ST journalist with passion for labour issues wins scholarship

This year's Chevening Scholarship recipients (from left) Ms Sathyavani Sathisan, 32; Ms Karen Chin Ai Ying, 41; and Mr Aw Cheng Wei, 27, at a ceremony in Eden Hall yesterday. The bond-free scholarships are awarded to emerging leaders in their field f
This year's Chevening Scholarship recipients (from left) Ms Sathyavani Sathisan, 32; Ms Karen Chin Ai Ying, 41; and Mr Aw Cheng Wei, 27, at a ceremony in Eden Hall yesterday. The bond-free scholarships are awarded to emerging leaders in their field for a one-year postgraduate course at a British university.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A harrowing experience in South Africa while interning at a newspaper three years ago made Mr Aw Cheng Wei determined to write about the labour rights of marginalised communities.

Then a student at Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, he was covering a street demonstration for a newspaper in South Africa when things turned violent.

Protesters, believed to be farm workers demanding higher wages, attacked his car with sticks and rocks, and tried to grab him and his colleague when they got out of the car.

Far from becoming discouraged, it made Mr Aw see how "how terrible things can be" if labour relations are not handled well. It then got him writing about labour issues.

"As a journalist with The Straits Times, I wanted to keep finding new ways to tell the stories of foreign workers here... It's important to keep their welfare on the national agenda," said Mr Aw, 27, who has won Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) awards for his work on foreign workers.

Yesterday, he and two others received the Chevening Scholarship from Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office at a ceremony in Eden Hall, the residence of the British High Commissioner in Singapore.

Mr Aw, who is also an SPH Journalism scholarship recipient, will pursue a Master of Public Policy at the University of Oxford.

SPH deputy chief executive Patrick Daniel, in an address at the ceremony, said: "He is a great example of the fact that Singapore has managed to achieve many pathways to success... He's a fine journalist and he's had a great career with us." Mr Aw studied at Ngee Ann Polytechnic before going to NTU.

Ms Karen Chin Ai Ying, 41, an assistant director for education and community outreach at the National Heritage Board, also received the Chevening Scholarship yesterday. She will pursue a Master of Arts in Museum Studies at University College, London.

Another recipient, Ms Sathyavani Sathisan, 32, an international legal adviser on Burma for the International Commission of Jurists, will read international law at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

There were originally only two awardees this year, but an anonymous donation from a former scholar made a third award possible.

The bond-free scholarships are awarded to emerging leaders in their field for a one-year postgraduate course at a British university.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'ST journalist with passion for labour issues wins scholarship'. Print Edition | Subscribe