Theme: Partnering for an Inclusive Society
Mr Gan Kim Yong
Minister of State for Education and Manpower
Mr See Cher
President, Society for the Physically Disabled
Ladies and gentlemen
Boys and girls
1. On behalf of the SPD Board of Management, I would like to thank our Guest-of-Honour, Mr Gan for taking time off his busy schedule to attend the ceremony this morning. This is the second time that Mr Gan has graced our Education Programme Awards Presentation. His support is a great encouragement to us.
Opportunities to Learn, to Grow and to Serve
2. Looking back, I am glad that SPD has taken a holistic approach in developing the Education Programme. The Education Programme now comprises general services such as financial grants, and specialized services such as case management, assistive technology and paediatric rehabilitation. This approach ensures an all-encompassing programme to enable and empower students to develop into confident and resilient individuals living up to the programme’s motto, “I learn, I grow, I serve.
3. We have seen and we celebrate success stories. We take pride that our scholar, Cai Zhenquan finds employment competing with other graduates on equal grounds; we applaud our bursary recipientsAng Chong How and Sabrina Leow who look beyond their own physical limitations to help build amenities in Thailand for disadvantaged children; we are touched that a former bursary recipient, Koh Lock Chun is organising a carnival and will make a donation to SPD from the carnival. In his own words, “it’s pay-back time” for the help he received from SPD.
4. These success case profiles are testimonies that the SPD Education Programme has achieved its objective and fulfilled the motto. These students give us encouragement to take a step further to work with MOE to be a major provider of integration support programme for physically disabled students in mainstream school. We would like to formally declare our intention to the government so that MOE can engage NCSS to work with SPD to be the second provider of integration support programme for disabled students in mainstream school.
5. SPD’s plan to go regional will also allow us to tap on and collaborate with existing local community and grassroots resources to enhance the integration support programme for schools. SPD is already working with self-help groups such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and Mendaki tapping into their high quality tuition programmes and assistance schemes to better serve our students.
6. With one regional centre operational in the east by June 2007 and another scheduled in the west before 2010, and the expertise and experience acquired, we believe we can continue to make an even bigger difference and impact for disabled students with our integration support programme.
Partnering for an Inclusive Society
7. We also recognise that it takes a village to raise a child. Therefore throughout the past year, SPD took a proactive stance to initiate partnership and collaboration with different partners in the communities to promote integration of students with physical disabilities. One of the highlights of this treasured partnership is the first-ever Teachers’ Seminar held at the Singapore Management University in August last year. This seminar brought together educators from mainstream schools for a fruitful exchange of information with SPD. The workshop cemented a stronger partnership between SPD and the educators and strengthened communication links. It has also led to the conception of a Teachers’ Handbook on resources to support students with physical disabilities in mainstream schools. The Handbook will allow teachers to tap on the resources available to help students with physical disabilities. This Handbook is scheduled to be produced by July this year.
8. In terms of the ‘hardware’, we are happy to note that close to 60 primary and secondary schools have already been equipped with full handicap-friendly facilities. We understand that the Ministry of Education does not provide full handicap-friendly facilities in every newly built or upgraded school. We would like to appeal to the Ministry to seriously consider adopting a universal-access principle in building and upgrading schools. Barrier-free accessible schools not only benefit students with disabilities, but also disabled parents who may need to visit the schools from time to time. Also, students who sustain injury resulting in temporary disability need not miss classes if the school is accessible. In the long run, it would save inconvenience, costs and bring Singapore closer to becoming a fully inclusive society for all.
9. Despite not having full handicap friendly facilities, many schools have gone beyond accommodating physically disabled students in their midst. They raise funds and volunteer for our programmes and services. The SPD Charity Hongbao project sees participation from about 100 schools and educational institutes every year that raises funds for the SPD Education Programme during the Lunar New Year. Individually too, schools have built fundraising and volunteerism into their CIP, benefitting SPD. This morning, we will be honouring 11 schools and educational institutes for their commendable partnership with SPD.
10. We would also like to acknowledge our corporate partners who share our vision and hope for people with disabilities and have contributed immensely to the SPD Education Programme.
11. I wish to record our thanks to Harry Elias Partnership for their generous contribution towards the SPD Education Programme Bursary Award 2007. To Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation, we are grateful for the scholarship scheme they initiated in 2004 to encourage and nurture academically strong physically disabled students. This is the first-time that SPD is inviting the scholars to join in the awards presentation ceremony. We hope that their outstanding academic achievements would inspire the other students here today to follow in their footsteps and strive to do well in their studies. We also thank StarHub for bringing quality enrichment opportunities to our students. Also thanks to Obtech Asia Pacific Pte Ltd and Caltex Singapore for being our valued partners in supporting the needs of our students.
12. I congratulate our students here today for doing well, and we look forward to growing with you.
14. May I take this opportunity to wish one and all a happy and fruitful year ahead. Let us enhance the inclusion of students with physical disabilities, let us
15. Thank you.