Temasek Foundation has launched three bond-free scholarships worth over $4 million, specifically catered to support the lifelong learning journey of students and mature learners from lower-income backgrounds.
The foundation made the announcement in a media release on 25 April 2023.
Named in memory of three unionists, they are the Temasek Foundation – G Muthukumarasamy Scholarship; the Temasek Foundation – RKS Nachiappan Scholarship; the Temasek Foundation – Nithiah Nandan Arumugam Scholarship.
Temasek Foundation Head of Programmes Lim Hock Chuan hopes the scholarships will assist individuals from lower-income households realise their full potential by helping alleviate some of their financial challenges.
“We hope to inspire students of all ages to follow in the footsteps of unionists G Muthukumarasamy, RKS Nachiappan, and Nithiah Nandan Arumugam, who recognised the value of education and promoted lifelong learning,” he said.
G Muthukumarasamy, known to many as Brother Kumar, joined the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers (AUPDRW) as a member when it was formed in 1992.
He rose through the ranks and became the union’s general secretary in 2002, until his passing in 2019.
He made it his lifelong ambition to convert daily rated workers to monthly rated workers, something he felt would allow them to progress further in their careers.
All remaining daily rated workers from AUPDRW have been converted to monthly schemes. The union has been subsumed under the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE).
Mr Muthukumarasamy was a firm advocate of training. He began his career as a daily rated wireman for the Public Works Department and upgraded himself over the years to become a senior electrician.
AUPE General Secretary Sanjeev Tiwari said: “Brother G Muthukumarasamy firmly believed that the path to uplifting our workers’ livelihoods and their children’s life is through education.
“Recognising and honouring him, through the Temasek Foundation Scholarship under his name, is not only befitting but will remind us to aspire for a better future through pursuing higher education and continuous learning.”
Nithiah Nandan Arumugam devoted his life to uplifting workers’ lives, especially the lower-wage.
He chose to remain a daily rated worker for 20 years, repeatedly turning down promotion opportunities to continue championing his co-workers’ training and skills-upgrading needs.
He was one of the key founding members of the Union of Power and Gas Employees (UPAGE) when it was first registered in 1995, serving as its general secretary until 1999 before becoming its executive secretary.
Even till his final days battling renal cancer, Mr Nithiah was still looking out for the well-being of his fellow workers.
He continued to endorse collective agreements, which gave assurance of job stability to union members for three more years after three power generation companies were put up for sale.
He passed on in 2007.
Nachiappan RK Sinniah was also a pioneer and founding member of UPAGE.
In 1999, he took over the reins as UPAGE’s general secretary four years after the union was founded.
He was UPAGE emeritus general secretary from 2015 until his passing in 2021.
During his service to the union, he helped garner workers’ support for corporatisation and brought together daily and monthly rated workers under one union.
UPAGE General Secretary Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab shared that Mr Nithiah and Mr Nachiappan strongly advocated continuous education. He is glad that Temasek Foundation has decided to honour their legacies.
He said: “Brother Nachi always placed members’ aspirations and concerns as his priority whenever he faced management. His commitment to advocating for the Union and its members, both at the workplace and nationally, has benefitted many members and remains a cornerstone of UPAGE advocacy for the members.
“Brother Nithiah had set the foundation and instilled the culture of continuous upskilling among UPAGE leaders and members. He believed that through education and knowledge, members will be able to earn better wages and experience improved welfare and work prospects.”
The $4 million sum will be committed over five years. It will be offered annually to 39 students from Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).
Close to 200 students and their families are expected to benefit from the scholarships.
Subject to their level of study, the scholarships will cover between $3,000 to $5,000 of the recipients’ living expenses.
The scholarships will also provide a $2,000 family recognition award – the first of its kind by the Temasek Foundation.
The sum, which will be shared among the recipient’s family or household member(s), recognises the contributions of one’s family in their journey of lifelong education.
It will also help mitigate the family’s financial sacrifices while the individuals pursue their studies.
Additionally, as a tribute to the three eminent union leaders, AUPE and UPAGE are launching eponymous book prizes for the children of union members.