civilian attire arrived at North View Secondary School to establish the teen’s identity. Was this necessary when the suspect was only a minor?
Although Benjamin had admitted to following the victim into a lift where he had intentionally dropped his mobile phone and touched her thigh while standing up during the investigations, he later confided in his mother that he had not done so. He jumped to his death after learning that he wouldn’t be allowed to attend an upcoming school camp. Whether Benjamin had taken his own life due to guilt or humiliation, the majority of netizens agreed that the case could have been better handled by the authorities.
Benjamin was not the only student who committed suicide in 2016. An 11-year-old boy also jumped to his death on 18 May this year, following poor results in his science examination. The incident served as a stark reminder of the pressure placed on Singaporean children by their parents to perform well academically.
2. PSLE Scoring Revamp: T-Score to be Replaced by Wider Grade Bands From 2021
Are you a parent of a child who started Primary 1 this year? This concerns you then. Earlier in July, the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that the PSLE T-score system would be replaced by eight scoring bands known as Achievement Levels (ALs) come 2021. The news was generally well received by Singaporean parents who have in the past complained about how the T-score system differentiates pupils in a way that is not meaningful.
The changes also mean that a student’s score will no longer depend on how they perform relative to each other, as it is now. Will this move help with reducing the competitiveness amongst primary school students (and their parents) in the academic arena? We sure hope so.
3. Pokémon Go Launches in Singapore and Sparks a Gaming Craze Amongst The Young and Old
It was only a matter of time before the augmented reality mobile game by Nintendo, Pokémon GO, hit our shores. Hit it did on 6 August 2016, much to the joy of avid Pokémon fans here. Unlike other typical games played on smart devices, Pokémon Go set itself apart by allowing players to walk around the streets while attempting to capture virtual Pokémon they spot on the screens of their smartphones. Addictive as it is, at least it served as a means to get otherwise inactive children and teens to head outdoors for some fresh air!
Before we knew it, hordes of gamers had started turning up at the void decks of HDB estates, public parks and open spaces – all in a bid to catch some of the pretty adorable virtual creatures. The initial craze was so intense that even our local police had issued a safety advisory on the dos and don’ts while trying to catch ‘em all! We think it’s rather safe to conclude that the fad has finally died down.
4. Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu Clinch Gold Medals for Singapore in Rio de Janeiro
Joseph Schooling’s 100 metre butterfly event at the 2016 Rio Olympics was probably the most memorable 50.39 seconds for Singaporeans this year. His Olympic record breaking swim earned Singapore her first ever Olympic gold and also saw him beating American great Michael Phelps, South African Chad Le Clos and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh – all of whom were tied for second place. What are the odds, right? It warmed our hearts when the humble lad credited his success entirely to his parents. Oh, and how can we forget the sounding of Majulah Singapura and the hoisting of our national flag at the podium? *wipes a tear*
It was double joy for our little red dot later at the Rio 2016 Paralympics in September when homegrown swimmer Yip Pin Xiu won not one, but two gold medals and made herself the first Singaporean athlete to win multiple gold medals at the same Paralympics! Singapore Airlines (SIA) awarded both the Olympic champs one million KrisFlyer miles each, along with a warm welcome complete with a banner, flowers, champagne and cake at their stopovers in Barcelona. In style befitting champions, SIA also flew them home on First Class. We can only say that they truly deserved it for their feats!
5. Haunting Image of Shellshocked Boy in Aleppo Airstrike Goes Viral on Social Media Platforms
An image of a little boy, bloodied and covered in dust, sitting silently in an ambulance awaiting help became the face of the toll of civil war in Syria earlier in August. The picture of Omran Daqneesh which went viral on social media was captured moments after he was extracted from the rubble of his bombed-out home. What broke the hearts of millions on the Internet was the shock plastered on Omran’s bloodied face.
With his little hands on his lap, he remained silent and in a daze while awaiting first aid. Omran is not the only child victim of the Syrian war – there are millions like him. UNICEF estimates 8.4 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid in Syria and neighbouring war-torn nations. The disturbing photograph of Omran truly spoke a thousand words and reminded us Singaporeans to count our blessings.
6. First Case of Locally Transmitted Zika Infection Reported in Singapore Triggers Concern Amidst Pregnant Women
Much to the alarm of Singaporeans, the first case of locally transmitted Zika infection was reported on 27 August 2016. However, the first confirmed case of Zika had actually occured earlier in May 2016 after a permanent resident had returned from Brazil. It was an isolated incident. But the news of the first locally transmitted case caused a stir among Singaporeans – pregnant women in particular – as evidence has revealed a correlation between Zika infection during pregnancy and birth defects like microcephaly.
Although there have been no reported cases of Zika-related microcephaly yet here in Singapore (17 pregnant women were confirmed to have been infected with Zika as of 21 December 2016), it would be best for expectant mothers to continue to take the necessary precautions. These include performing the 5-step mozzie wipeout at home and refraining from traveling to Zika hit countries.
7. Hollywood’s Super Couple Brangelina Call It Quits After Two Years of Marriage
The news that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are no more was certainly a shocker. It didn’t just rock Hollywood – it also stunned fans around the world who had adored the super couple and their whopping brood of six. The reason for the split? Jolie reportedly cited irreconcilable differences – as with every other high profile celebrity divorce. The 41-year-old actress threw a spanner into the works by seeking sole custody of all six children. Pitt wants joint legal and physical custody. *sigh*
There’s no denying that it’s the six Jolie-Pitt children who will ultimately bear the brunt of the Brangelina split. We sure hope that a settlement in the best interest of the couple’s children can be reached in the near future.
8. Republican Candidate Donald Trump Defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton to Become 45th President of USA
The most bitterly fought campaign in US election history saw businessman turned TV star Donald Trump emerge victorious. Not only did the shocking result trigger a serious of memes on the Internet, it also crashed the Canadian immigration website! Women all over the world, feminists in particular, expressed their dismay at the tycoon being elected the 45th president of the USA on social media platforms. The outpour came as no surprise since Trump had been caught on tape boasting about groping women.
Feminism aside, is there a cause for concern for us Singaporeans? Well, considering Trump claimed that “countries like Singapore are stealing US jobs”, yes, we think there might possibly be. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait and see how ties between the US and Singapore pan out in 2017.
9. Unwed Singaporean Mothers to Get 16 Weeks of Maternity Leave Starting January 2017
We talked about maternity benefits for single mothers in Singapore being reviewed in our annual roundup of events last year. A year on, progress has been made! Last month, it was announced in Parliament by Minister for Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin, that unwed mothers will also receive 16 weeks of paid maternity leave – on par with their married counterparts. The changes came under the Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment No. 2) Bill passed in Parliament on 10 November 2016.
We couldn’t be happier for this move in the right direction! Not only will it let single mums put the needs of their little ones first, it will also help them in striking crucial work-life balance in order to adopt an active parenting lifestyle.
10. MOE Implements Compulsory Daily Cleaning Activities in All Schools From January 2017
Cleanliness in schools will no longer depend entirely on their cleaners come January 2017. Students from primary school to junior college will have to clean classrooms, canteens and corridors daily when schools start again next week. The Ministry of Education (MOE) said that the aim behind the implementation is to help students cultivate good habits for life. Considering that many children come from homes which employ domestic helpers and are hence spared from household chores, the move has been welcomed by most parents.
We think it’s a long overdue step that will promote a holistic education for our young ones. Let’s hope that they’ll soon start volunteering to help out with the chores at home as well in the upcoming year!
SingaporeMotherhood wishes all its readers a very Happy New Year!