SINGAPORE - The economic downturn wrought by the pandemic has not deterred businessman Mohamed Abdul Jaleel from pledging $500,000 to support students from needy Singaporean families.
Mr Jaleel, the founder and chief executive of Mini Environment Service Group, told The Straits Times: "Whether it's a good or bad time, education is an important area. Students' tuck shop money is equally important so I think they should not be left out of the privilege regardless what the economic situation is.
"I hope the students realise there are people who have helped them during the bad days and that they will one day in turn contribute back to society."
Mr Jaleel presented The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund with a $500,000 cheque on Wednesday (Dec 16), bringing the total amount donated by him since 2010 to $4.5 million.
The fund started on Children's Day on Oct 1, 2000 and has disbursed more than $80 million and helped around 180,000 students from families whose per capita gross monthly household income does not exceed $690.
Close to $11 million will be given out this year to about 10,000 beneficiaries - from primary school pupils to students in the Institute of Technical Education, junior colleges and polytechnics. The amount is higher than usual as this year has seen far larger outlays due to the pandemic.
For example, the fund rolled out a special $100 payout in October to help about 10,000 students cope during the downturn.
About 2,000 students have also been selected by schools and social service agencies for a $500 e-grant to buy products from Challenger or Harvey Norman to help them with home-based learning.
Fund chairman Warren Fernandez, who is also the editor of The Straits Times and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English, Malay, Tamil Media Group, said: "Given the economic situation and job cuts, we've seen a surge in the numbers of people coming to us. We try our best to help as many people as we possibly can, even dipping into our reserves.
"The great thing is, the more we've stepped up to help, the more donors came to us to contribute. That was reassuring to us that Singaporeans saw what we were doing was valuable and making a good contribution."