Professor Leo Tan, Chairman of the National Youth Achievement Award Council
Mr Chua Chin Kiat, Director of Prisons
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very happy to be here with you today at Prison School's first National Youth Achievement Award's Special Bronze Award Presentation Ceremony. It is very heartening to note that, for the first time, 89 student-inmates will be receiving this award today.
The National Youth Achievement Award Scheme
2 The National Youth Achievement Award Scheme or NYAA was launched in 1992 by the President. The scheme is designed to encourage young people between the ages of 14 to 25 to develop personal traits of self-reliance and perseverance and to inculcate a sense of responsibility to themselves, society and the nation. The Prisons Department has made a positive move in offering inmates a valuable opportunity to be involved in this scheme. The scheme has helped to nurture and enhance the potential of our young inmates. This will help them to successfully re-integrate into society and become responsible citizens when they have served their terms in confinement. A Major Achievement of the Inmates
3 My heartiest congratulations to all award winners. Some of you are academically inclined. Others have a knack for technical skills. Whatever your inclinations, all of you have worked hard to attain this award. I warmly commend you for your perseverance and willingness to change for the better. Today's ceremony is a milestone in your rehabilitation journey. I am sure it will spur you on.
The Future is in your hands
4 The NYAA scheme opens a door of opportunity for self-improvement and self-discovery. Many of you would have discovered innate potential within yourselves --- abilities that you did not know you have, such as resourcefulness, the ability to overcome obstacles and to work with each other as a team. This, in fact, is the most important aspect of the NYAA experience --- the discovery of oneself.
5 This increased awareness of yourself and your abilities will empower you to set new challenges and strive for new heights. Regardless of where your talents or skills lie, there are openings and opportunities for those willing to turn over a new leaf. It is up to you to cherish and grasp these opportunities, to become useful members of society.
Singapore 21 - "Every Singaporean Matters"
6 The Prisons Department's adoption of the NYAA Scheme for inmates who are willing to change is in line with Singapore's vision for the twenty-first century - or in short - Singapore 21. The motto - "Every Singaporean Matters" means that ample opportunities exist for every Singaporean to succeed, regardless of his or her background.
7 I commend the Prisons Department for embracing this feature of the Singapore 21 vision in relation to young inmates under your charge. Since October last year, a number of Prisons Officers have been spending their own leisure time doing voluntary work in the prisons and drug rehabilitation centres. I understand that some are teaching part time in Prison School, others are doing counselling in the evenings, and a few are coaching inmates in games like table tennis and basketball. This shows the great desire and commitment on the part of Prisons Officers to help our inmates become responsible citizens. Your new vision - where prison officers can be captains who aspire to steer their charges back onto the right path and become responsible citizens - will contribute significantly towards realizing the Singapore 21 vision.
8 To all award recipients, you have done well in achieving this first target of the NYAA Scheme. Your next challenge is to continue this learning journey by attaining the next level, the Silver Award. Let me affirm you by reminding you that everyone of you has a role to play in contributing to Singapore's continued well-being. Put the past behind you. Tomorrow will present opportunities for a fresh start. Your involvement in the NYAA scheme underscores your desire to truly turn over a new leaf. Working with your Prison counsellors and encouraging each other positively, it can be done.
NYAA Council's Active Role
9 All of us in MHA thank the National Youth Achievement Award Council for playing an active role in the rehabilitation of inmates via the NYAA scheme. The introduction of the Award scheme to our young offenders will contribute towards nurturing and developing them physically, mentally and emotionally; thereby providing a balanced and enriching rehabilitation.
10 There are also a number of volunteers from the community who share our commitment towards the rehabilitation of the offenders and have been contributing their time and efforts to achieve these ends. I recognise some of you here today. Thank you for your co-labourship. But, I am sure you will agree with me that there is much more that can be done. I hope that more volunteers will step forward to offer their services. Others, including corporate entities, can provide opportunities to our inmates, just like what the National Youth Council is doing through this National Youth Achievement Award. I look forward to having more partners in our overall rehabilitative efforts to help ex-prisoners and recovering drug addicts who genuinely want to turn over a new leaf reintegrate into society.
11 Thank you.