Speech By Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office And Second Minister For Finance And Education, At The APB Foundation Scholarship For Persons With Disabilities Award Presentation Ceremony On 28 September 2018 At The Metropolis Tower 128 Sep 2018
Mr Andy Hewson, Managing Director, Asia Pacific Breweries (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of SPD
APB Foundation Scholars
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2018 APB Foundation Scholars
1. I am really happy to be here today at the 2018 Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities Awards Presentation Ceremony, where we will be honouring four exceptional youths – Brenda Khoo, Justin Kueh, Lionel Lee and Caleb Tay.My heartiest congratulations to all of you on winning the scholarship. Well done! Your family and friends must be very proud of you.
2. Education is an important social leveler through which youths and children can be empowered, with opportunities and support to realise their full potential and pursue their aspirations, regardless of background.
3. So I am really heartened to see that SPD has partnered APB Foundation in this scholarship to support the educational aspirations of youths with disabilities.
4. A bequest by the estate of the late Mr Lee Boon Huat in 1985 was what started SPD on the road to helping students in their educational pursuits.Over the years, SPD’s suite of services for students grew from simply giving out awards to include tuition support and therapy support. In 2004, the partnership with APB Foundation supported bright students in pursuit of their dreams, just like those receiving their awards today.
5. I understand that today, APB Foundation not only covers the tuition fees of its scholars, it also provides additional help of $3,000 in an annual Special Assistance Fund for each scholar from low-income households.As the cost of tuition fees rise, I’m sure the additional financial help offers peace of mind for them and their families, and allows the scholars to concentrate on their studies with less financial stress.
6. It is encouraging to see how this partnership has grown and benefited more persons with disabilities through APB Foundation’s support in other areas particularly in providing case management as well as mentoring of youths.
7. For instance, the Specialised Case Management Programme offers holistic support for people with disabilities (PWDs) and their caregivers. SPD’s social workers and case management officers provide counselling, consultancy on disability and social issues, self-care management, co-ordination and links to useful resources to support PWDs and their caregivers.
8. The Foundation also supports the Youth Development Programme, which is designed by SPD to empower youths with disabilities to give back to society. It comprises mentorship, and hard and soft skills training to equip participants with knowledge to do project planning, effective pitches and budgeting.Youths with successful pitches are awarded seed-funding to launch their social projects to advance inclusion.
9. To excel in the academics, while having to grapple with mobility and sensory challenges, is a tremendous achievement.Our APB Foundation scholars have triumphed over personal challenges to be an inspiration for all.
10. Mr Joshua Tseng, who is our emcee today and a 2017 APB Foundation scholar, was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at 7. Today, he is an undergraduate student at the Singapore Management University School of Information Systems, and currently undergoing a Research and Development internship at Empire Code, a startup in the coding education space.
11. One of the 2018 scholars, Mr Lionel Lee, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 4.In school, he found participating in discussions and making friends challenging due to his repetitive behaviours and restricted range of interests. Due to sensory issues, he was often easily distracted by changes, noise and people. So he often battled hard to complete his daily tasks on time.
12. Although his condition could exempt him from National Service, Lionel still requested to serve the country. He was given the lowest Physical Employment Status (PES E) and worked as an Administrative Support Assistant under the Republic of Singapore Air Force. But he overcame his social challenges, and he is now in his first year of studies in Mathematical Sciences in NTU. He hopes to work in a Mathematical research field, contributing to modern developments in Mathematics.You will get to know the scholars better when you hear from them later.
13. The best form of support for people with disabilities is to engender self-efficacy.The Government, together with organisations and VWOs such as APB Foundation and SPD, catalyse self-efficacy and mastery by removing barriers and providing support that will enable persons with disabilities to live productive and meaningful lives.
14. Children with moderate to severe special needs are currently exempted from compulsory education. From 2019, they will be included under the Compulsory Education Act. This means that compulsory education has now been extended to our 19 Special Education Schools. Through this change, we are making sure that all children have access to education and that they will be well supported when they are in our education system.This change is part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive society.
15. That said, building an inclusive society requires everyone and all Singaporeans to play their part.While the Government and VWOs like SPD are striving to make this dream a reality, I believe our community and socially responsible organisations like APB Foundation play a very important role.
16. I am glad that SPD has also initiated the Tiong Bahru Cares Project at the community level, by engaging the community and businesses in the area to make the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood inclusive and accessible to all. I am personally very happy to support the accessibility route project to help persons with disabilities, and the elderly with mobility challenges, to manoeuver confidently and gain access within the Tiong Bahru precinct.
The private and public sector employers also serve as valuable resources to support inclusion and provide equal job opportunities to those with disabilities. I understand that one of the 2017 APB Foundation scholars, Mr Lee Ci En, is now interning with APB. I would like to applaud APB for the inclusion efforts and encourage more employers to remove barriers and hire based on skills.
17. Inclusion efforts require the support of everyone.Even as the scholars are the stars today, let us not forget the caregivers who also deserve our recognition.They have given their love and personal sacrifice for their loved ones.
18. Let me end by congratulating the scholars. I wish you all the best in your academic pursuits.
19. Thank you very much.