SPD Education Programme 2014 – Speech by Ms Chia Yong Yong

Mr Chan Heng Kee

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development

Mr Vivek Kamra,

President and Chief Executive Officer, NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd

Mr Nicholas Goh

Chairman of the Spirit of Enterprise’s Student Entrepreneur Programme

Friends from Beautiful Mind Charity Singapore

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Boys and girls

Good morning.


For nearly 30 years, the SPD Education Programme has been providing financial support to students with physical disabilities and students whose parent or parents have physical disabilities so that these students can participate in mainstream school education despite financial constraints.


This year, with the support of our long-time sponsor, NatSteel Holdings, a further sum of $76,050 in bursaries will be disbursed to 97 children and youths from all levels of studies – from primary, and secondary schools to ITE, junior colleges and pre-university as well as tertiary education at polytechnics and universities.


Among them are 12-year-old Ng Hong Xian and 13-year-old Ng Hong Wei. The two brothers have been diagnosed with muscular degeneration since young. Their medical care strains the family’s finances. The family of four relies on the income of the brothers’ father who works as a salesperson at an apparel store in a wet market. The financial assistance from the bursary will certainly help alleviate some of the family’s financial stress.


Extending financial support is just one of the objectives of the SPD Education Programme. We adopt a holistic approach in building a support network for students with disabilities and their families. Equally important is the range of services offered to help students with disabilities learn and cope better in school. These services include therapy, counselling, social support and enrichment activities all year round.


With Singapore ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or UNCRPD last year, we are hopeful that children and youths with disabilities will have better access to mainstream education. Since 1985 when it started, the SPD Education Programme has been promoting inclusive education by leveling the playing field for students with disabilities in mainstream schools. Today, we have no plans to cut down on our support for students with disabilities.


In fact, in the year ahead, we are looking at rolling out more enrichment activities that not only support and strengthen the students’ physical, social, emotional and cognitive capabilities but also provide all-round development of our students.


Hence, I am pleased to announce that we will be collaborating with Spirit of Enterprise, or SOE, this year. It is a non-profit organisation set up to promote entrepreneurship in Singapore. SOE has been promoting entrepreneurship to students in mainstream schools through its Student Entrepreneur Programme in the last eight years, exposing youngsters to the fundamentals of starting an enterprise. With our partnership, our students will have the opportunity to gain similar exposure through practical experience and networking opportunities with professionals and local entrepreneurs.


We have another piece of exciting news for our students: Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) will be offering our students an opportunity to participate in an outdoor camp. It will be an invaluable experience for many who will also get to hone their mental strength and learn about teamwork.


Now in its fifth year, the SPD Youth Aspiration Award, too, has always been a highlight of this annual award presentation ceremony. The achievements of every Award recipient have never failed to leave our guests in awe, as I am sure would be the case this morning.


We have two outstanding youths who will be receiving the SPD Youth Aspiration Award today. You have met one of them earlier – 14-year-old Samuel lim who was on the piano. When he was just a few months old, a domestic helper poured acid down his throat, permanently damaging his tongue, throat and vocal chords, changing Samuel’s life forever. Although he is unable to speak like you and I, Samuel communicates through his music on the piano and the Chinese Gu Zheng, moving all those around him with his talent.


Victor Wong is the other award recipient this year. The 21-year-old was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Victor rises above his disability to channel his energy into something positive. He has a strong desire to entertain children and bring laughter into their lives. And he picked a very interesting performing art to do so. He will showcase his unusual talent very shortly.


To help our students who are passionate about music further their interest, we are honoured to have the support of Beautiful Mind Charity Singapore and its musicians who will be teaching our students to play a musical instrument each over the next one year. We are hopeful that talented individuals will be discovered and groomed through this project.


Indeed, I would like to express our heartfelt appreciation to NatSteel Holdings for believing in our cause, and for investing in the future of students who are under disadvantaged circumstances. NatSteel’s support of the bursary programme since 2007 has lightened the financial burden of countless families and helped many children and youth achieve their academic aspirations. We were delighted when NatSteel agreed to extend their sponsorship to support the SPD Youth Aspiration Awards for this year and the next as well. To our partners in NatSteel, we cannot thank you enough.


We are also grateful for the support of our new partners – Spirit of Enterprise and Beautiful Mind Charity Singapore – for embarking on this journey for greater inclusivity with us. We look forward to a fruitful and sustainable partnership.


Finally, to all the students here today, you’ve shown amazing courage and resilience. I want to congratulate each and every one of you. An education will lay a good foundation to many possibilities, so never give up however tough this journey might get. I wish you a successful academic year ahead.


Thank you.