Guest of Honour, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam;
Members of SINDA’s Board of Trustees and Executive Committee;
Acting CEO, SINDA, Mr Anbarasu Rajendran; Distinguished Guests,
Award Recipients, Parents; Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Today, I join you, in celebrating the exceptional success of 469 Indian students and youth who have each carved out their own individual paths towards excellence.
2. The SINDA Excellence Awards, or SEA, are given in recognition to excellence achieved across a broad spectrum – academic performance, sports and arts. In so doing, we are recognising more than academic grades, sports medals or arts awards – we are actually also extoling the values of hard work, determination and the positive mind-sets which underlie such achievements. In almost all cases, these achievements would not have been possible without the support of family, teachers and coaches. Hence, these awards also celebrate the many who have, through their support, contributed to the success of our young people. Let me tell you about some of them –
S Naveen – Perseverance
3. Among us today is 19-year-old S Naveen. When Naveen was seven, his Primary 1 teacher showed his mother a piece of his writing which did not make any sense to her. Naveen was then referred by his teacher for an assessment of his reading and writing skills. Several tests later, Naveen was diagnosed with dyslexia. At school, he was mocked for being ‘slow’, and he was disheartened that the tests stated that he might suffer from poor motor skills and coordination.
4. However, Naveen’s parents did not give up on him. His mother left her teaching career and worked tirelessly to coach him on reading and writing every day. Naveen’s father would take days off from work to be at home while he studied for his major examinations. Naveen himself became an avid reader and used every opportunity to improve himself, knowing that he needed to work twice as hard as others.
5. All these efforts bore fruit when Naveen emerged top of his class at the end of Primary 4. In Secondary 3, Naveen’s grades qualified him for Additional Mathematics at ‘N’ Levels, which would have been no easy task. On top of these, Naveen also received several annual Edusave awards for his leadership qualities, conduct and excellence in non-academic areas.
6. Naveen is now pursuing a Diploma in Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, with a dream to become an automotive engineer who designs efficient and intelligent cars.
7. It would have been easy to give up hope and resign to fate after being diagnosed with a learning difficulty, but from Naveen and his family, we can learn the importance of perseverance and how powerful a positive and supportive family environment can be, in a child’s life.
Azeezur Rahman s/o Husainudeen – Determination
8. We are also joined today by 15-year-old Azeezur Rahman Husainudeen, whose passion for hockey began at Primary 5. He joined his school team and began participating actively in games and trainings. However, due to the time spent on hockey, Azeezur’s grades began to suffer. His parents were upset that he was neglecting his studies in favour of hockey, and were against his decision to join the school hockey team.
9. Azeezur did join his school’s hockey team, but he knew that he had to improve in his studies. He turned to SINDA’s STEP tuition to improve his mastery of the subjects and he did so by consistently revising and clarifying doubts with his tutors. With this attitude and hard work, by the end of that same year, Azeezur had improved significantly in his studies. He also learned how to better manage his time and maintain his grades. Happy with his progress and diligence, Azeezur’s parents were more supportive of his sports exploits, as he proved that he could maintain good grades and still follow his passion in hockey.
10. In Secondary 2, Azeezur received the opportunity to represent Singapore at a hockey tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Over the years, he has won the Singapore Sports Council National Colours Award not once, not twice, but three times, while at the same time, maintaining good grades. This is a commendable feat, and I hope it will spur more youth to strike the important balance between academics and their passion.
Tulsi Devi – Strength in Adversity
11. Also receiving the SEA award today is 21-year-old Tulsi Devi. When Tulsi was in Secondary 5, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, which came as a great blow to the family. Tulsi’s studies suffered – she was initially the top N-Level student in her school, but her expectations were let down by her poor performance at the O-Level examinations.
12. As Tulsi’s mother had to stop working due to her illness, the household faced financial difficulties. Tulsi’s elder brother even had to forgo his place in university so that her second brother could enrol instead. But as they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Among the dark clouds, Tulsi found inspiration in her mother’s courage and dedication to the family business, even when undergoing cancer treatment.
13. As a Temasek Polytechnic student, Tulsi made the school football team and became one of three girls to receive the Hougang United FC (HUFC) Scholarship for academic excellence. Consequently, she signed with Home United FC to play in the youth league. Tulsi has since graduated with a perfect grade point average (GPA) of 4.0 in her diploma and is now studying Business Management at the Singapore Management University. She cites her mother’s illness as the toughest period in her life, and owes her success to the life lessons she learnt during those times.
14. These three recipients’ stories of perseverance, determination and strength are some examples of how our Indian youth have to overcome personal challenges and emerge as stronger, higher achieving individuals.
15. As you embark onto the next stage of your education and later into your careers, you will take different paths and face different circumstances. Not everything will seem simple or familiar in your first few attempts but it is vital that you do not view these as setbacks but rather, as chances to break new ground and add to your abilities. If something does not go the way you want it to, take a step back, learn from it and improve your game plan. By inculcating such an adaptive nature, you develop a strong sense of pragmatism, develop sound values and will come to appreciate different perspectives.
Multiple Pathways to Success
16. Being adaptive also allows you to have new experiences, learn without inhibition and shape your life journey in a way that will best suit you. In recent years, we have shifted away from the idea that there is a single or pre-defined pathways to success. Success today can be achieved through a multitude of pathways and the one that is most apt for you is the pathway that is defined by your own talent, abilities and interests.
17. These different pathways will be essential in a future economy that will be much more diverse and even more fast-moving than now. As a nation, we are focused on developing the breadth and versatility of our students, so that you will be well-equipped with the right skill sets to thrive in the future economy.
Empowering Youth through Community
18. The SINDA Excellence Awards is an encouragement to every student in our community. It embodies the recipient’s own considerable efforts as well as the efforts of those who have encouraged them along the way – parents, families, peers, schools, teachers, coaches, and even community groups. These combined efforts have shaped and encouraged their aspirations and resulted in the achievements that you will see here today.
19. Parents and family members, your unwavering support has allowed the recipients today to pursue their passion and excel in it. Please continue providing them with a positive and reinforcing environment, where they can explore, experiment and experience, and not fear even if they fail, as failure is often the mother of success.
20. While we celebrate the success of the students and youth here today, it is also important to remember that there are others in the Indian community who are not doing so well. Typically, these come from lower income backgrounds and from difficult family and social circumstances. As a community we must work to ensure that no one in the community is left behind. Therefore, SINDA’s role is to be a catalyst in this mission by uplifting the Indian community and this is the work of not just SINDA alone, but the work of the community as a whole – by supporting and encouraging each other to do better.
21. To the recipients here, I congratulate you on your achievements. I am heartened to see that each one of you exploring exciting possibilities and forging your own pathway to success. But do remember to make your successes count. Channel them towards contributing to our nation, inspiring hope in the hearts of those in the community and motivating your fellow peers on their own paths to success and I wish each and every one of you the very best in your endeavours.
Thank you very much.