Malayalees raise $500k for needy students

SINGAPORE'S Malayalee community, the second largest Indian ethnic community here, has raised $500,000 for bursaries at the National University of Singapore (NUS) to help needy students.

The idea to set up the bursaries was mooted last year. When the Singapore Malayalee Association (SMA), along with other Malayalee organisations, met to work on a plan to celebrate SG50, Ambassador-at-large and adviser to SMA Gopinath Pillai put forward the idea of doing something more substantial for SG50. The bursary idea was supported by all the organisations and a target of $500,000 was set. The president of SMA, Mr Jayakumar N., took it up in earnest, with his committee achieving the target. It included the matching grant from the Government.

The fund is expected to generate an annual interest of about $20,000 to provide financial support for tertiary education for four or five students annually. The beneficiaries will be Singaporeans and priority will be given to Indians.

Said Mr Jayakumar: "It is heartening to note that donations have come not only from the Malayalee community but also from others. Chinese, Tamils and Malays, all contributed to realising the target. And it is our belief that it will not only go a long way to help the needy children but also create a legacy and spur the Malayalee community to do more for the greater good of Singapore."

Mr Pillai, who had spearheaded the fund raising, said the last time such an effort was made was some 15 years ago when the Malayalee community set up an IT co-operative to provide low-cost computers to needy families. That was a major success. He added that small acts by a small community like the Malayalees can be significant to national goals.

Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Senior Minister of State for Defence Ong Ye Kung, who was the guest of honour for the occasion, in his speech recalled that one of the inspirational speeches of Mr Lee Kuan Yew was delivered at the Sree Narayana Mission at a bursary function in 1965.

He quoted the late Mr Lee as having said at that function: "Never fear, Singapore will become a metropolis, never fear." He added that what was significant about the speech was not only the words "never fear" but the fact that Singapore is a multiracial country. The money raised by Narayana Mission then was given to a multiracial set of students.

At the function, an appreciation of the initiative by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, president of NUS, was read out by Professor Bernard Tan, vice- provost (undergraduate education), NUS.

Mr Jayakumar added proudly to resounding applause that SMA, which plans to celebrate its centenary next year, will now target to raise the bursary to $1 million.

Get a copy of tabla! for more stories.