Record number of women get Mindef, SAF scholarships

Record number of women get Mindef, SAF scholarships
ME4(T) Ho Yan Jin, 19, is a recipient of a SAF Engineering Scholarship. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY
Published: 7:35 PM, July 27, 2016
Updated: 8:25 AM, July 28, 2016

SINGAPORE — The Defence Ministry (Mindef) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on Wednesday (July 27) welcomed the highest number of 20 female scholars to date, including three who were awarded the SAF Scholarship, widely recognised as second only to the President’s Scholarship.

This is the first time the prestigious scholarship has been given to one woman in each of the three services.

The three women are Midshipman Jina Lim Jiaxuan from the Navy, who will be pursuing arts and sciences at University College London; Officer Cadet Tay Min Yi from the Army who will study chemistry at the  University of Oxford; and Officer Cadet Natasha Ann Lum Mei Seem from the Air Force.

Past SAF scholars include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim.

Speaking at the awards ceremony at the Istana, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said a “broader pipeline” has been opened for women to contribute to the Republic’s defence.

He cited female officers in wide-ranging vocations, such as Brigadier-General Gan Siow Huang, the SAF’s first female general who serves as the air force’s Head of Air Intelligence, andMajor Siswi Herlini, the commanding officer on the patrol vessel RSS Resilience.

The number of female scholarship recipients has been on a growing trend, with 11 awarded in 2014 and 17 last year.

Wednesday’s ceremony also saw Mindef and SAF giving out a record number of 47 scholarships. Seven recipients were presented the SAF Scholarship, 23 recipients were presented the SAF Merit Scholarship, and another 14 received the Defence Merit Scholarship.

The newly launched SAF Engineering Scholarship, aimed at attracting top scientists and engineers, was awarded to three recipients.

One of them, Military Expert 4 Trainee Ho Yan Jin, said the scholarship will allow her to combine her passions in aeronautical engineering and defence.

The 19-year-old, who graduated from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), said she developed an interest in aerospace defence in her secondary school days, when she pursued a research project on micro unmanned aerial vehicles.

She is headed to the Imperial College in London to study aeronautical engineering.

As the first female to receive this scholarship, Ms Ho said: “There are high expectations, (but they will) motivate me to work harder and set higher standards to come ... We are not disadvantaged as females, through our skills we can prove ourselves.”

Second Lieutenant Vijeykannen Ng Hui Yan Vijayaratnam, an SAF Merit Scholarship recipient, said he decided to pursue a military career after seeing how commanders had helped fellow servicemen to “set their lives on the right track”.

For instance, he saw officers who assisted and counselled his peers who went AWOL, or absent without official leave, because of personal issues, such as relationship problems and addictions.

“As leaders we punish them, but we must also be able to connect with them at a more personal level ... Ultimately, your men are the ones who will do the fighting, and it is important to maintain the morale...,” said the 20-year-old.