ST School Pocket Money Fund to provide $1 million worth of e-grants for home-based learning

Students can use the e-grant of $500 to purchase a range of products from Challenger, such as laptops, printers and audio devices. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - In joint celebration of The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund's (STSPMF) 20th anniversary as well as the newspaper's 175th anniversary this year, the STSPMF is partnering IT retailer Challenger to provide $1 million worth of e-grants to 2,000 students from low-income families.

The initiative is part of efforts to facilitate students' home-based learning.

Each student will receive an e-grant of $500, which they can use to purchase a range of products from Challenger, such as laptops, printers and audio devices.

A special microsite for STSPMF will be set up under - Challenger's online shopping arm - where the students will receive a free ValueClub student membership with the $500 e-grant pre-credited into the membership account.

The 2,000 students will be selected next month from schools and social service agencies disbursing the pocket money funds.

Monthly school pocket money will still be given out to students from lower-income families on top of the e-grant.

This includes $60 a month for primary school beneficiaries, $95 a month for secondary school beneficiaries, and $120 a month for post-secondary students in junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education.

The STSPMF has stepped up its fund-raising efforts to help its beneficiaries cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, two tranches of top-ups totalling $1 million will be given out on top of the usual school pocket money. The first tranche of additional $50 top-ups was given out to all beneficiaries in May and a second round of top-ups will be given out in July.

In May, the fund also pledged up to $2 million towards meal subsidies for students from low-income families during their school holidays, with the Ministry of Education dollar-matching the amount distributed.

Currently, underprivileged students are given the opportunity to own a brand new computer at an affordable price, as part of the Infocomm Media Development Authority's NEU PC Plus Programme.

Retired businessman Loh Kiong Poot donated $500,000 to the fund on Wednesday (June 24), making a donation of this size for the third consecutive year.

Palm oil giant Musim Mas said on Monday that it will be donating $1 million to the STSPMF under its Musim Mas Project Onward initiative, with a total of $5 million being donated to five local organisations.

Earlier in May, agribusiness group Wilmar International and its chairman and chief executive Kuok Khoon Hong said they will be donating a total of $7 million over three years.

Stock brokerage firm UOB-Kay Hian donated $600,000, while veteran banker Edmund Koh and his wife Wong Poh Choo donated $500,000 to the fund.

Mr Warren Fernandez, chairman of STSPMF and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group, said: "The pandemic has hit many families hard and more are seeking help, including from the ST School Pocket Money Fund.

"We are trying our best to do what we can and have stepped up efforts to raise funds to do so. We are also trying to help in other ways, such as by providing families in need with some resources, so that their children are able to keep up with home-based learning... (preventing them) from falling behind because of the crisis."

He added: "We are very grateful to the generous individuals and companies who have responded to our appeals and given readily. Even so, we will have to dip into our reserves to be able to provide more than $10 million, which will be needed this year.

But given these very difficult times, we think it is necessary to do so."

Since the STSPMF was set up in 2000, more than $70 million has been disbursed, helping over 170,000 children so far.

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