Educational charity widening its reach

LBKM immediate past president Wan Hussin Zoohri (second from left) receiving a portrait of himself from PM Lee in recognition of his services. With them are current president Suhaimi (far left) andDr Yaacob.
LBKM immediate past president Wan Hussin Zoohri (second from left) receiving a portrait of himself from PM Lee in recognition of his services. With them are current president Suhaimi (far left) andDr Yaacob.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Fewer students seeking aid, so Malay-Muslim group to also help parents, working adults

Last year, an established Malay- Muslim charity found it had fewer beneficiaries to use its bursary funds. The Prophet Muhammad's Birthday Memorial Scholarship Fund (LBKM) gave out 1,412 bursaries amounting to $1.6 million last year - 280 fewer and about $300,000 less than in 2014.

But the reason for the drop is a happy one - there are many funds that students can tap today, said its president, Mr Suhaimi Salleh, 61.

The situation is a far cry from when community leaders started the group 50 years ago. "The fund was born out of an awareness that there were only a handful of Malay graduates at the time. Poverty and a lack of resources were the main reasons many did not pursue further studies," he said.

As more scholarships are available, the fund's board decided it had to evolve to stay relevant. It plans to open its coffers and provide the parents of recipients and other working adults top-ups to their SkillsFuture credit.

"We hope to see a culture where everyone in the family, regardless of age, is driven by the same passion to pursue learning and education till their last breath," said Mr Suhaimi at the fund's 50th anniversary celebration dinner at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel last night.

The board is also considering extending bursaries and scholarships to more part-time and overseas students, and raising the quantums.

Currently, bursary recipients get $300 to $3,000, based on their level of study - from primary to university - and field of study. Undergraduate and postgraduate scholarship recipients get $10,000 to $15,000.

Over 800 people were at the dinner, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and ministers Yaacob Ibrahim and Masagos Zulkifli.

PM Lee said he was heartened to see many from the Malay-Muslim community, as well as Singaporeans from other races, making significant donations to the fund. LBKM has given over 25,000 awards worth more than $20 million to some 15,000 students since 1965.

"We all have to work together to care for one another and to strengthen the support for one another in our multiracial and multi-religious society," he said.

"From time to time, there will be threats to our cohesion and unity. But if we work together and understand one another and trust one another... we'll be able to hold on together as one united people."

The dinner also saw the launch of a commemorative book, A Journey Of Giving: The LBKM Story, written by former scholarship recipient Hidayah Amin, 43.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Educational charity widening its reach'. Print Edition | Subscribe