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Readers offer to help pay for stateless children's school fees

SINGAPORE — Upon hearing that there were children among the more than 1,000 stateless persons residing in Singapore, Mr Andrew Kam, 41, who is not a Singaporean, offered to sponsor the S$550 a month international-rate school fees of six-year-old stateless boy Leon Aw, who was born in Singapore.

Stateless 20-year-old Sagai Mary Peng had to drop out of school last year as she could not afford her ITE's tuition fees that came up to more than S$2,000 per term. She currently works at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Photo: Wong Pei Ting

Stateless 20-year-old Sagai Mary Peng had to drop out of school last year as she could not afford her ITE's tuition fees that came up to more than S$2,000 per term. She currently works at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Photo: Wong Pei Ting

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SINGAPORE — Upon hearing that there were children among the more than 1,000 stateless persons residing in Singapore, Mr Andrew Kam, 41, who is not a Singaporean, offered to sponsor the S$550 a month international-rate school fees of six-year-old stateless boy Leon Aw, who was born in Singapore.

The Australian, who works as a service manager in Vodafone’s regional office in Singapore, said: “This is a sad gap in society … But because the public policy is what it is, I want him to have a fair go. I don’t want him to miss school because of money.”

Mr Kam is one of eight readers who have stepped forward to offer help, after reading in TODAY about the challenges that stateless people in Singapore go through.

Most of the offers are to sponsor the stateless children’s education.

A Singaporean director-level executive, who asked to remain anonymous, has offered to sponsor the secondary school education of Leon and 11-year-old stateless girl Cindy — who was born in Singapore to a stateless father and an Indonesian mother — until they graduate.

Other offers also include free lodging and financial aid.

Teacher Bertrand Tan, 28, and his wife, also a teacher, have offered to let Ms Wang Mei Har, Leon’s mother who is similarly stateless, stay in an unoccupied room in their house for free.

Non-profit organisation The Ray of Hope Initiative is setting up online fund-raising pages for the stateless who require financial assistance, until they find a more permanent solution for their plight.

It is working on contacting the families mentioned in the report to assess their needs before opening the donation drive in the following week.

Besides the offers of help, other stateless people have also stepped forward to share their stories.

One of them is 20-year-old Sagai Mary Peng who, until last week, thought she was the only one dealing with statelessness.

Staying in school has always been a struggle for Mary, who is not eligible for financial assistance, bursaries or scholarships because of her lack of nationality. She has a stateless grandmother, a stateless father and three stateless siblings.

She completed her N-Levels in 2012, but due to unpaid school fees, she was not allowed to collect her certificate.

Even though she qualified to go to the Institute of Technical Education, she had to drop out last year as she could not afford the tuition fees, which came up to more than S$2,000 a term for her.

She said: “I still remember when my teacher told me I could not continue going to school because I didn’t pay my school fees. I cried for a few days afterwards.”

So of Cindy and Leon’s condition, Mary said: “I totally feel for them.”

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