ADDRESS BY MR NG CHEE MENG, MINISTER, PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE & SECRETARY-GENERAL, NATIONAL TRADES UNION CONGRESS (NTUC), AT THE SHGs’ JOINT TUITION AWARDS CEREMONY ON SATURDAY, 25 AUGUST 2018 AT THE SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC CONVENTION CENTRE
Self-Help Groups’ Board Members and CEOs,
Students, award recipients and parents,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- A very good afternoon and I’m delighted to join you this afternoon for the Self-Help Groups’ (SHGs) Joint Tuition Awards Ceremony, or JTA.
- This is the 15th edition – it shows that this good work has been done for 15 years already. The collaboration between the four Self-Help Groups – the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), the Eurasian Association (EA), Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) and Yayasan MENDAKI is a wonderful example of how community groups coming together can make a big difference in our society and our community. I’m glad that we are here to celebrate the successes of your good work. Today we are recognising 517 students who have shown significant progress in the PSLE, N-Level and O-Level examinations.
COMING TOGETHER, ACHIEVING TOGETHER
- Over the years, the SHGs have focused on maximising our students’ potential, enabling them to be successful and confident individuals. Each SHG especially created their programmes to benefit their students.
- Where there are opportunities, the SHGs collaborate and build upon each other’s experience, expertise and networks to deliver combined services for the benefit of Singaporeans. This JTA ceremony is one such initiative and I am pleased to hear that the SHGs recently launched Vibrance @ Yishun, a joint centre where they offer their programmes to residents in the Yishun vicinity. I am sure that the people there will appreciate the accessibility of this joint centre and I hope to see more centres across our small island.
HONOURING OUR STUDENTS
- Well today, as I said, we celebrate our students and I wish to highlight a few of the award recipients that I met just now – all of whom have wonderful stories and have exhibited positive values, mind-sets and the resilience to achieve success.
Toh Jing Jie – Determination
- I met Toh Jing Jie just now, and he told me he has been in the CDAC tuition programme for eight years, since Primary 3. He comes from a modest background and his mother is the sole breadwinner because his father is unable to work due to ill health. Jing Jie, like most boys his age, says that he used to be a playful boy with little interest in his studies. But when he scored below expectations in his year-end Secondary 2 exams, it served as a wake-up call for him. He decided to put aside what he thinks are childish things, to focus more on his studies, and began attending tuition with seriousness. His efforts paid off in his N-level exams. He scored three Grade “1”s and 2 Grade “2”s, which was a tremendous improvement over what he was able to do previously.
- Today, Jing Jie tells me that a single tutor in CDAC made a difference in his learning. I don’t know whether Mr Paik is here today, but Jing Jie thinks the world of him. Because not only was he able to give tuition and care, but was able to make his lessons fun and managed to anchor Jing Jie and his interest in the subjects that were offered. Jing Jie is now happily pursuing his studies in ITE College East in Chemical Technology, and he tells me one day he hopes to be able to pursue this line mainly to become an engineer.
Jansen Aalyssa Jade & Muhammad Shakir – Realising Passion & Dreams
- Another example that I want to tell you about is our 17-year-old Jansen Aalyssa Jade. She is currently pursuing a NITEC in Hair Fashion & Design in ITE College East as well. She even won an award at the Singapore in the WorldSkills Singapore competition recently, demonstrating her expertise in hair design on a national stage. I honestly did not know there’s such a subject as hair design, but you know, our young surprise us with their creativity. But Aalyssa also told me that this was not her first choice as a subject, but her mother gave her the suggestion and nudged her towards this. Aalyssa, over time, has learnt to love this trade.
- I am happy to hear that she is not forgoing her academic pursuits, as she is balancing her time between school and CCA so that she has a holistic approach towards education. I’m really happy for Aalyssa, that she has found her passion, and she cites her parents, her coaches in her track-and-field CCA, and friends as her sources of inspiration and motivation.
