SPD Education Programme 2013 – Speech by Ms Chia Yong Yong

Mr Heng Swee Keat

Minister for Education

Mr Joseph Yong, Chief Operating Officer
NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Boys and girls

Good afternoon.

On behalf of SPD, I would like to thank our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, and our distinguished guests for attending this afternoon’s ceremony.

We started the SPD Education Programme in 1985 to provide financial assistance to students with physical disabilities from low income families. It also helps students with disabled parents from low income families. To date, it has benefited more than 3,400 students and over $2.9 million has been disbursed through the bursary programme.

While we still continue to provide the much-needed financial assistance to lighten the burden of families, our education programme has evolved over the years in response to the changing curriculum of our education system. The programme now takes on an integrated approach to assist students with physical disabilities in other areas ranging from physical to intellectual and psycho-social development. Besides the financial assistance offered through the bursaries, the SPD Education Programme also looks at providing students with physical difficulties with new learning opportunities through enrichment programmes and activities. Our staff also work with teachers and parents to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to develop their children. In addition, we also offer subsidies for therapy services as well as equip physically disabled students with suitable assistive technology devices to help them overcome their physical limitations in their studies.

Our commitment stems from our belief that education is a powerful enabler that can transform lives. So no child should be denied one, including children with disabilities. We hope through the multi-prong approach of the education programme, we can help level the playing field for students with physical disabilities so that education becomes accessible and inclusive to all.

To every child with disabilities, we say do not be afraid to dream, strive to be the best that you can be. You too can realise your dreams and ambitions through hard work. It was with the intention of inspiring talented youths with physical disabilities to pursue their interests and achieve their fullest potential that we introduced the SPD Youth Aspiration Award four years ago as part of the SPD Education Programme.

In the short history of this award, we met many talented youngsters whose stories never fail to inspire and move us. It is no exception this year. You will soon meet 15-year-old Kelvin Chua and 24-year-old Harun Rahamad – two young talented individuals who despite their physical disabilities pursued their interests with much drive and passion.

Kelvin was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer when he was 7. He relies on a prosthetic leg to get around. He developed an interest in playing the yo-yo after watching a television programme when he was much younger. After years of being a fan of the game, it has grown to something much more than a hobby for Kelvin. He took part in the Singapore Yo-Yo Championship in 2010 and came in fifth. Aiming to be a world yo-yo player, he has set his sights on the world yo-yo contest in Orlando, Florida, in August this year.

Harun who has cerebral palsy since birth is another inspiration. He loves soccer and his disabilities never stopped him from stepping onto the field. An active soccer player, Harun has participated in many local matches and four international games. He hopes to develop his skills and knowledge of the sport and share them with his team. He is an exemplary role model demonstrating that physical disabilities are no barrier to our pursuing our dreams and aspirations.

We are happy to present them the SPD Youth Aspiration Award this year. We hope the award that comes with a $5,000 grant will not only take them a step closer to realising their dreams, but their achievements will spur other young people with or without disabilities to always go after their dreams.

It takes many helping hands to build an inclusive and accepting society. We would like to thank the Ministry of Education for responding to the needs of students with disabilities and making it easier to integrate them into mainstream education.

We are also grateful to our sponsors for believing in what we do and most importantly, for supporting us in what we do. I would like to acknowledge our main sponsor NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd for supporting our bursary awards since 2007, and again renewing your support of this sponsorship for another two more years. Your support means a lot to many of our students and their families. I hope you will continue to help give our students a head start in life through education. On behalf of the students and their families, I would like to say a big thank you.

Finally, congratulations to all our students and award recipients. I hope you will continue to give your best, in and out of school, and we wish you every success in the new academic year ahead.

Thank you.