SINGAPORE - Security supervisor Subramaniam Ramasamy could buy only half the textbooks his three daughters needed to start the school year as he could not afford all of them at one go.
"I'd buy half first and the other half later. I'd buy the important ones first," said Mr Subramaniam, 54, who is the family's sole breadwinner.
This year, he was able to buy all their textbooks after receiving cash prizes from the Association of Certified Security Agencies (Acsa).
His daughters, aged 11, 15 and 19, were among 40 children of low-wage security officers who received cash ranging from $250 to $600 on Tuesday (Jan 4) as part of the inaugural Acsa educational awards. They also received a bag of notebooks.
Minister of State for Home Affairs and Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan presented the awards to the recipients at a ceremony held at the Civil Service Club @ Tessensohn.
Acsa members, the employers of the award recipients' parents, raised $54,700 for the awards.
Some 140 security firms are currently Acsa members. They hire about 35,000 security officers - nearly 65 per cent of the security workforce in Singapore.
Mr Subramaniam, who has been in the security industry for about 15 years, said expenses for his children have been rising, and he struggles to keep up with the costs on his monthly pay of around $3,000.
"For one child, it's about $400 for school uniforms, textbooks, miscellaneous items each year. But my increment is minimal each year, about $30 to $40. It's a struggle," he said.
His eldest daughter, Ms Kayethri Ramasamy, said she will spend the $450 cash prize on school materials and give the rest to her parents.
She is pursuing a higher Nitec in architectural technology at the Institute of Technical Education.
Another parent, Mr Mohamed Ismail Rahman, 38, said he applied for the award for his seven-year-old daughter when he heard about it in November.
The security supervisor said he has been facing financial problems as he has to support four children and pay for his father's chemotherapy.
"We try to save as much as we can and buy only what we need. When our kids want toys, sometimes we don't get to buy for them," he said.
He plans to buy assessment books with the cash prize awarded to his daughter, Safiyyah Izzraina, a Primary 2 pupil at Lakeside Primary School.
At the ceremony, Acsa educational awards committee chairman Robert Wiener said it will continue to review the categories and types of awards "based on our understanding of their (staff) needs".
"At Acsa, we are fully committed to provide a platform to continuously improve the quality of life of our officers and their families," he added.
ACSA president John Vijayan said the award aims to improve the quality of life of security officers and their children.
"Some of them may not be able to support their children's educational pursuits, or provide them with laptops or sufficient pocket money. The educational awards supplement the Government's support schemes," he said.