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Singapore Government

Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, Second Minister for Health, at the Singapore University of Social Sciences Convocation on 6 October 2022

Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, Second Minister for Health, at the Singapore University of Social Sciences Convocation on 6 October 2022

Mr Stephen Lee, 
Chancellor of SUSS 

Mr Richard Eu, 
Pro-Chancellor of SUSS

SUSS Colleagues, 

Graduands 
from the S R Nathan School of Human Development,

Family members, 

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good morning.  
Thank you for inviting me to join you today. It is my privilege to celebrate this important milestone with each of you. To the 2022 Class – Congratulations!

2. Graduation is no easy feat, especially amidst COVID-19. You had to adapt to changes in learning arrangements, and had fewer opportunities to meet with your peers in person. For many of you here who are mid-career students, you faced added challenges of balancing work, family and studies.

3. You have all worked hard to get to where you are today. Your work, be it in social work, counselling, general studies, or education requires you to be stronger than your clients. If the crisis gave you the steel you need as you embark on your careers, you would have started with an advantage!

BUILDING A STRONG AND RESILIENT SOCIETY

4. Social service and education professionals are key to sustain a strong and resilient society. This was also made crystal clear during the pandemic.

5. Everyone saw how indispensable these roles were in the thick of COVID-19.  Social workers stepped up and defended the frontlines in our community, supporting clients when they were at their lowest and ensuring that their psycho-social and emotional needs were met. Medical social workers supported patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Educators went to great lengths to prepare lessons online, to nurture the next generation while keeping them safe. In the darkness of the pandemic, the Singapore spirit shone brightly.

6. Moving forward, as you enter the workforce, your contributions will become even more critical. Because Singapore is grappling with many existential challenges. Our society is ageing. By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be over 65 years old. Cases are becoming more complex and high-needs.  At the same time, we also need to press on to enable social mobility, because we must avoid becoming stratified and entrenched along class lines.

7. No Government can address these challenges alone. As graduands of social and education disciplines, you have the abilities and the passion to help shape society. DPM Lawrence Wong recently launched the Forward Singapore exercise, a collaborative exercise with Singaporeans to refresh and update our social compact – what we need to do together to shape Singapore for the better. Several engagements are being planned – I encourage you to actively participate in them to share your views.

COMMITMENT TO SERVE AMIDST CHALLENGES

8. All 284 of you present here today come from different backgrounds and experiences. But you all have a commitment to serve. 

In your work, you will meet individuals and families who need help over sustained periods of time. For our educators, the moulding of young minds is a long-drawn process. There will be times when progress seems slow. In such times, I encourage you to be steadfast in your commitment to serve others. 

a. Among you is Dr Amberyce Ang, today’s graduand speaker. After seeing her grandmother’s struggle with dementia, she pursued a PhD in gerontology to better serve the elderly, an important area given our ageing population. She completed her PhD studies, while raising three young children.  Amberyce now has 12 publications to her name, and has written storybooks to give our children a right perspective of seniors. Congratulations to you.

9. Through the ups and downs, remember that your effort is not wasted. You are sowing a seed. A seed may seem small, but it can grow into something larger. When you nurture strong families and resilient individuals – they are empowered to lead fulfilling lives and give back. Families are the pivot of our society. We must invest in families because strong families form the bedrock of our society. Studies show that stability in families is very important to a child’s development. Strong families support the nurturing of resilient individuals, enabling them to do well and teaching them to give back to society. When we strengthen families, we strengthen the very backbone of society. This is why we have dedicated 2022 as the Year of Celebrating SG Families.  So that we can re-ignite our society to dedicate itself to build strong families in Singapore. We will work with organisations and individuals like yourself to celebrate and better support families.

WORKING TOGETHER TO SUPPORT FAMILIES IN NEED

10. As our society develops and our economy matures, a key question that we are asking is: How can we uplift families in need and help them progress along the rest of society?

11. Many too are asking this question and want to help. As part of this refresh of our social compact, we are working with community partners to set up ComLink.  ComLink represents a paradigm shift in the way we deliver support, with a current focus on families with children living in public rental housing. Playing a coordinating role, the Government brings together partners in the community and pools together local-level resources at the backend. This includes government agencies – like HDB, schools and more – as well as social service agencies and community groups; alongside the support that they bring. The shift is instead of waiting for families to step forward when they need assistance, we proactively reach out to families to understand and fulfil their needs.

12. Social service and education professionals are key to building the ecosystem of support for children and families in need. Under ComLink, we have seen how professionals work closely together and find ways to complement one another’s strengths. MSF has also set up SG Cares Community Networks in every HDB town. They are for professionals such as counsellors, social workers and educators to come together, innovate, and coordinate efforts to better serve those in need. I have met families who are already feeling the benefits from ComLink even while we are scaling up and adjusting as we learn from its implementation.

13. Today is just the beginning of your journey, where you will join hands with many others to uplift those in need. Your fellow graduands here today will be a source of strength and support. I urge all of you to harness your collective strengths for greater impact. For those of you entering the social service sector, we welcome you to join the Social Service Tribe, a community of social service professionals who can walk with you as you embark on your career. The Tribe also offers dialogues with experienced social sector speakers and you can learn from their varied experiences and insights. 

CLOSING

14. In closing, I quote Sir Isaac Newton, “If we see further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. As you graduate today, express your gratitude to the people who have made today possible.  I would like you to thank your families for standing by and supporting you. I extend my thanks to everyone at SUSS for nurturing you.

15. In the next chapter of your lives, my wish is that all of you will live out the vision of the S R Nathan School of Human Development, “Transforming Lives, Serving Society.”

16. As you graduate and embark on this new season, continue pondering this question: “What role can you play in building strong families and resilient individuals?”

17. Once again, my heartiest congratulations to all graduands. I encourage all of you to go forth and make your mark. Thank you.

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