- I also met Muhammad Shakir bin Shirah Abdullah – he’s a 17-year-old. He was inspired by those around him and that got him to further concentrate on his studies. He attributes his success to his tutors in the MENDAKI tuition programme, saying that they were not only tutors to him, but also mentors. And then I asked Shakir; who is that one inspirational tutor? Shakir told me that he credits the whole team of tutors at MENDAKI for making a difference. So for tutors that are here from MENDAKI, Shakir appreciates all your efforts. Shakir has improved tremendously in both English and Mathematics. He has improved 2 grades in English, to score an A2, and six grades in Mathematics to score a B3. No easy feat at the O Levels.
- Currently, Shakir is in Millennia Institute pursuing his A Levels. He hopes to study law at SMU and wants to contribute to society, advocating for the underprivileged. He has a heart to serve his fellow Singaporeans when he grows up, and give back to society. I am so happy to hear that.
Jagjeet Singh – Resilience
- The last boy I met is only 13 years old. His name is Jagjeet Singh. He is the youngest of three boys in the family and self-motivated too. But life for Jagjeet has not been easy. At this tender age, he has already lost his father and his mother is the sole breadwinner. Even under such circumstances, Jagjeet is not discouraged. He has great determination to do well, to succeed and study harder to make his father proud. I asked if Jagjeet’s mother was here today. Jagjeet said his mother could not make it, and then I remembered that being a single mother running a provision shop, she had to forgo this opportunity to see her son onstage, while earning a living.
- As such, I’m happy to hear that Jagjeet is also a filial, devoted and conscientious son. He takes time outside of school to help at his mother’s provision shop so that they can make a decent living in Singapore. Jagjeet not only studied hard in SINDA’s tuition programme to improve his English, Mathematics and Science subjects over the PSLE period, but he is also taking time to chase his passion in sports, study and also take care of the family at this tender age of 13. I am glad to hear that Jagjeet wants to join the SAF one day to serve in the army. I think the SAF will benefit with such Singaporean sons in its ranks.
- These four examples testify to the good work that the SHGs have done in society. In Singapore, all of us desire a more inclusive society where Singapore succeeds, and Singaporeans can share in that success. And I think the SHGs have made a difference by their actions in society for the last 15 years at least, in making a difference to many sons and daughters of Singaporeans. So, I encourage you to continue to do the same. When I was preparing for this ceremony, I remember what I saw during the National Day Parade – the four videos of Singaporeans doing their best to help fellow Singaporeans. I remember especially the samsui lady and Mr Veera Sekaran.
- When Mr Veera was a young boy, he was unable to afford his own pencils and school bag. His teacher and classmates made a wonderful difference in his life – they sent him on a trajectory and enabled him to succeed. It moved me close to tears on the floating platform, and as I prepared for this speech, I saw not only Mr Veera, but 517 boys and girls enabled by our self-help groups. One by one, student by student, I am glad all four SHGs are making that difference in society. The Singapore spirit of taking care of each other must continue to burn strong so that Singaporeans can succeed together.
- With all sincerity, I congratulate the SHGs for the good work in society. I thank all the volunteer tutors that have made a difference. To the students, when you complete our school system and continue to the workforce, I hope you will remember these good deeds so that when we celebrate NDP 100, there will be equally compelling and heart-warming stories to tell of Singaporeans taking care of fellow Singaporeans.
- Parents, I also would like to encourage you to play an important part in our children’s holistic development. While they study, also remember to give them the space to explore their interest and passions. You never know when your ‘Aalyssa’ will show up and surprise you with their passion and dedication in the trades that they like. Give them empowerment, encouragement and support for them to succeed, give them your advice on making informed choices on educational and career pathways and always be there for them.
- Students, while you have succeeded today and have been recognised, remember those around you, especially your parents. They have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with you and even carried you along in many instances. Remember to be filial, remember to give back, and at the same time, remember your tutors. They have sacrificed much as well, to be there for you and help you.
- When you grow up and succeed in life, remember to give back to those who need your help as well, regardless of your own circumstances. Don’t just study hard because you have to, but because it is a stepping stone to make life better for yourselves, achieve your dreams, and make life better for your parents as well. Having received the community’s recognition today, I hope that these awards will spur you to do even better in your academic life and achieve greater things in life.
- Thank you very much.