Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Health,
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, DPM, Minister for Finance, and Chairman, SINDA Board of Trustees,
Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Education and President, SINDA Executive Committee,
Members of the SINDA Board of Trustees and Executive Committee,
Distinguished Guests, Award Recipients, Parents,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I welcome all of you to the SINDA Excellence Awards 2015. This SEA ceremony is a signature event of SINDA’s and is a platform for us to recognise the achievements of you, our Indian students—we honour your hard work, your dedication to excellence and your determined ‘never-say-die’ spirit.
2. The SEA ceremony is the due recognition that SINDA gives to the pursuit of excellence—excellence in all its forms. The ceremony is in its 24th edition this year. Began in 1992, SEA recognised students for excellence in their academic pursuits. In subsequent years, and in acknowledgement of a changing educational landscape, arts and sports categories were included. Today the event honours students from close to 20 categories. These may be all different paths but they lead to the same goal—a strong educational foundation that equips you to become the leaders of tomorrow.
3. I am happy to share that 415 students met the high criteria for the SINDA Excellence Awards this year. Many of the recipients today have previously received the SEA award for a different course of study. This indicates to us that a number of recipients have been very consistent in their academics. They go on to a path of excellence and they continue down that path. This can only bode well for the community, as we know that these recipients will one day become high-achieving individuals who will fly the flag of the Indian community in Singapore.
4. Our students’ success is a result of effective collaboration and a strong partnership between schools, parents and community organisations. Such cooperation and collaboration between key stakeholders, with the student at the core, will certainly benefit more students. I am especially heartened that the parents here today have been integral to the success of the recipients. MOE has recently unveiled several initiatives that will better involve parents with schools, recognising that strong parent involvement can complement teachers’ efforts in helping students.
5. Supportive parents and family environments greatly benefit and complement students in their academic journey. We have seen this in many SINDA programmes as well, where parents have played very active roles in their children’s development. Our students are able to make great leaps and bounds, and achieve impossible things, when they know that their parents are right behind them, as a pillar of strength. Moving forward, SINDA hopes to engage parents even more to achieve our mission – which is to help each student to reach their maximum potential, regardless of their family background or circumstances.
6. Sometimes the circumstances are very unforgiving and one needs sheer grit and tenacity to overcome them. One such individual is Hitesh Ramchandani. Hitesh was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler and while children of his age ran around freely, he faced problems sitting upright and walking. But, he did not see these challenges as setbacks—something that perhaps many others with similar problems might have done.
7. Hitesh also had supportive parents who believed that he was capable of being a normal boy. Rather than catering to his special needs, they encouraged him to aspire to the same things that any normal child will aspire towards. Hitesh’s father even banned wheelchairs in the house, forcing him to learn to walk and strengthen his muscles! Hitesh’s parents were not only there at every step of his journey—more importantly, they never gave up on him.
8. With sheer determination and commitment, Hitesh learnt to walk and went on to represent Singapore in football at the 7th Asian Paralympic Games in Myanmar and the Incheon Asian Paralympics Games, both held last year. Early this year, Hitesh chronicled his life through a book “Better than Normal”. He shares, “the best way to send out a message is through a book, and I hope my story will inspire people to motivate themselves”.
9. There is a lot we can learn from this young man. He embodies the spirit of overcoming adversities and achieving the dreams that one aspires towards. Hitesh today receives the inaugural SEA Excellence Awards-Special Mention of Outstanding Achievements for his outstanding performance in the academics and sports, and for being an exceptional role model to all Singaporean youth. Just like Hitesh, I hope each and every one of you will go on to aspire and achieve, no matter what life tells you. Life is about living—so remember to experiment and experience. Do not let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do.
10. While we celebrate our achievements today, we at SINDA are also mindful of other pressing needs. Foremost of these is the issue of Indian students who continue to under-achieve in school. There is still a significant student population that continues to underperform and lag behind despite our improved overall performance. There can be many attributing factors to this, such as life priorities, negative peer influences, and unsupportive family environments. To counter these, SINDA has increased its interventions towards such students, with both motivation and confidence building programmes aimed at equipping them with the necessary skills sets and impetus to improve at school.
11. But all of these interventions will fail, unless such students develop the passion and desire to study well and succeed in life. Our youth need the push to become young leaders and fulfil their potential. It’s easy to feel aimless when you don’t have a concrete goal you’re working towards. Narrow in on what you’d like to accomplish in the near future. It does not matter what the goal is; the point is to get specific about exactly what you’d like to do and when you want to do it.
12. When you delay action, you make it harder to identify the things you’d enjoy doing. The only way to learn is to jump into something that sounds right and make adjustments as you go. Life is like a ship at sea—there will be calm moments as well as stormy ones; there will also be many other factors that determine a ship’s movement—but remember that you are the captains of your own life ships. No matter what the circumstances, no matter how turbulent the waters, you have the power to steer your own ship, set your own course and reach your desired destination.
13. For quite a number of you, today’s SINDA Excellence Awards has been the only SINDA touch point for you. SINDA runs over 70 programmes, with many education and youth-related activities for Indian students. I encourage you to come forward and join our programmes, especially those that are part of our SINDA Youth Club or SYC.
14. SYC’s programmes groom you, the high-achieving youth, to become confident, active and passionate contributors to the community—in short, they develop you to your fullest potential. Remember that you are the hope of our future. As you aspire and soar to great heights, we—parents, teachers, community leaders and SINDA—only wish to be able to support you the best we can.
15. On that note, my congratulations to all the award recipients on your stellar achievements, as well as my commendations to your family and friends who were your pillars of support. Your determination, attitude and spirit have brought you thus far and will continue to do so.
16. Thank you.