By June Lee

Ensuring continued financial support for needy students

Since it was founded in 1823, RI has not wavered in its mission. As one of the oldest institutions in Singapore, RI has a track record of developing the best and brightest for the nation regardless of their race or economic backgrounds.

‘Today, entry into RI is still based on its tradition of meritocracy and multi-culturalism. I am very conscious of the fact that RI, being a national institution, must be representative of Singapore society. So, we make sure that the needy students in RI and those who qualify to enter the school are well-supported, and do not fall through the cracks,’ Mrs Lim Lai Cheng, Principal of RI assured.

Hence, RI has set up various financial schemes, from scholarships to bursaries and a new medical fund, to help those who qualify to be educated here should they be unable to afford it or need extra help.


In 2013, RI gave out 260 scholarships and awards, each worth up to $2,000. The money comes mainly from the 1823 Fund that alumni, parents and individual donors contribute towards because they believe in the premier education that RI provides. ‘They remembered the kind of RI they were in and didn’t mind giving to make sure we ensure that diversity and inclusivity,’ Mrs Lim said. The scholarships and bursaries enable the school to address immediate areas of financial need not met or not fully met by government funding.


RI’s various scholarships, for instance, have enabled gifted students like the Phuah triplets—Phuah Wei Ke, Wei Deng and Wei Yuan (all in 14S03T)—to study in their dream school at a time when their father, the sole breadwinner, was taken ill with cancer. Since 2010, Wei Deng and Wei Yuan have been on the RI-KPMG scholarship while Wei Ke has benefitted from the Soh Eng Hwa and Chua Koon Meng Scholarship—a sum of money donated by old boy Mr Teh Bong Lim as part of the 1823 Fund in honour of his two friends who were also old RI boys. Drawing inspiration from his two friends, Mr Teh wanted this scholarship to help students who are struck by an adversity in life.

‘This particular scholarship is really a resilience fund, meant to help people to build up their resilience. Both my friends faced the ultimate adversities of their lives. They were struck down by terminal illness. While they can’t bounce back from that one, I hope the fund will be able to help people bounce back from lesser adversities in life. They need not be the best in the class academically but if they have a setback in life that they have no control over and they are in need at that point in time, I think that is sufficient reason for us to extend a helping hand so that they do not need to interrupt their academic pursuit in RI,’ Mr Teh said in an interview for ONE, the RI Alumni Magazine, in 2010.

Indeed, the helping hand has enabled the triplets to continue their studies after their father passed away. Today, the boys are in their final year of their academic journey at RI.

Muhammad Khalis Samion, a recipient of the RI Scholarship
Muhammad Khalis Samion, a recipient of the RI Scholarship

The scholarships have also helped other bright students who come from humble backgrounds. When Muhammad Khalis Samion (2J) received his PSLE results in 2012, his father who works as a security guard and his mother who is a housewife were apprehensive about sending their youngest of four children to RI, as school fees could reach up to $300 a month. However, the school and a few individuals, including alumni, stepped forward to help, assuring Khalis and his parents that financial aid was available for him.

The money the former head prefect of Yishun Primary School gets under the RI Scholarship goes to cover expenses such as school fees, uniforms, textbooks, and even pocket money. With that financial burden taken off his family’s shoulders, the bright and energetic 13-year-old is in full gear to focus on his studies and student life in RI.

‘It’s been so much fun coming to RI. The teachers are also very engaging because they use more educational tools in class. I find Mathematics fascinating, challenging and satisfying. I would like to be a teacher when I grow up as I’d like to impart and share my knowledge especially with the Malay community,’ said a beaming Khalis, who is also actively involved with the school’s National Police Cadet Corps unit.


Principal Mrs Lim Lai Cheng (far left) and Senior Deputy Principal Mr S Magendiran (far right) with the 2013 recipients of the Junior RI Scholarship
Principal Mrs Lim Lai Cheng (far left) and Senior Deputy Principal Mr S Magendiran (far right) with the 2013 recipients of the Junior RI Scholarship

But the school is doing more to proactively support and inspire students even before they come to RI. In 2010, the school launched the Junior Raffles Institution Scholarship (JRIS) programme because it saw a need to reach out to bright but needy Primary 6 boys who want to come to RI. It is, therefore, aimed at encouraging them to succeed.

The scholarship is partially funded by an anonymous alumnus. ‘This alumnus came from a humble background, and was keen to reach out to the various ethnic minority groups in Singapore, given that he greatly benefited from studying in RI’s multi-ethnic culture,’ said Mrs Lim. The programme started with 50 primary schools. It has now been expanded to include every primary school in Singapore and students from all ethnic backgrounds. Students are invited to apply based on their grades, financial need, and their academic potential through the recommendations of their principals or teachers. Each year, about 20 students qualify and so far four have made it to RI through this programme.

While the $800 scholarship can help ease some of the financial strain experienced by these boys and their families, RI hopes that it can also inspire these students to achieve their potential and fulfill their dreams like it did for 13-year-old Matthias Enrui Thummachai (2f).

The former Chongfu School student is grateful for the JRIS. ‘It helped relieve the burden off my parents so that I could buy recommended assessment books as well as take tests that require money,’ he shared.

The Year 2 student also remembered vividly what motivated him to choose RI as his first choice of secondary school. ‘When I watched the video during the JRIS Presentation Ceremony, I was inspired and touched by the old Rafflesians, particularly when Professor Tommy Koh shared about his experience in RI. It was one of the motivations for me to enroll into RI as I know that this is a school that not only excels academically but it builds character and “produces” people who contribute to the community. I really want to be part of this institution. I was moved by all the old Rafflesians who contributed so generously to our alma mater and community, so when I grow up, I will not hesitate to do my part,’ said the young lad, who already has aspirations to be a pediatrician as he loves working with children.


Constantly looking out for ways to help its students, the school set up a new Medical Fund in 2012 to help students who are unexpectedly stricken by severe health issues such as cancer, muscular dystrophy, blindness or psychological/ developmental problems and lack the financial resources to seek treatment. With rising medical costs, some students and parents have turned to the school in desperation to seek financial support or may even hesitate to seek timely medical treatment. Principal Mrs Lim, who saw such a need in the school, initiated this fund with the aim of helping these students and their families alleviate some of their financial and emotional strain.

‘RI sees it as a duty to help students in need, particularly since we have a large extended community that we can appeal to for resources towards this noble cause. We want to take the lead in providing support above and beyond the classroom to Rafflesians in need. We hope this will demonstrate to our students that their alma mater stands by them in time of need and inculcate a culture that’s not centred on excelling in grades but that’s also one of service,’ she said.

Indeed, the Rafflesian Spirit of serving and giving back lives on through the loyalty and generosity of the alumni, parents and stakeholders. This act of paying forward to the next generation will also ensure that continued financial support will always be there for bright needy students.