Monday, 28 January 2013

VWOs speak up at S'pore dialogue

Teachers, students and parents also share views at Our SG Conversation
By Derrick Ho & Lim Yi Han, The Sunday Times, 27 Jan 2013

Volunteers, school teachers, students and parents had their turn at two separate sessions in Our Singapore Conversation yesterday.

Singapore's social welfare system and volunteerism were among the key issues raised by 45 volunteers, teachers and district councillors at the session held by the North East Community Development Council.

Participants from volunteer welfare organisations (VWOs) expressed the need for increased funding for their programmes. They also proposed that the Government increase tax rebates for companies to encourage more to give back to society.

Mr Samuel Koh, 56, executive director of Christian Outreach to the Handicapped, said the session was helpful as there is a "lack of attention" given to the VWO sector. He said the Government should provide more financial and infrastructure support to help set up social service centres.

Responding to the call for more funding, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Teo Ser Luck, who is also Mayor for North East District, said that some VWOs should be given funding to help them expand and carry out their programmes.

Teachers, on the other hand, suggested that secondary school education be made compulsory to prevent at-risk youth from straying. Currently, education is compulsory up to Primary 6.

At another session, a group of about 150 junior college students and their parents took a stab at what they would like to see in Singapore in 2030.

They were split into 10 groups and discussed the issues that youth may face in the future.

The dialogue at Whitley Secondary School in Bishan was held in conjunction with the Bishan North Edusave awards presentation.

Many participants said that youth in the future will benefit as Singapore becomes more technologically advanced and globalised.

However, some argued that stress levels will increase as people compete to keep up with the country's high standards of living.

In discussing their ideal Singapore, participants called for greener and less crowded living spaces.

There were also calls for a more compassionate society, especially for the elderly and the poor. Others also raised the issue of personal responsibility, particularly on social media.

"I'm not okay with how people react on social media. In Singapore we have a tendency to complain... it makes us an ugly people," said 19-year-old student Yustynn Panicker, from Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

Minister of State for Transport and Finance and MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, Mrs Josephine Teo, who led the discussions, said: "If you want a Singapore that is kinder and gentler, let's go make it... It's up to us to make it happen."

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