SPD Education Programme 2008 – Speech by RADM (NS) Lui Tuck Yew

Mr See Cher

President, Society for the Physically Disabled

Distinguished guests


Ladies and gentlemen


1. Good morning to one and all. It gives me great pleasure to celebrate the new academic year with the nearly 300 students who are here today.

2. I understand that, like a reunion gathering, this is a yearly event that garners the largest turnout of students, parents, well-wishers as well as corporate partners. This is very encouraging as it reflects that many segments of society are engaged in supporting inclusive and integrated education opportunities for all.



3. An inclusive and integrated school system is not just about fitting ramps and lifts into the school infrastructure to provide for the physically disabled. Staff and students need to also adopt an open attitude to welcome and include students with disabilities into their midst. This is a crucial ingredient in ensuring the successful integration of students with disabilities into our community.

4. Admiralty Secondary School shows the active efforts schools have taken to integrate their disabled pupils. The school, which currently has 4 disabled pupils, has put in place a structured programme to cater to the needs of their pupils in the event of emergencies. I understand that at the start of the year, a group of upper secondary pupils are trained in assisting their disabled peers. These students learn how to move their disabled friends from their usual motorized wheelchairs to the more lightweight ones, specifically meant for use during emergencies. Working in teams, these “buddies” then help carry their friends down the nearest flight of stairs to safety. Throughout the emergency, the “buddies” are constantly by the side of their friends to ensure their every safety and well-being. These student-helpers then train succeeding batches of students in how to look after their disabled friends during emergencies.

5. Evergreen Primary School is another example in providing a supportive and stimulating environment for their students to thrive in. One of the school’s students, Loh Jia Wei, born with muscular spinal atrophy, could not go to school for a month after a major surgery during her crucial PSLE year. Her form teacher, Madam Linden Ng, tutored her at home once a week to help her with her schoolwork to prepare for the PSLE.

6. Last year, Jia Wei topped her school with a PSLE aggregate score of 278. Jia Wei’s stellar academic performance can be attributed both to her diligence and perseverance, as well as to the unwavering support provided by her school. Her strength of character in the face of many obstacles, as well as the extra mile put in by her teachers at Evergreen Primary school, are indeed commendable. It reminds us that while success in the face of certainty is sweet, success achieved by overcoming great odds is sheer delight. These stories are heart warming and touch us, move us and inspire us.

7. These efforts of these teachers and students working to include and integrate the disabled in their midst are noteworthy and commendable. We must also not forget the role of the community in partnering schools’ efforts. I am very encouraged to see the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) initiating strong partnerships with mainstream schools to assist and promote the greater inclusion of students with physical disabilities. By providing an array of services which include tuition support, career guidance, counseling, enrichment programmes and ongoing training and assistance, SPD plays an important role in advancing our students’ life ambitions.



8. Today’s awards presentation was first established as a financial bursary scheme in 1985. Over the years, it has evolved into a consolidated Education Programme providing a host of services by a professional team of social workers. The community plays an important role too, in helping disabled students overcome their challenges. For example, organizations like Wearnes and Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation have come forward to offer invaluable financial and community support through the sponsorship of bursaries and scholarships.
9. This “many helping hands” approach is an important mark of our development to become a more gracious, compassionate and inclusive society. It is heartening to see VWOs and corporate partners working together with the Ministry of Education in levelling the playing field for students with physical disabilities. This empowers our students to participate fully in the education system and perform to the best of their abilities.

10. I understand that a number of former scholars from this programme have graduated well and found employment. One of them, Mr Cai Zhenquan, graduated with Honours in Computer Science in 2006 and is now working at the Ministry of Defence as a Research and Development Engineer. Another scholar, Mr Liew Chong Choon, a graduate in Business Management, has found his calling in working with the elderly. He is now an Elderly policy officer at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

11. The success of our past scholars has shown that providing help in education for disabled students is not about nurturing just one child – it is about shaping a future that will subsequently impact families and the community at large. It sums up our hopes for Singapore to be an inclusive society, for our students that they are able to integrate successfully and for our future as they contribute back to our community, as active and exemplary citizens.



12. Let us journey towards our aspiration to become a more inclusive, integrated and gracious society for all. It was Thomas Jefferson who once said, “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society”. It is a reminder that each and every one of us here has a part to play and can make a difference; that our every action sparks a reaction and an outcome, in bringing us even closer to a society where every individual is accepted and included, and his contributions valued and appreciated.

13. For now, let us join hands to celebrate the academic success and achievements of our students here today. They have worked hard and have done well to be here today, and I wish them even greater success in the years ahead.

14. Thank you