SINGAPORE - In the hope of continuing to attract the best young sports talents, the Singapore Sports School (SSP) has launched the EW Barker Scholarship on Wednesday (Feb 13).
Announced by guest of honour Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the SSP's 15th Anniversary Celebrations Cum Awards Night, the EW Barker Scholarship will be awarded to as many as 24 student-athletes who have exemplary conduct, outstanding sport results and potential to become high-performing athletes.
The provision is for up to five student-athletes per secondary school level and up to two per International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) level.
DPM Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, said: "As most of you would know, Eddie Barker was one of our pioneer leaders, who served as Minister from 1964 to 1988.
"What was not as widely known is that he had a lifelong passion for sports, and competed in various sports in his younger days, including cricket, hockey and badminton.
"He was the champion for sports in Cabinet for many years - nurturing our sporting culture and driving the building of the former National Stadium which came in time for Singapore's hosting of the SEA Games in 1973 (then known as the South-east Asian Peninsular, or Seap Games).
"Our late President Mr S R Nathan said of him, 'In whatever he did, he always reflected the true spirit of sportsmanship', and 'best exemplified the virtuous qualities that sports can add to a person and to a nation - competitiveness, discipline, sense of fair play, passion, and a spirit of camaraderie'.
"I look forward to the recipients of the scholarship being inspired by the life of Eddie Barker, to develop yourself to the fullest, and do your best for Singapore."
The EW Barker Scholarship stems from the $35 million EW Barker Endowment supported by Temasek Foundation Nurtures since 2011.
The Endowment aims to enhance knowledge and deepen skills in education and training, with a focus on youth and sports, and is also a tribute to the late Mr Barker, a former law minister who was one of Singapore's pioneer leaders.
He was also a talented sportsman and an ardent supporter of local sports, having helmed the Singapore National Olympic Council from 1970 to 1990.
While the quantum was not disclosed, Temasek Foundation Nurtures will provide full subsidy of school fees over the EW Barker Scholarship tenure of up to two years. EW Barker Scholars are expected to contribute back to society by planning and performing community service work.
The SSP has identified 18 prospective recipients for the scholarship.
These include Raeka Ee, a national Under-17 netballer who is survivor of the 2015 Mount Kinabalu Earthquake that saw several of her Tanjong Katong Primary schoolmates die in the calamity.
The 16-year-old said: "Mr Barker was instrumental in the development of Singapore sports, like motioning the construction of the first National Stadium and constantly raising the standards for Singapore sports. Without his contributions, the Singapore sports scene may not be as developed or well-known as it is today.
"To even be a prospect of this scholarship makes me feel very honoured as it is one of high prestige, and it pushes me to want to do better on and off the netball court.
"To me, it's not about how long the scholarship lasts, because to be associated with this great man is already very invaluable. I appreciate the possibility of reaping the benefits of the scholarship in sport and academically."
Another prospective scholar, IBDP Year 5 student and national shooter Shirlene Hew, 16, added: "I am honoured to be considered for the EW Barker Scholarship and to be associated with this great sportsman and statesman.
"Knowing that Mr Barker excelled in both his sports and studies and contributed a great deal to what Singapore is today, I am even more motivated each day to achieve my targets.
"Although I did not manage to qualify for the Youth Olympics Games last year, I continued to work hard and made it to the Asian Games. It was a great experience, but now I am aiming for the SEA Games this year and in 2021, as well as the 2022 Commonwealth and Asian Games.
"In giving back to society, I will be volunteering at a local soup kitchen whenever I can. The Sports School provides us with our meals whenever we need them, therefore I feel that we should not take for granted what others may not have."
DPM Tharman also presented sport achievement awards to alumni who continue to win medals for Singapore, and launched a commemorative book titled The Champion's Way.
Alumni receiving the Outstanding Sports Achievement Award (Alumni) include silat world champions Sheik Farhan and Sheik Ferdous Sheik Alau'ddin, Iqbal Abdul Rahman and Nurul Shafiqah Saiful, Asian Games gold medallist sailor Cecilia Low, and Commonwealth Games double gold medallist shooter Martina Veloso.