Pocket money fund to help post-secondary students as well

The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) announced on Monday that it will earmark up to $1.5 million to help needy students who move on to post-secondary institutions.

The expanded scheme was revealed at an annual briefing by the SPMF and the National Council of Social Service to disbursing agencies and social workers. The fund was previously for children in primary and secondary schools.

But feedback from social workers highlighted the need for continuing help when students begin their studies at the Institute of Technical Education, junior colleges and polytechnics, said SPMF chairman Han Fook Kwang.

These students continued to struggle to pay their transport fees and to buy food during breaks. Currently, SPMF beneficiaries receive $55 a month in primary school and $90 in secondary school.

A pilot phase with the earmarked amount of $1.5 million will be launched from Jan 1 next year. More than 1,250 eligible students in the three groups of post-secondary institutions will receive $120 a month to cover their basic needs.

The SPMF was launched in October 2000 as a community project initiated by The Straits Times to provide pocket money to children from low-income families to help them through school.

To date, the fund has raised $52 million, of which close to $40million has been disbursed in more than 94,000 cases over the past 12 years. The expanded scheme will begin with existing and past SPMF beneficiaries, or siblings of current beneficiaries who move on to post-secondary institutions and who require financial help.

Mr Han announced the expansion of the scheme at the briefing at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) auditorium in Toa Payoh.

"If more of those on the bottom half of the economic ladder are able to progress through education and move into these post-secondary institutions, I think the greater the chance that they will do better in the future for themselves and for their families," said Mr Han, who is the managing editor of SPH's English and Malay Newspapers Division.

Mr T. Thambyrajah, Nanyang Polytechnic's registrar, said the polytechnic was very grateful for the scheme as it allows students to "focus more on their studies without having to work, and in the process, use education as a means of uplifting their families".

At least $8.5 million a year will be needed to fund SPMF with the inclusion of the expanded scheme, said SPMF general manager Martina Wong.