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"Hello, good morning, my name is Chuan-Jin. I went to ACS (J) in 1976 – that's a very long time ago!" Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin recorded a 15-minute workout video for the boys and their families in quarantine. Screenshot of video series organised by the Anglo-Chinese School Old Boys' Association (ACSOBA).

On Wednesday May 19, a Primary 6 student at Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) was diagnosed with Covid-19. The 12-year-old had been placed under quarantine two days earlier as a family member and household contact of a confirmed case outside school.

The entire class of 31 students and staff who had been in close proximity with the pupil were issued with a Quarantine Order. Their parents were told to pack a bag and wait for their sons to be sent to a hotel. One parent could accompany each child.

He was the first case of school-based Covid-19 transmission in Singapore.

A second classmate, age 11, developed a fever, cough and runny nose on the day he was quarantined (Thursday May 20) and was tested.

His test results came back positive the following day. He was the first case of school-based Covid-19 transmission in Singapore.

More students and staff were added to those who had to quarantine.

Then two parents from ACS (Junior) decided to tap the extensive network of former students from the ACS family to provide emotional and spiritual support for those quarantined.

Both serve on the management committee of  The ACS Old Boys’ Association (ACSOBA).

The Daily Dose of Affirmation, Connectivity & Support for the quarantined boys, staff and families, was an initiative of The Anglo-Chinese School Old Boys’ Association (ACSOBA). It was organised and run by Morgan Zhou (middle row, second from left), and Joy-Marie Toh (front, third from left) who is its second vice-president and is also in the MGS Alumnae Association. Photo from ACSOBA website.

ACS (Junior) is one of the seven schools in the ACS family.

“We wanted to give their day structure and activity, and give them something to look forward to.”

The combined force would be able to help the school which already was doing so much in terms of following up with logistics, making phone calls, liaising with the authorities, and handling home-based learning.

One of the parents is a former vice-principal of the school, Morgan Zhou, 40. His sons are in Primary Four and Primary Six. They were not required to quarantine. Zhou is currently on secondment to the National Institute of Education.

The other parent is Joy-Marie Toh, 48, a fifth generation ACSian who now lives in Washington with her husband and three children. 

“I served two rounds of Stay-Home Notice. I know what it is like to be ‘in captivity’,” Toh told Salt&Light in a Zoom interview from the US.

If they can, they will

Through a seven-day programme delivered via Zoom, the organisers wanted to reinforce God’s sovereignty in all seasons. They also wanted to let the boys know that the ACS family – including former students – care for them, Zhou told Salt&Light.

Zhou was the staff in charge of the Parents’ and Fathers’ Prayer Groups while working for the school. As a parent, he remains active in the groups. Their members meet regularly to pray for the students, staff and the school.

“The wonderful thing about the ACS family is that if they can, they will. Everyone said it did not matter how many log in.”

“We wanted to give their day structure and activity, and give them something to look forward to,” said Toh, who reached out to a range of experts in their fields to chat with those in quarantine.

Comedian Hossan Leong was among those roped in to cheer up the boys. Kamil Haque, who spent eight years in Los Angeles working as an actor and acting instructor, gave acting tips to the boys.

“Every single person I called said ‘yes’,” said Toh with appreciation. “The wonderful thing about the ACS family is that if they can, they will. Everyone said it did not matter how many people would log into the sessions.”

Cartoonist Colin Goh reminded her of the words of their former vice-principal, Mr Lenn Wei Ling, at Anglo Chinese Junior College: “It is your Yeoman’s service.”

There were about 20-something logins a day. Some came in parent-child pairs.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin recorded a 15-minute workout video (below) for the families. He is Instagram-famous for his lunges in lockdown and burpees during Circuit Breaker.

Bishop Dr Gordon Wong of The Methodist Church in Singapore, with his son, sang songs of encouragement (below).

Filmmaker and cartoonist Colin Goh had a Doodle Date with the kids. He wrote on his Facebook page that the boys were “in good spirits and were almost giddy with delight in thinking up crazy things for me to draw – like ‘A Banana Eating a Monkey’ and ‘Donald McDonald’.

“Clearly, the scary situation hasn’t diminished their sense of humour or imagination! Such brave and wonderful kids!” Goh wrote.

Tan, Bishop Wong and Goh all spent their formative years at ACS (Junior).

The programme ran in the evenings from Monday May 24 and ended on Sunday May 30. There were a few morning sessions as well.  

