A record 499 students received the Anugerah Mendaki yesterday for their stellar academic performance. And this, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, shows the continuing progress of the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore.
The award, which was first given out in 1982 and includes a certificate of achievement and a cash prize, is presented to Muslim students who performed in the top 10 per cent of their national cohorts, including in the Primary School Leaving Examination and O levels.
Almost $322,000 in total was given to this year's crop of recipients.
Last year, the award was presented to 465 students.
"I am very proud of what the community has achieved," Dr Yaacob told reporters on the sidelines of the presentation ceremony at Singapore Polytechnic yesterday.
PROGRESS THROUGH HARD WORK
It shows that with a lot of hard work and seizing opportunities created by the Government, the community, like other communities, can progress in Singapore.
DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, on how the Malay/Muslim community has come far
"It shows that with a lot of hard work and seizing opportunities created by the Government, the community, like other communities, can progress in Singapore."
In his speech earlier, Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, called on award winners to complement their academic pursuit by equipping themselves with skills that would be relevant to their desired professions.
This could be done through internships, for instance.
"We must develop the skills and mastery needed to take our economy to the next level," he said.
He also lauded several award recipients as "inspiring examples".
Among them was Mr Muhammad Azhari Mohammad Zain, 25, who attained a Grade Point Average of 4.82 from a maximum of 5, which earned him a first-class honours in biological sciences from Nanyang Technological University.
"I hope this award can be a form of inspiration for not just me but also younger students to continue to work hard to achieve their dreams," Mr Muhammad Azhari said.
This year, three new award categories were introduced, including the Anugerah Mendaki at Madrasah PSLE Level.
Sukainah Sulaiman, 13, the first awardee in the Madrasah PSLE category, said: "This award makes me motivated to continue working hard and to attain success in chasing my dream to be a scientist. I hope to invent a machine to filter air to reduce haze."
Earlier in the day, 36 students were also presented with the Goh Chok Tong Youth Promise Award and the Special Achievement Award for Excellence for their non-academic achievements. One of them was polytechnic student Sulaiha Salim.
Born to disabled parents and bullied in school, she did not have an easy time growing up.
But not once did she feel disadvantaged. Instead she says her circumstances made her more resilient. "It taught me to persevere and to keep trying to bring out my best," said the 21-year-old.
She was awarded $10,000, which she will be using to fund her diploma in game design at Republic Polytechnic.
"I hope I will one day create my own computer game," she said.