SPEECH BY MS INDRANEE RAJAH, MINISTER, PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE, SECOND MINISTER FOR FINANCE AND EDUCATION AND PRESIDENT, SINDA, AT THE BACK TO SCHOOL FESTIVAL 2019 ON SATURDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2019, 9 AM AT BROADRICK SECONDARY SCHOOL
Members of SINDA’s Board of Trustees and Executive Committee;
CEO, SINDA, Mr Anbarasu Rajendran;
Partners of BTSF, Guests, Parents and Students.
A very good morning to everyone. I’m happy to join all of you this morning at SINDA’s Back To School Festival, or BTSF.
- For this year’s BTSF 3,500 students will be receiving SINDA’s school kits, the highest number since BTSF started in 2008. While some of you have been receiving this kit for a few years, others are first-time recipients. These kits will come in handy, as you prepare for the new school year.
Succeeding in spite of Challenges
- These school kits are one example of SINDA’s holistic, multi-level assistance to our students, parents and families. We want those in need to get assistance in all the right areas. We are also happy to note that those who have enrolled into various SINDA programmes have benefitted and seen significant improvement.
- One such example is Mdm Gouri Palanivelu, whose children are receiving BTSF kits today. Gouri is a single mother with three children, all of whom have benefitted from a range of SINDA’s assistance – counselling, financial assistance and bursaries. Through SINDA, she was also introduced to a number of government schemes which helped her improve her family’s circumstances.
- Gouri is a clinical coordinator who works relatively long hours and as a result, has challenges in balancing her work with caring for her children. She was also struggling to establish stronger rapport with her oldest daughter. Through SINDA’s ‘Triple P’ Positive Parenting Programme, Gouri was able to learn new perspectives as well as effective and practical strategies to build stronger and healthier relationships with her children. Over time, Gouri’s relationship with her children has improved and now, her eldest also plays an active, dutiful role in caring of her younger siblings.
- Her son, Ruthra Raj Isaac, joined Project Athena’s sports programme to play rugby every Sunday and enjoys it immensely. He has received the programme’s ‘Most Enthusiastic Player’ award and feels that the sport has helped him become more disciplined and confident. I have no doubt that these traits will go a long way in helping Ruthra, when he begins his secondary school journey next year.
- Another family that has benefitted from SINDA’s assistance schemes is Mdm Gangadevi Arul Thangam and her nine-year old son. Ganga faced similar challenges in balancing her work commitments and putting time aside for her son. She also needed help in managing her son’s behavioural issues at school.
- Enrolling in SINDA’s parenting programmes gave Ganga much-needed support and empowered her with the right skills to manage her son’s behaviour. Since then, Ganga has built a strong bond with her son and she now feels much more empowered as parent. Having lived in an interim flat before, Ganga has also found a permanent home and full-time employment, through SINDA’s support.
- Importantly, what these stories show us is that when there is will and resilience, it is possible for families to succeed despite challenges. They were determined to find the right solutions and resources, so that they could emerge stronger and look forward to better prospects. We wish both Gouri and Ganga the very best in the future, as they continue to improve their and their families’ lives.
- I would encourage those who need that additional help and support to reach out to relevant organisations such as SINDA for assistance and support. Sometimes all that is needed is just that little extra boost to help you onto the path to better circumstances, and a brighter future.
Improving Educational Support
- Education is the key to better social mobility and eventually, a better life. The government is focused on how we can support our students’ to better help them in their life journey, to bridge inequality and help them access the opportunities available.
- One such initiative is the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce, or UPLIFT in short. That is a Ministry of Education Taskforce which I chair. UPLIFT was launched last year to better support our students from disadvantaged families, especially those who are under-performing.
- UPLIFT takes a two-pronged approach: one that is centred on impactful student support – we are looking at strengthening our students’ mental and emotional resilience, providing them with effective after-school care and improving their school attendance. The other prong focuses on working with parents so that they can be engaged, effective and supportive partners in their children’s education and character development.
- In addition to UPLIFT, various other initiatives will support our students in various ways. For example:
- For pre-schoolers: More families will enjoy the Additional Subsidy and Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (or KiFAS), and lower-income families will receive higher subsidies so do not be deterred from sending your children to preschool.
- At secondary school: Subject-Based Banding (or SBB) will cater to our students’ individual pace of learning and offer them a pathway that will best suit their strengths and interests.
- For students with special needs: two intervention programmes – Circle of Friends and Facing your Fears – will ensure an inclusive environment in school, through peer support. We will also be having three more SPED schools – one for children with intellectual disability and two for children on the autistic spectrum.
- Hence, there is a multi-pronged approach, across many levels, so that we can build a society of opportunities where every Singaporean child can do well, succeed and progress, irrespective of background and circumstances.
An Ecosystem of Support
- Such efforts are strengthened by partnerships with the community. Raising a child and equipping him or her with the right set of skills to take full advantage of the future, is a shared responsibility and requires many helping hands – the government, community groups and families. How our children fare as adults and how meaningful their lives will be, depends on how well we can come together to nurture them, build their character and support them from their early years.
- I am heartened to see that numerous stakeholders are working together for our children. Even today, look around you, the combined effort of several partners was key to organising a fun-filled, meaningful day for our students and families. Various agencies and community groups have come forward to contribute to BTSF – whether in the form of monetary support, manpower, in-kind donations or the sharing of resources and databases. I am thankful to all of you for your efforts.
- Such opportunities provide us with continued platforms to work together and do our part for our children. As we work together, these opportunities will also strengthen the Singaporean fabric and bring us closer. And this is at the heart of everything we want to achieve – a Singapore where we all work together to create a shared future, where every Singaporean will have a key role to play.
- Thank you, and I wish you a fun-filled day ahead at BTSF and the best in the coming year.