Students With Physical Disabilities To Get Financial Support And More

Singapore, 14 January 2006 –

  • Support for disabled students in mainstream school helps to build confident and well-rounded individuals
  • Close to $300,000 to be disbursed to students with physical disabilities and students with physically disabled parents under the Harry Elias Partnership-SPD Bursary Award

For the past few months, 10-year-old Elton Seah was hard at work rehearsing for a play, and looked forward to when he could perform in public. Being able to perform on stage is no small achievement for him, as the primary five student has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which causes stiffness in his calves.

A collaboration between The Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) and Evergreen Primary School, the play, a remake of a fairy tale, aims to promote the integration of disabled and non-disabled students. It involves a cast of 19 members, half of whom are disabled actors. Elton and his friends will perform at the Harry Elias Partnership-SPD Bursary Award Presentation to be held on 14 January. Elton is one of 282 students who will be receiving bursary awards of quantum from $300 to $6,500 for their studies in mainstream school at the bursary award ceremony.

The drama production is an initiative under the SPD Education Programme which seeks to go beyond the aim of providing financial support to disabled students and students of disabled parents, to help in their development. Today, the Programme takes a holistic approach to supporting the students, addressing their educational, socio-emotional development and rehabilitation needs, and also looks into their pre-employment readiness.

Last year, students under the SPD Education Programme have gone for horseback riding, nature tours to Sungei Buloh, and a full day adventure camp conducted by Outward Bound School. As for enrichment workshops, the students have enjoyed creative thinking workshops, career development and drama classes, amongst other offerings.

“Elton really enjoys going for these activities as he doesn’t usually have the chance to go for them. Transport can be inconvenient to arrange and he needs extra attention when we’re out. Through these outings and activities, he has made many friends and has become more sociable,” said Mrs Josephine Seah, Elton’s mother.

Having first begun in 1985 providing bursary grants to 25 beneficiaries, the SPD Education Programme has grown over the years to include a learning & development centre, a care management programme, and scholarship provision. Where needed, participants would also be assessed in the use of assistive technology devices and provided therapy under the Paediatric Rehabilitation programme.

Through the various components under the SPD Education Programme and with the help of supporters like Harry Elias Partnership, StarHub, Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation, Caltex and Singapore Exchange, more students, caregivers and teachers will benefit from the programme.

SPD is now working towards offering a broader spectrum of activities and enrichment workshops. Plans for a soccer clinic have already been set, the first session to be kicked off in February. Secondary and tertiary students can also look forward to career development workshops to help with their career choices. Internship opportunities will be sourced for tertiary students to assist them in gaining experience for future employment.

Another key objective of the SPD Education Programme is to equip teachers with the necessary skills to work closely with physically disabled children. Plans are underway for talks and seminars with schools and trainee teachers from National Institute of Education, to be conducted at various times of the year.

For parents, financial planning workshops, parenting seminars and networking sessions will be organized throughout the year. Parents of disabled primary school children can attend workshops to prepare them on accessibility of schools and other issues for when their children transits to secondary school. Additionally, the activities and programmes designed for the students also allow for parent participation, to promote bonding and team-building within the family.

A key component, the Harry Elias Partnership-SPD Bursary Awards saw an overall increase of 12% in the number of recipients from 252 in 2005 to 282 in 2006. This year, the number of students who have physical disabilities increased by 35%, and students who have disabled parents registered a 7% increase.

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State for Education and Manpower, would be presenting the bursary awards at the Harry Elias Partnership-SPD Bursary Award Presentation at the National Library. This year, close to $300,000 would be disbursed to physically disabled students and students with physically disabled parents from primary to tertiary levels.

“We are glad to support the initiative to integrate disabled students so as to help them succeed as individuals. The success of the programme would be seeing the students performing not just academically but to grow up as well-rounded individuals with a variety of interests and experiences as well,” said Mr Tan Chee Meng, SC, Managing Partner, Harry Elias Partnership.

Ms Woo Sye Lai, Head of Evergreen Primary School’s Drama Club who worked with the children on the play ‘The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig’ said: “It’s great working with the children. They are all very creative and expressive, and have so many ideas. We can see their individual talents emerging as they work together and it’s so encouraging to see them interacting and opening up to each other.”