Mr See Cher
President, Society for the Physically Disabled
Ladies and gentlemen
1. I am delighted to be here with you at this awards presentation ceremony. Many of you present this morning have succeeded in overcoming obstacles in your lives to be here today. I want to congratulate all of you. You have shown through your determination and hard work that there are no obstacles too great to overcome. The values you have learnt through your experiences will help to bring you even further in life.
An Inclusive Society
2. Your achievement today is also a result of many helping hands. Children with physical disabilities need support and encouragement to develop and achieve their potential. To ensure their growth and development is well-rounded and holistic, different groups of people have come together, partnering one another, to create an inclusive environment for the physically disabled. The whole network is like a flower with five petals.
3. The first petal represents the child’s parents and immediate family. Families provide crucial support for the child when they are able to face challenges together as a family. They provide the support and courage to help this child deal with his or her daily challenges. Later on, you will hear the heart-warming story of Asher Ong and how he loves and cares for his older brother who suffers from cerebral palsy.
4. The second petal symbolises the school. Besides the home, the school is where the child spends most of his or her waking hours. When a student with physical disabilities is well integrated in the school, the child will be able to participate more actively and learn more effectively.
The third petal would be the community, where voluntary welfare organisations such as the SPD can play a positive role in supporting children with physical disabilities, and provide help for their families. The support can be in the form of bursaries, customised enrichment programmes, social support and specialised services.
The fourth petal refers to the general public. Their attitudes and actions are instrumental in showing disabled people that they are accepted and indeed respected as valuable members of our society.
7. Finally, the fifth petal symbolises those with physical disabilities. There is a Chinese saying
8. With different partners working together, each of our students will be able to overcome their limitation and excel in their respective pursuits and talents. We can challenge them and stretch them to develop their potential to the fullest. We can give them opportunities to lead a meaningful life.
How MOE Plays a Part
9. Our education system must remain flexible to include, where feasible, students with physical and learning disabilities. To help these students achieve their dreams, the Ministry of Education has put in place policies which make our education system more inclusive. This will enable them to access the opportunities afforded by our broad-based education programmes.
10. For example, MOE assists students with physical disabilities to enrol in schools with appropriate facilities – such as ramps, lifts and wheelchair-friendly toilets on every floor. There are a total of 58 designated schools with full facilities for the physically disabled, and these schools are geographically spread out across Singapore to make them more accessible. Some schools have incorporated the use of assistive devices such as intellikeys keyboard (enlarged keyboard) to help the physically disabled students to learn. Other schools have initiated fund-raising and awareness projects, and have done their part to make themselves more inclusive by integrating students with physical disabilities. One such school is Evergreen Primary School. The Principal, Mr Tan Kah Teo, will share with us later how the presence of students with physical disabilities in his school had a positive effect on their classmates.
How the Community and the Public Can Play a Part
I would like to applaud SPD’s efforts in working with mainstream schools to assist and promote greater inclusion of students with physical disabilities through enrichment programmes such as camps and drama courses. Voluntary welfare organisations, such as the SPD, play an important role in reaching out to those who are in need. They also help to create awareness among the general public and garner support, not just financially, but also in terms of social support.
Members of the business community also come alongside the voluntary welfare organisations and partner them in projects by providing invaluable expertise and finances. I am heartened to see the strong collaboration between SPD and its partners, and I hope that the partnerships will continue to grow and strengthen.
How Disabled People Can Play a Part
13. Disabled people themselves also have to play a part in how they are included in society. We have good examples among two of the bursary recipients, Daniel Seah and Esther Seah, who by the way are unrelated. They both did very well in their studies despite their physical challenges. Daniel, from Hillgrove Secondary School, topped his school’s GCE “N” levels results for 2006. Esther is top of her class and was also third among the Secondary 2 cohort at Nan Hua High School. Esther aspires to be a writer when she grows up, and she has been selected to be in her school’s Sky Programme, a talent development programme and a hothouse for talents like herself.
14. There are others like Daniel and Esther who have dreams and aspirations, and have the ability and determination to pursue those goals. Both of them have overcome the odds through hard work and perseverance. I applaud their efforts and congratulate them on their achievements. I would encourage them to use their abilities to contribute back to society in future. One person who has done so is Cai Zhenquan, a former scholarship recipient. He graduated from the National University of Singapore and is now employed by the Ministry of Defence as a cyber researcher.
15. While many are able to do well academically, others have excelled in other areas. Later on, we will be treated to a recital by Evelyn How, a young and talented violinist.
16. The diverse talents and abilities of students with physical disabilities show that they too can contribute positively to our society. To become a more inclusive society, we must learn to view our students with physical disabilities as our asset, each with their own passions and aspirations, capable of making valuable contributions.
17. To conclude, I would like to urge all of you to continue to work together in fostering a supportive environment, and making our society more inclusive for the physically disabled. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a member of a voluntary welfare organisation, a partner or a supporter of the SPD, your unceasing commitment and support given to the students is invaluable. You have played a part in contributing to their achievements today. Together, we can bring more benefits through the Education Programme to our students with physical disabilities and help them achieve greater excellence.
Congratulations once again to the bursary and scholarship recipients, and I wish you all a pleasant day.