Education is also a key enabler of social mobility. We cannot guarantee equality of outcome, but we seek to provide equal opportunity for every student. We thus…ensure that no child is deprived of educational opportunities because of their ﬁnancial situation… – Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, on “Education for Competitiveness and Growth”
These words echo loud within the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC where many young people have been benefiting from its Community Scholarship programme.
One student is 18-year-old Ms Ong Boon Cheng from Toa Payoh East, who is pursuing a Diploma in Accountancy at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Now in the first year of a three-year course, Ms Ong was pleasantly surprised when she was successful in her application. The former Cedar Girls’ Secondary School student had spent almost a year at a junior college before she opted out because of many challenges at home which distracted her. Then last year her dad passed away. Her mother, a secretary, had to shoulder the burden of raising the family.
Ms Ong went on to complete the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry diploma in computerised accounting and business studies. But she knew she has to do more than that if she was to achieve her dream to pursue a career in the accounting profession.
“I applied for the scholarship and I felt so relieved when I got it. I realised that there are people out there who care for me and my family. The scholarship lightened the financial burden and made it possible for me to pursue my studies, ” said Miss Ong who has since stopped giving private tuition so as to devote more time to her studies. She has an elder brother, who is now working, and a younger sister who is still studying.
Today, Ms Ong has learnt to put the past behind her and to look forward. She offers her time as a volunteer with the Toa Payoh East Youth Executive Committee (YEC) putting in some 10 hours a month on average to help other youths.
“l have gone through a difficult phase in life and I can feel for others who face such circumstances, ” she added. “We organise activities to engage the youths, giving out subsidized tickets to Adventure Cove Waterpark, The Escape Artist. We also bring under privileged children for cable car rides, River Safari, Sea Aquarium etc. ”
Ms Ong takes charge of one of the three groups – the Programme Group in YEC; the other two groups take charge of Engagement and Publicity.
” It is quite hectic coping with my studies but I am encouraged by my friends and family. I really enjoy my subject and so that helps.”
As a former brownie and a Girl Guide in her school days, she is used to interacting with people. Currently she is also giving service in the polytechnic’s BP-NP Mentoring Club which was founded in 1996 to aid academically weak students in primary and secondary schools. She also serves in Ngee Ann Rotaract Club.
“I am currently embarking on a project called “tabs” to make prosthetic legs for the needy in Singapore with the help of the Prostheses Foundation in Thailand, ” she said.
Ms Ong finds volunteering self-fulfilling. It helps her improve her interpersonal skills and how to be a team player. “It’s a way to give back to society. ”
– This article first appeared in a Town Council newsletter.
Image from Pixabay.