PM Lee thanks international community for contributions to the country

A video clip of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech being screened at an event marking the United World College of South East Asia's 50th anniversary. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore's international community has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Singaporeans through the difficult days of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

And for the international community, the pandemic has been particularly tough due to travel restrictions and separation from their families, he added.

Amid these stresses, economic uncertainties, too, have heightened anxieties between locals and foreigners.

PM Lee was speaking in a video clip recorded earlier and screened at an event marking the 50th anniversary of the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) - one of Singapore's first international schools.

The college, which has 5,600 students from over 100 nationalities split over two campuses in Dover and Tampines, was opened by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew on Dec 15, 1971, as the Singapore International School.

On Thursday, PM Lee thanked Singapore's international community for their contributions to the country's economy and society, and added that they continue to be welcome and valued here.

He said: "UWC's success is intertwined with Singapore's development and progress. Throughout this journey, the college has made valuable contributions to the wider community, especially through your vibrant service programmes."

The college marked the occasion with a ceremony at its Dover campus, where it unveiled a book titled 50 Years United: The Story Of UWCSEA In Singapore, written by the former head of the UWCSEA Tampines campus Graham Silverthorne.

The book captures some of the programmes at the college and the stories and memories of its staff and alumni, some of whom were in the audience at the event.

The college president - former British diplomat Carma Elliot - in an address at the event she said the opening of UWCSEA in Singapore turned the school into a global movement.

She said: "Our mission is as urgent now as it has ever been, for education as a force for peace and sustainable futures."

She told The Straits Times that one of the school's goals is to promote and foster internationalism and understanding between nations.

The UWC school system was founded in 1962 by German educator Kurt Hahn with the establishment of Atlantic College in Wales and now comprises 18 schools across the world, in countries such as Costa Rica, Japan and Thailand.

A few of the staff at the event have been there since the early days of the school.

One of them was Mrs Susi Teo, 72, who joined the college in 1973 two years after it was established and worked there teaching Asian languages until 2006. She even met her husband at the school.

Mrs Susi Teo, a former teacher at UWCSEA, with a copy of the book commemorating the school's 50th anniversary. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

She told The Straits Times that she has seen the college transform from a small school into two large and well-resourced campuses, but the most important thing to her is the culture that she and other teachers have helped to build.

Mrs Teo said: "We wanted to instil a deep rather than superficial understanding of Asia and Asian cultures, and this culture of understanding others underpins the rest of what the school does, be it in service learning or sustainability."

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