Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam lauded former Nan Hua Primary School principal Fong Yuet Kwai for her self-reliance and never-say-die attitude in his Budget speech last Friday ("Ex-principal lauded for 'pioneering spirit'"; last Saturday).
It is rare for a finance minister to compliment an educator in such an important speech. In doing so, Mr Tharman aimed to remind Singaporeans not to forget the pioneers who have worked hard and sacrificed so much for our country over the past 49 years.
During an interview with Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao, Madam Fong said Singapore was "forced" to become a country. Her words truly reflect how difficult it was for Singapore to survive in the early years after independence.
Indeed, in his book One Man's View Of The World, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew wrote: "Will Singapore be around in 100 years? I am not so sure. America, China, Britain, Australia - these countries will be around in 100 years. But Singapore was never a nation until recently."
Many young Singaporeans may think our success was due to our good education system and efficient Government. But few are aware that we are still a city-state and our success is very much dependent on the confidence foreign investors have in us - a fragile belief that can be lost easily.
Singapore's future lies in the hands of our educators. They are the ones who shape our children's characters, like what Madam Fong has done over the years.
We should never forget the contributions of our pioneers. They are the cornerstone of our nation's success, and we can understand why Budget 2014 placed so much emphasis on them.
Tay Boon Suat
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