Teachers awarded police powers

Martin Spice

SINGAPORE. Eleven teachers in Singapore have been given police powers to keep trouble out of their schools.

They were given two weeks' training at the police academy and, according to Ho Peng Kee, minister of state, will "symbolise police presence and authority in schools".

In addition to brushing up their legal knowledge and getting acquainted with police procedures, the teacher police learned self-defence techniques. As volunteers, they will have warrant cards with the power of arrest but will not wear a uniform, or carry guns or handcuffs.

The main targets of the new powers will be gangs who hang around outside schools trying to apply pressure on school students. Previously school authorities have been powerless to move them on. Now, they can take down particulars and warn them away.

It is unlikely that the teachers will use their new-found powers in the classroom, where the traditional methods of discipline (including caning) will remain. But the new teacher police will play a counselling role in advising potentially delinquent students of the likely consequences of their actions and will also act as liaison officers between the schools and the police.

Only in extreme circumstances, such as an attack on a student or a teacher, will their powers of arrest be used. And in Singapore, such attacks are still a rarity.

MALAYSIA: Students in Kuala Lumpur and the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula are being told to wear face masks to school if they are troubled by the haze currently afflicting the country. Parents have been advised to keep at home children who suffer from asthma and bronchial conditions.

The West coast has been particularly badly hit by the fall-out from forest fires in Indonesia combining with high levels of local pollution. With visibility down to a few hundred metres and the sun a bleary red eye in the mid-day sky, teachers and pupils have been directed to go to school but stay indoors when they get there.

Outside sports events have been banned and uniformed activities, such as Girl Guides, have ground to a halt. But at the moment there are no signs of the school closure many people have been expecting.

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