Kids with special needs chip in with ideas for Singapore's future

President Tony Tan Keng Yam chatting with students with special needs at the Home Tomorrow dome at The Future Of Us exhibition yesterday. The outing was part of an outreach programme that will benefit over 6,000 children with special needs.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam chatting with students with special needs at the Home Tomorrow dome at The Future Of Us exhibition yesterday. The outing was part of an outreach programme that will benefit over 6,000 children with special needs.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Invisible shields to defend the country, air-conditioned classrooms and an ostrich farm.

Around 150 children with special needs and their caregivers contributed their ideas for Singapore's future yesterday on a visit to The Future Of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay.

The youngsters, who are from 20 special needs schools and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), are part of an outreach programme which was launched by President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday.

The programme will benefit more than 6,000 children with special needs and their caregivers, who will be taken on organised visits to the exhibition until it ends on March 8.

"For us to have a successful future, it has to be for all Singaporeans. Nobody should be left behind," President Tan said. "A future Singapore has to be an inclusive Singapore. It has to cater for everyone - whatever be your needs, whatever be your aspirations."

The outreach programme is funded by Temasek Cares, a non-profit philanthropic arm of local investment company Temasek Holdings.

Temasek Cares will cover the cost of transportation to the venue, as well as souvenirs like T-shirts and caps for the children.

Mr Richard Magnus, chairman of Temasek Cares, said: "The kids were spontaneous and enthusiastic. They were writing things like 'I want to be a teacher like in Eden School', so they have already got a role model, or 'I want Singapore to be safe and clean'...

"These are some of the dreams that they have. They want to see this expressed within the future of Singapore."

Jordan Tan Tian Seng, 16, from Grace Orchard School was one of the students who toured the exhibition as part of the programme.

Jordan, who was there for the first time, listed his wishes for the future: "No. 1, to expand Singapore's land area because it is overcrowded. No. 2, invisible shields to protect Singapore from attacks. No. 3, air-conditioned classrooms because Singapore is very hot."

One child said she would like to see an ostrich farm as it was her favourite animal.

Jeslyn Sim, 15, from the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) Katong School, said: "I hope that Singapore will continue to be peaceful and a happy home for all."

On her personal aspirations, she said: "I want to be a teacher when I grow up because I can teach people and take care of them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2016, with the headline 'Kids with special needs chip in with ideas for S'pore's future'. Print Edition | Subscribe