The Government has a slew of financial assistance programmes designed to help the needy.
I have some observations on measures targeted at schoolgoing children from poor families:
First, the yardstick on poverty differs across government agencies.
For example, to qualify for the Ministry of Education's (MOE) financial assistance scheme, one's gross household income must not exceed $2,500 per month, or per capita income must not exceed $625 per month.
But to qualify for the Infocomm Development Authority's NEU PC Plus Programme, which offers students from low-income households the opportunity to own a new computer at an affordable price, one's gross household income must not exceed $2,700 per month, or per capita income must not exceed $700 per month.
For consistency and assurance that no poor family will fall through the cracks, the Ministry of Social and Family Development should be the agency setting the qualifying criteria for all government bodies to follow.
Second, even with financial assistance under the NEU PC Plus Programme, needy families may find it hard to make the co-payment for essential IT purchases.
Children from such families should be allowed to utilise their Edusave funds to make the co-payment.
Third, the usage of Edusave is fairly restricted. But strangely, it can be used to cover the cost of enrichment programmes and overseas educational visits, yet it cannot be used for the purchase of textbooks and school attire by junior college students.
It would be timely to extend the coverage of the MOE's financial assistance scheme, or at least allow Edusave to be used to pay for costs related to education.
Tay Kian Tiong
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