Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the Natsteel-SPD Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony at SPD Ability Centre

Mr Winston Ngan, Vice President of SPD

Mr Melvin Choo, Executive Vice President, Regional Downstream and Export, Natsteel Holdings Pte Ltd

Distinguished Guests

Parents and Award Recipients

A very good morning to everyone. This is not my first visit to SPD but it is my first time attending the NatSteel-SPD Education Programme Awards Presentation Ceremony. I would like to thank SPD President, Ms Chia Yong Yong, for her kind invitation. My heartiest congratulations too, to all award recipients present today.

2. SPD was formed 53 years ago with a mission to promote inclusion within our society. I am heartened that over the years, SPD has not departed from this noble cause. Its conviction, professionalism and pioneering spirit placed it in good stead to provide rehabilitation facilities and services to people with disabilities. Today, SPD serves more than 5,500 individuals in Singapore through more than 20 programmes run by professionals and supported by the Government, private sector and individuals. SPD’s strong track record of providing holistic services has indeed made a difference to its beneficiaries.

3. I am also pleased to know that SPD aims to do more at the sector level to drive collaborations and cross pollination of ideas for resource efficiency and to generate better solutions for their beneficiaries. In my recent chat with Yong Yong, I was encouraged by SPD’s conviction in leading and rallying networking efforts across different types of community services, and rationalising services for persons with disabilities as a holistic and integrated ecosystem.

4. An important area where SPD is helping its beneficiaries is through education. I am glad that this morning, SPD will be giving out more than 100 bursaries to students of all levels, from primary schools to universities. Education is a social leveller. Bursaries like this will help lessen the financial hardships of families, make education more accessible to all children, and encourage them to strive for their dreams.

5. I would like to thank donors and partners who have made such programmes possible. Your generosity is life-changing and has a far reaching impact. In particular, I would like to applaud NatSteel, which has partnered SPD over the last decade on the NatSteel-SPD Education Programme. Because of NatSteel’s long-term commitment to the programme, our children and youth can live their dreams and cope better in their academic journey.

6. Take for example, this year’s SPD Youth Aspiration Award recipients, Mr Joshua Tseng Shi Hao, Mr Justin Kueh Jin Yan and Mr Shahrul Izwan Bin Shaiful Bahri. Despite their personal challenges, each of them is dedicated to giving back to the community and has strong passions in sports and arts. Even at their young ages, they are an inspiration and a role model to the rest of us. I am therefore happy that the bursary and SPD Youth Aspiration Awards have been expanded since 2016 to benefit more youths. The awards are now open to not only students with physical disabilities but also those with sensory disabilities.

7. Recent changes in national policies have also given a boost to the community. The Government has recently announced that with effect from the 2019 Primary 1 cohort, children with moderate to severe special needs will be included under the compulsory education framework. All children with special needs will have to attend a Government-funded school that best meets their learning needs, and complete their primary education. Along with this development, the role of voluntary welfare organisations, particularly organisations like SPD that provide early intervention support for young children, becomes even more critical. These VWOs are the very foundation that will help and support the children’s transition to mainstream or special schools.

8. The students here today will no doubt graduate and work towards entering the workforce someday. I urge companies to stay open-minded to employing candidates with disabilities. The NatSteel-SPD partnership is a great start in paving the way for such inclusive mind set and values.

9. The Steering Committee for the third Enabling Masterplan envisions Singapore to be a caring and inclusive society where persons with disabilities are empowered to achieve their fullest potential. As we work together towards this vision, I encourage more corporate companies to undertake socially responsible initiatives like NatSteel has done. Together we can build an inclusive Singapore, a place where we can root ourselves and truly call home.

10. Thank you.