A former cleaner is the first non-professional to win a scholarship for social change


SINGAPORE – Armed with just an O-level certificate when she started working, 32-year-old Ms Nurhidayah Sazali once felt she would not get “far” in life.

She was an auxiliary police officer, saleswoman and housekeeper before leaving the workforce to care for her two daughters, now aged three and five. Her husband is a delivery man.

So it was beyond his wildest dreams to receive a fellowship from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) think tank in October.

She is the first person without professional employment to be awarded the Ngee Ann Kongsi Community Fellowship, said Justin Lee, senior researcher at IPS, who is in charge of the fellowship.

Ms Nurhidayah said: “I didn’t think anyone with only O levels could get a scholarship from a big organization like IPS. Moreover, I am shy and my English is not good, unlike very educated people.

The fellowship was launched in 2021 for community leaders and changemakers to implement community-based participatory research that contributes to community development or social change.

Such research allows community members to define the problems that interest them and to participate in research with researchers and in finding solutions, Dr. Lee said. Two to three Ngee Ann Kongsi Community Scholarships are awarded per year and are sponsored by the philanthropic organization Teochew Ngee Ann Kongsi, he added.

When asked why Ms Nurhidayah had been chosen, Dr Lee said: ‘The South Central Community Family Service Center (FSC) offered to give it to someone in their community to stay loyal the principles of the asset-based community development approach, which focuses on identifying strengths. people and equip them to solve their problems. We really liked the idea and supported them.

Ms Nurhidayah and another mother have teamed up with South Central Community FSC, a social service agency that works with low-income and vulnerable families, to create a support group for low-income mothers living in highly subsidized rental apartments of the Housing Council in Bukit Merah.

For her one-year fellowship, which comes with a monthly stipend of $1,500, she is researching the support group called Mum’s Collective.

The idea for a support group came about when her family faced multiple issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her husband’s income as a delivery boy dropped 20-30% to around $1,500 a month during the circuit breaker in 2020, and they had no computers for their children when schools went offline. home learning, until the South Central Community FSC gave her family two laptops.

At the time, three nephews and her mother-in-law lived with her family of four in a two-room rental apartment.


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