About SIET

Singapore Indian Education Trust is an organisation dedicated to helping needy and deserving Singapore Indians advance in their education, by giving them financial assistance, when required.

Established in 1967, we are an approved non-profit community based charitable organisation.

History

The days immediately after Singapore separated from Malaysia in August 1965 were times of scary economic uncertainty. With the abrupt truncation from the Malaysian hinterland, and the formal announcement that the British military basing in Singapore would be terminated in 1971, most political and economic commentators offered scant hope for Singapore’s independent survival.

The Indian community in Singapore, because of its small size and its high dependence on the British bases for both white-collar jobs and unskilled labour was, unfortunately, in pole position to bear the brunt of this development.

The Founder Members

Mr. Govindasamy Kandasamy

One of the leaders of the Indian community who saw beyond the looming economic crisis to the potential social and political consequences to the community as a whole, and took the initiative to act on it was Mr. Govindasamy Kandasamy or G. Kandasamy as he was better known. Mr. Kandasamy was a prominent Trade Unionist and for a period was also active in politics. He realised that if poorer Indian families believed that secondary and post-secondary education were only a pipe dream, many would opt to take their children out of school early and use them to supplement the family income, or in the case of girls, to help with family chores.

Over July and August 1966, Mr. Kandasamy and a colleague, Mr. T. Selvaganapathy, contacted other prominent Indians by telephone to explore the viability of setting up a scholarship fund “to provide financial assistance to deserving Singaporeans of Indian parentage so that they can equip themselves with the necessary skills and qualifications to participate in the industrialisation of our country”. A meeting was duly arranged among 12 positive respondents at the Singapore Indian Association on Tuesday 30th August 1966. Those present, including Mr P. Govindasamy, MP, Mr. K. R. Chandra, later Permanent Secretary, and Mr. M. Bala Subramanion, Director of Postal Services, agreed in principle to setting up the scholarship fund to be tentatively called the Indian Scholarship Trust Fund. They appointed themselves the Pro-tem Committee which would remain in office until the Trust was registered. Mr Kandasamy was elected Chairman, Mr. S. G. Advani, and a lawyer with firm of S. K. Lee, Advocate & Solicitor, the Secretary, and Mr. K. Gopalakrishnan, a teacher, the Assistant Secretary.

The Inauguration of SIET

While the pedantic details of setting up “an institution of public character” were being ironed out, there was the practical issue of raising the capital fund through voluntary contributions from prospective Trustees. As at 31st December 1967 the funds of the Trust stood at exactly $3,297.10. From the records, the first year of the life of the Trust had been a grim one, drawing from Mr. Kandasamy some bitter observations, but by no means leaving him bowed. His faith in the project never wavered and the donations continued to dribble in. By 31st December 1969 the funds stood at $5,026.32 while the Annual report for 1971/72 records that the Fund had hit $25,193.46 as on 31st December 1971.

First Awards

In April 1972, the Management Council was able to report in its Annual Report for 1971/72 that it had set up a Scholarship Rules Sub-Committee comprising Mr. K. Gopalakrishnan (Chairman), Mr. Justus Marian (Member) and Mr. P. Kesavan (Member) to “draft the rules, procedures and costing for the award of scholarships and donation of books for secondary, pre-university and university students.” The recommendations of the Sub-Committee were unanimously adopted and the first of the formal SIET scholarships were awarded that year. Out of 127 applicants, 18 qualified, six were shortlisted and three were eventually selected. The total cost was $1,600/-. The amount of interest accruing to the Trust at the time being insufficient, 11 members generously dug into their own pockets to make up the $930/- deficit.

Clearly the Trust had arrived!

Commentary

Setting up SIET was a significant achievement and a remarkable show of solidarity and pragmatism in the face of bleak realities of the time. Credit is due in very large measure to Mr. G. Kandasamy and his visionary Pro-Tem Committee, who came together on their own initiative and took it upon themselves to help the less fortunate in the Indian community to compete more equally in independent Singapore. Credit is also due to all the donors over the years, for making SIET a reality.