Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA)
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The Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) is a self-help group of the Singapore Indian community, which aims to support education, families in need and foster collaboration with related organisations. Its mission is to “build a well-educated, resilient and confident community of Indians that stands together with other communities in contributing to the progress of multi-racial Singapore”. SINDA, like its counterparts Yayasan MENDAKI, Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), and The Eurasian Association (EA), provides a range of educational and social services and programmes to assist its target community.
In September 1990, S. Dhanabalan announced the formation of two new groups, SINDA and the Action Committee on Indian Education (ACIE). The aim of these two groups was to investigate and address the issue of under-achievement of Indian students as compared to the Chinese population. The ACIE was tasked to study this issue and devise a plan which SINDA would then implement. The Committee’s investigation uncovered a variety of social issues underlying the poor performance of Indian students. The report, entitled “At the Crossroads”, was released in July 1991, and proposed a plan to bring Indian students on par with Chinese students, at all educational levels, within the next 20 years. The report also highlighted that other voluntary welfare organisations offering relevant services would have access to a common pool of expertise, learning resources and funds.
Challenges and fundraising
The challenges for SINDA were to foster a sense of community amongst the diverse Indian groups, coordinate efforts by various voluntary welfare organisations, and raise funds. Three MPs were involved in directing a newly restructured SINDA as Trustees, namely S. Jayakumar, S. Dhanabalan, and S. Chandra Das. J.Y Pillay was appointed as Chairman of the Executive Committee.
Fundraising and allotment of funds was a particularly challenging issue, and grassroots organisations raised questions as to their role. Some were concerned that the high-profile body would leave them out, while others welcomed centralised administration of funds, which would allow them to focus on their programmes.
Regular fundraising was proposed as an opt-out scheme for Indian workers, to be deducted from the worker’s Central Provident Fund (CPF), at a minimum S$2 per month. Indian Muslims who supported MENDAKI had the option to support one or the other, or both, depending on their needs and preferences. In addition to monthly donations, an endowment fund was set up, with the aim to raise S$30 million within three years. The CPF Act was amended accordingly, enabling SINDA to raise funds at an estimated S$2.5 million annually.
Launch of tuition programmes
By late 1991, SINDA’s endowment fund had reached S$2 million. In early 1992, SINDA launched a nation-wide tuition programme targeted at students with borderline scores preparing for major examinations at Primary and Secondary levels. In conjunction with this, SINDA also wished to address underlying family and social issues affecting students. To accomplish this, SINDA set up both an educational wing and a welfare wing, the latter of which would organise talks for parents, and educational and career counselling for students. In 1996, another wing was set up to address issues affecting at-risk youths.
Cooperation with other groups
S. Dhanabalan suggested in 1999 that it could be good for members of other ethnic groups to sit on the SINDA Board, so that the communities could understand each other’s challenges. In terms of services, SINDA already worked with other partners. For example, in 1993 it partnered with the Eurasian Association for its joint tuition programme. Later, under the umbrella organisation, the Joint Social Service Centre (JSSC) (which was formed in late 1997), SINDA and MENDAKI came together in 1999 to set up a mini family service centre, which offered counselling, information and referral services. Nevertheless, debate continues about the appropriateness of dividing services along ethnic lines, on the one hand is the need to understand the community to address the issues it faces, and on the other is the potential to isolate the groups further.
SINDA at 2010
SINDA’s task to raise the educational levels of Indian students within 20 years has expanded as its role in the community has become more prominent. It now encompasses not only education but social services, training and community bonding. It has become the “brand” image of Singapore’s Indian community, and has offered many programmes in partnership with other Indian and non-Indian organisations, as well as developing a strong volunteer pool. The JSSC, now renamed OnePeople.sg (set up in 2007), continues to coordinate efforts of SINDA and the three other ethnic self-help groups in promoting racial harmony.
No 1. Beatty Road
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The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.