ST School Pocket Money Fund helps record number of needy students

At The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund Appreciation Day yesterday were (foreground, from left) ST editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang, donor Mohamed Abdul Jaleel and ST editor Warren Fernandez. Mr Han will be stepping down as the fund's chairman, w
At The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund Appreciation Day yesterday were (foreground, from left) ST editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang, donor Mohamed Abdul Jaleel and ST editor Warren Fernandez. Mr Han will be stepping down as the fund's chairman, with Mr Fernandez taking over on Oct 19.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

$7m in pocket money given to 13,911 of them last year; fund on course to aid 14,100 this year

A record 13,911 students from low-income families received help from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) last year.

The amount disbursed last year totalled $7 million and, if projections are correct, this year could see $7.9 million go to 14,100 needy students, said SPMF chairman Han Fook Kwang.

At its Appreciation Day celebration yesterday, Mr Han, ST's editor-at-large, recounted how the fund started in 2000 with readers' donations after The Straits Times wrote about families with difficulty coming up with pocket money for their children.

HELPING STUDENTS DO BETTER

There are no other bells and whistles; we have no academic or other criteria. The idea we believe in is a simple one: Remove some of the financial stress these students face and they can better focus on schoolwork and do better.

MR HAN FOOK KWANG, SPMF's outgoing chairman, about the fund's basic eligibility criteria. Pocket money is given to students who come from families with not more than $560 in monthly gross household per capita income.

The fund works with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), which disburses the money through its network of family service centres and voluntary welfare organisations. It is a "prime example of public, private and people partnership", said NCSS chief executive Sim Gim Guan.

Pocket money is given to students whose families meet the eligibility criteria of not more than $560 in monthly gross household per capita income. Said Mr Han: "There are no other bells and whistles; we have no academic or other criteria. The idea we believe in is a simple one: Remove some of the financial stress these students face and they can better focus on schoolwork and do better."

Yesterday, the fund also received a special $550,000 donation from founder and CEO of Mini Environment Service Group Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, who had donated $500,000 a year, in 2013 and last year. He has given $1.8 million to the fund since 2010. He gave an extra $50,000 this year to mark Singapore's 50th birthday.

His donation was made during the celebration at Singapore Press Holdings News Centre yesterday. About 160 people from NCSS, the Ministry of Social and Family Development, disbursing agents as well as donors and partners were in attendance.

Mr Han also announced that he will be stepping down as SPMF chairman and that ST editor Warren Fernandez, who is also a trustee of the fund, will take over the position on Oct 19.

Mr Fernandez said that the fund would stay focused on the mission it set itself from day one - helping children who go to school with no money in their pockets, even as it builds on what has been achieved so far.

"One thing I can assure you is that we will continue to build on this... and we will ensure that the fund remains sound and robust so that we can deliver the help that is needed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'ST fund helps record number of needy students'. Print Edition | Subscribe