Photographer Klaus Tan of Chuttersnap conducted a Zoom masterclass for the boys. He showed them how to enhance the lighting in their smartphone photos through using objects likely to be found in a hotel room. Screenshot from Zoom session, courtesy of the ACSOBA.

The boys are expected to be out of quarantine tomorrow (Tuesday, June 1). 

“Clearly, the scary situation hasn’t diminished their sense of humour or imagination! Such brave and wonderful kids!”

Leaders from the ACS family, including the Board of Governors, and their school principal – Mrs Chaillan Mui Tuan – came into the sessions to check in with the boys and encourage them and pray for them.

Parents from the Fathers’ Prayer Group at school were among those who led the worship segments.

“Thematically, the messages flowed. One was a video clip of David and Goliath. It was a reminder that God is in control, God is above us all,” said Zhou. 

Craving company

After one session, Zhou and Toh had the opportunity to hang out, chat and pray with one of the two boys admitted to hospital. 

“One was a video clip of David and Goliath. It was a reminder that God is in control, God is above us all.”

The boy was isolated in a room alone.

“I think he was craving company that day,” said Zhou.

The boy showed them the zone where the medical team mask up, the hazardous waste bins, and how the nurses would check in on him every three hours over the intercom.

Among those quarantined was a teacher who assisted Morgan in “learning the ropes” when he started out teaching in the school. “So it’s nice to see her come on every day,” he said.

Another regular was a grandmother. Families of the affected boys were also invited to attend the sessions.

Cartoonist Colin Goh’s Doodle Date via Zoom with the kids, staff and families of the school. Screenshot courtesy of ACSOBA. Faces of participants have been obscured.

Illustrations by one of the boys. Photo courtesy of the ACSOBA.

Toh described the mood of the boys as “upbeat”.

“The ones we met were positive and even-tempered,” said Toh, She did not get the sense that they were ready to tear their hair out after a week in quarantine. She credited their parents and the kids’ resilience.

Morgan Zhou’s own primary six class at Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) with their late form teacher, “Miss Teong” (Dr Teong Su Kwang). Photo courtesy of Morgan Zhou.

“I have a sense that the boys and their families are also turning to God and using this opportunity to grow closer to God,” said Zhou.

Culture of care and God’s love

In the school and the prayer groups, there is a “culture of care, God’s love, care for one another,” said Zhou. 

“I have a sense that the boys and their families are also turning to God and using this opportunity to grow closer to God.”

“We all are like family. It is second nature to reach out in love.”

When word got out of the class getting quarantined, Zhou shared that the Fathers’ Prayer Group swung into action. The chat group was immediately populated with a roster of fathers on stand-by to help quarantined families with requests they had.

“The ACS family is really this community bound together in God’s love. And because God loves us so much, we overflow with his love. And respond in practical ways,” said Zhou.

One quarantined father from the prayer group wanted to send doughnuts to cheer up the affected boys. 

“We all are like family. It is second nature to reach out in love.”

But when he went online, he realised it would be a logistical nightmare to key in multiple orders for the numerous quarantine locations.  

When he mentioned it on the the Fathers’ Prayer Group chat, volunteers picked up the gauntlet – and the sweet treats from the shop – and ferried them to the various locations.

Zhou sees the hand of God in everything – including the Zoom programme – falling in place so quickly. “God is really gracious.”

He sees it as a classic example of Romans 8:28, how “all things work together for the good for those who love Him”.

“Everything came out like an amazing tapestry of love. And everybody came together to come up with this act of service.”

How you can pray for all families with schoolchildren

Morgan Zhou suggests the following prayer points and verses of encouragement:

1. Pray for the rapidly evolving Covid-19 situation which seems to be affecting the younger children.

May we fix our eyes on Jesus and not on the circumstances.

Isaiah 43:1-2: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

2. Pray for the emotional well-being of children and families.

May we be filled with joy and reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Psalm 139:14: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

3. Pray for spiritual protection over our children and family members.

Let us recognise that He who is in us is greater than the world.

Ephesians 6:11-17: “Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

4. Pray that children and family members will be responsible and loving in their relationships with others.

May we walk in humility and look to the needs of others.

Colossians 3:12-14: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”


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About the author

Gemma Koh

Gemma has written about everything from spas to scuba diving holidays. But has a soft spot for telling the stories of lives changed, and of people making a difference. She loves the colour green, especially on overgrown trees. Gemma is Senior Writer & Copy Editor at Salt&Light.

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