Published: 29 April 2023
Mr Terrence Goh, Deputy Commissioner of Prisons and Chairman of the Yellow Ribbon Fund STAR Bursary Committee,
Yellow Ribbon Fund committee members,
Donors and funders,
Colleagues and friends,
And most importantly, our students and your family members.
1. Today we have many inspiring people among us. I am very happy to be able to join you this morning.
2. It is a pleasure to be here today to witness and celebrate the achievements of the graduates who benefited from the Yellow Ribbon Fund Skills Training Assistance to Restart Bursary (YRF STAR Bursary).
Helping Ex-Offenders to Reintegrate and Rehabilitate Through Education
3. The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) and Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) have been working very hard to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates and ex-offenders, so that they do not fall back into crime.
(a) The two-year recidivism rate has more than halved in the last two decades, from 44% in 1998, to 20.4% for the 2020 cohort. So, the rate has gone down significantly, and we want to do more.
4. If you look at the factors that affect the rehabilitation and reintegration journey, one of the key elements is education. Education is a key driving force for rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates and ex-offenders.
5. It is a social leveller which enhances the ability of inmates and ex-offenders to realise their aspirations, and to open new pathways for them to secure a better and brighter future for themselves, and their families. They feel happy that they have support from SPS as well as the community.
6. For inmates, the pursuit of higher education enables them to spend their time in prison purposefully, acquiring discipline and focus, as they build a different pathway in life.
YRF STAR Bursary
7. Launched in 2010, the YRF STAR Bursary has transformed many individuals as it enabled them to fulfil their academic pursuits, and enhanced their employability which benefitted the overall well-being of their families.
8. The Bursary provides financial assistance to support inmates and ex-offenders from low-income families who wish to pursue Nitec, Higher Nitec, Diploma, and Degree courses.
9. With this support, the students can focus on their academics without worrying about their course fees, and for some, their families’ other living expenses.
10. To date, some $2.7 million has been disbursed to more than 240 beneficiaries. One such beneficiary is Munir:
(a) Munir had multiple incarcerations starting in 2012, and was last released in 2017. While in prison, he completed his ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels.
(b) Determined to be a good husband, father, and son, Munir furthered his studies at the Singapore University of Social Sciences in 2018 with the support of the YRF STAR Bursary.
(c) For four years, Munir worked hard to complete his Bachelor of Science in Human Factors in Safety, while also working as a Safety Coordinator.
(d) He has since been promoted to a Site Manager by the same employer.
(e) Munir shared that his family was his greatest motivation to upgrade himself. Without the financial assistance from the YRF STAR Bursary, he would not have been able to kickstart his career and provide for his family.
Expanding YRF STAR Bursary to Support Skills-Based Qualifications
11. YRF recognises the importance of making education and upskilling opportunities accessible to ex-offenders.
12. At the same time, we also acknowledge that different pathways are necessary to suit individuals with various strengths and interests.
13. This is why we will be expanding the YRF STAR Bursary to support skills-based qualifications.
14. This is in line with the wider national upskilling movement and will help to encourage our ex-offenders to further their skills training.
Appreciation for Partners of the YRF STAR Bursary
15. Our corporate and community partners play an equally important role in supporting SPS’s and YRSG’s work.
16. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the immense contribution of our funders, such as the Singapore Academy of Law, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Association, and the Singapore Teochew Foundation, just to name a few.
17. In addition, Mr Nigel Nolan, Mr Sam Chia, and Mr Terence Chiew have very kindly provided our students career coaching on a pro-bono basis, often working in close partnership with case managers from Care Community Services Society and Fei Yue Community Services.
18. Thank you for your generous contributions to the programme, without which, our students would not be where they are today.
19. Your acts of kindness will also encourage others to come forward to support this meaningful initiative and make Singapore a more inclusive society.
20. I sincerely thank the community and our partners. Because of your support, as well as SPS and YRSG’s constant improvements, all of these come together to provide a conducive environment and setting for our friends to make improvements in their lives. We want to strengthen this and continue this journey, so that we can give them more support. With the expanding of the YRF STAR Bursary to support skills-based qualifications, I think we are moving in the right direction, and we want to help more friends and their families, so that they can have better lives ahead, and have a good start after being incarcerated. I am very grateful for this strong community network of families, case workers, and funders. Thank you for supporting the rehabilitation and reintegration journey of the students, and for helping them realise their dreams.
21. To the students, please remember that there are many of us walking with you on this journey. You have to work hard, but we are also here to support you.
22. This is just the start of your journey. I want you to continue to pursue your dreams, and know that you can achieve great things as long as you put your heart into it. I wish you all the best and my sincere thanks to all of you who are making this possible.
23. Thank you very much.