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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance and Chairman of SINDA's Board of Trustees at the Indian Community Bursary Award Ceremony and Back to School Festival on Saturday, 13 December 2008, 9.45am at SINDA

13 Dec 2008

Mr Mr Manogaran,

Mr V P Jothi,
Chairman, Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET);

Dr Theyvendran,
President, Tamils Representative Council (TRC);

SINDA Trustees and Executive Committee Members;

Partners of the Indian Community Bursary Awards;

Parents and Students,


While these are tough economic times, today's Indian Community Bursary Award Ceremony and Back-to-School Festival event is a moment for cheer and celebration. I am glad to be sharing it with you. Through today's activities, SINDA and the Indian community hope to help families in need, so that their children can keep their spirits up and focus on doing their best in school even as we go through an economic downturn.

Project Give and Role of Partnerships

2. Project Give, a donation drive SINDA undertakes annually, is in fact an excellent example of how the community can help students who could otherwise be discouraged by their family circumstances.

3. What is especially heartening is that contributions to Project Give, whilst organised by SINDA, came from the entire community. The Charity Drive was soft-launched at SINDA's Volunteers Tea session on the 23rd of August this year, and ends officially today. With the contributions (including those raised at Campbell Lane's Deepavali Bazaar), SINDA has bought festive hampers for needy families and allocated bursaries for needy students. In addition, with the help of our volunteers, a total of 1,000 needy families have received or will be receiving SINDA hampers during either Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali or Christmas. Every contribution counts, and is deeply appreciated. Besides these hampers and bursaries, SINDA will be presenting school packs to students and holding workshops and talks for parents today, with the help of the schools and the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Bursary Recipients

4. Today's Bursary Awards Ceremony is jointly organised by SINDA, the Singapore Indian Education Trust (SIET) and the Tamils Representative Council (TRC). From organisations' and individuals' generous donations, SINDA is proud to be able to offer bursaries to 2,000 (or 25% more) students in 2009. The bursaries are estimated to be worth $700,000 and are partially funded from the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. For a start, 80 bursary awards will be presented to eligible students from the Primary to Secondary levels today. Eligible students will also be receiving bursaries from the SIET and TRC today.

Initiative and Resilience in Overcoming Challenges

5. In Singapore, we want our students to reach for greater heights and persevere when faced with difficulties. I am glad to know that among you is a five-time recipient (Hazwani Begum) who attained the Best in Progress Award from Princess Elizabeth Primary School. She is a good example of how we should make the most of the opportunities we are presented with, to develop ourselves and fulfil our potential.

6. For students who need help with their studies, SINDA's STEP programme provides tuition in key subjects like English, Mathematics and Science at primary and secondary levels in your neighbourhood. This programme's quality has been greatly strengthened in terms of materials and the quality of tutors. In 2007, 50% of PSLE-level students improved in English, while 67% showed improvement in Mathematics. For the GCE `O'-level students, more than 70% and 67% of them improved in their Mathematics and Science, respectively.

Opening of Career Development and Resource Centre for Workers

7. Building and sustaining Singaporeans' employability and readiness for a changing workplace is of course not something that ends in school or even in tertiary education. It is a process that has to continue throughout our lives.

8. Today marks the official opening of the Career Development and Resource Centre, a partnership between SINDA, the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and Narpani, the People's Association Indian Activity Executive Committees (IAECs)' Co-ordinating Council. The Centre, which aims to provide skills upgrading and continuous learning for job seekers, has helped 81 job seekers secure jobs and referred 159 for training assistance. It will be further developed with Narpani's donation and more extensive outreach through Narpani's and the IAECs' grassroots networks.

Donation of $100,000 by SICCI

9. I want to highlight too the importance of our partnerships with the corporate sector. They play a key role in our efforts to reach out to less privileged. The Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) is donating $100,000 to SINDA this morning. Further, SINDA aims to partner SICCI to promote student and youth programmes that are linked to entrepreneurship. I think this is a good opportunity for both organisations to tap on each other's resources and expertise for the development of our students and youth.


10. I want to thank donors, sponsors, well-wishers, volunteers and partners who have come forward to support SINDA. I am sure every student and parent present today will bring something useful back home.