Ms Chia Yong Yong
President, Society for the Physically Disabled
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good morning to one and all. It gives me great pleasure to celebrate the new academic year with nearly 100 students who are here today.
2. I understand that, like a reunion gathering, this annual event garners the largest turnout of students, parents, educators, 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. During this period of economic downturn, more families may be caught out when their breadwinners lose their jobs or suffer a pay cut. Our commitment is that no Singaporean student should be denied a sound education from lack of means.
4. I am encouraged to see that the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) has been responsive to the needs of the community. I understand there has been an enhancement to your bursary scheme. On top of the bursaries, a new scheme is being introduced where an additional $300 will be made available to recipients who are physically disabled or recipients with physically disabled parents, which they can use to obtain SPDrsquo;s services. This provision is a timely support to ensure that people with disabilities would not be deprived of rehabilitative services and training opportunities at SPD due to financial constraints as people cut down on their expenses. It is commendable that SPD has strengthened and enlarged its area of help to serve the needy disabled who are more likely to be affected than the rest by the economic crunch.
5. However, providing financial support alone is insufficient to ensuring the successful integration of students with physical disabilities in mainstream schools. I am heartened to know that SPD, as a community service provider, aims to provide a holistic range of services and programmes such as therapy services, enrichment programmes, befriending and social support to ensure each student with physical disabilities can participate fully and actively in age-appropriate mainstream activities.
6. As such, I commend SPDrsquo;s initiative in producing a disability resource handbook for mainstream school educators. I understand this handbook is the first that will be made available to all schools and will certainly provide the guidance to educators as they do their part to integrate students with physical disabilities.
7. The community plays an important role in helping students with physical disabilities overcome their challenges. For example, it is commendable that socially responsible organisations like Caltex, NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd, Singapore Exchange and Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation have come forward in this challenging climate to offer invaluable financial and community support through the sponsorship of bursaries and scholarships.
8. 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 voluntary welfare organisations and corporate partners working together in levelling the playing field for students with physical disabilities. This equal opportunity for all allows our students to pursue and excel in their academic aspirations without other worries and limitations.
CONTRIBUTORS, NOT JUST RECEIVERS
9. A rigourous education helps equip and prepare students to be relevant in the global economy. An inclusive education in mainstream schools helps set a strong foundation in students with physical disabilities to be contributors to their communities. To quote : “The fundamental principle of inclusive education is the valuing of diversity within the human community…when inclusive education is fully embraced, we abandon the idea that children have to become “normal” in order to contribute to the world” Kunc 1992
10. I am thus happy to note that many students have gone on to complete their education, found jobs, and five former scholars from the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation-SPD scholarship had graduated and now hold responsible positions in the vocations they are trained in. Like any other adult Singaporean, they will make their contributions to the Singapore’s economy working in their respective fields.
11. I would also urge graduating students and scholars to reach out, mentor and guide the younger ones. You have weathered the challenges of our educational system with the support you have received from the community. You can use your experiences to encourage and support those who are still pursuing their academic aspirations. I am encouraged by the example of one bursary recipient, Philip Loh who has completed his GCE O levels examinations last year. While awaiting his admission to the polytechnic, and despite his physical limitations, Philip gives weekly tuition to a Primary school boy with muscular degeneration. May you be engaged in the community and be contributors to the schools and communities that once nurtured you to be who you are today.
12. At this juncture, I would like to congratulate the scholars for their achievements. To all students here today, I wish you a fulfilling and enriching year ahead.
13. Let us journey towards our aspiration to become a more inclusive, integrated and gracious society for all. 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.
14. 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. Thank you