When 13-year-old Jagjeet Singh’s father died, it was a difficult time for his family. But it also spurred the Dunearn Secondary School student to work harder in school so he could one day be able to support his mother, who runs a provision shop.

No matter the emotional toll his dad’s passing had on his life, the quiet boy, the youngest of three siblings, was determined to do better in school to make his father proud.

Jagjeet, who enrolled in the Singapore Indian Development Association’s (Sinda) tuition programme when he was in Primary 4, registered a marked improvement in his grades for English, mathematics and science subjects at PSLE, and now harbour dreams of becoming an engineer one day.

On Saturday (Aug 25), he was one of the best overall award recipients at the 15th Joint Tuition Awards Ceremony, a prize presentation event organised by The Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), the Eurasian Association, Sinda and Yayasan Mendaki. They are collectively known as the Self-Help Groups (SHGs).

A total of 517 students were lauded at the event, which recognises the scholastic achievements of students at the PSLE, GCE N and O-level examinations.

Some of the awardees were beneficiaries of the SHGs’ Collaborative Tuition Programme, which gives students from low income families of different races access to affordable tuition islandwide.

The number of tuition centres under this programme has grown from 11 when it was launched in 2002 to 97 today.

A total of $66,050 in book vouchers were presented by the guest of honour, Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), in the ceremony on Saturday at Singapore Polytechnic.

Mr Toh Jing Jie, a Year 1 student at ITE College East and award recipient, also had his parents at the back of his mind when he realised at Secondary 2 that he had to improve his grades if he wanted to be able to provide for his family one day.

His father is unable to work due to health problems and his mother is a cleaner and is the sole breadwinner of the family.

The only child scored three Grade 1’s and two Grade 2’s during his N(A)-Level Exam last year.

Currently pursuing a Higher NITEC in Chemical Technology at ITE College East, he hopes to make a career in the field of material or environmental science.

Referring to the award, he said: “I didn’t really expect this so I was very excited to hear that I was the most improved student. My advice to other students would be to pay attention in class, ask questions and always revise your work. The most important thing is to just do your best.”

Before presenting the awards, Mr Ng praised the recipients.

He said: “This is a celebration of our young and promising minds. Most importantly, it is a platform for us to come together as Singaporeans to honour and motivate our talents on the path to success.”

He also praised the work done by the SHGs particularly their specifically curated programmes which are designed around the needs of different communities.

He highlighted Vibrance @ Yishun as an example of a successful collaboration – a joint centre that was launched on Aug 5 by heads of the SHGs to offer their programmes for those living in the vicinity.

The new centre, which is located at the previous premises of CDAC@Yishun, is the first such collaboration between the SHGs and is equipped with five classrooms with seating for 14 to 20 people, a computer laboratory for 12 people, a mini library, an Internet surfing corner and a self-study area.

It will offer educational programmes as well as workshops and multicultural events for both students and parents.

“This new centre allows all four self-help groups to bring together their different expertise in education and enrichment programmes, as well as provide full spectrum of services such as social assistance schemes and SkillsFuture courses that can benefit people of all ages in the community,” said Sinda acting chief executive Anbarasu Rajendran.

“Collaborating is our way of eliminating red tape and ensuring that Singaporeans can attend all programmes, no matter their ethnicity or financial constraints,” he added.

(Article&picture from The Straits Times)