Employment growth slows
Other award winners from ITE's graduating class of 2016
Teachers, classmates helped him succeed
ITE's first blind student receives Certificate of Merit for being top 5 per cent of graduates
The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) was not his first choice, but he has never once regretted his decision.
Mr Lionel Tan was afraid of being bullied because he was ITE's first blind student.
But his perceptions about the school were debunked once he got to know his lecturers and schoolmates. They not only cared for him, but also helped him with his studies.
Their efforts did not go to waste because the 20-year-old was in the top 5 per cent of this year's graduating class from ITE. (See report )
Mr Tan became blind when he was just a year old after suffering from retinoblastoma, the most common eye cancer in children.
First, his left eye had to be removed. Then he became blind in his right eye when the cancer spread.
In 2014, he became the first blind student at ITE when he enrolled in ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio.
He had hoped to enter a polytechnic but did not qualify. It was a dream that was merely deferred, not shattered.
Last Friday, Mr Tan, who did a Nitec course in business services, received a Certificate of Merit, which is given to the top 5 per cent of ITE graduates.
He now plans to pursue a polytechnic diploma and fulfil his dream of becoming an entrepreneur one day.
He told The New Paper on Wednesday: "I've never thought of giving up. If you give up, you don't get to accomplish anything."
Mr Tan credits his success to support from his mother, lecturers and friends.
Madam Katherine Heng, section head of business services at ITE College Central, has seen him blossom since 2014.
"Lionel is a role model for his classmates... (he) motivates them to work even harder," she said.
With help from the Learning Accessibility Office in ITE, Mr Tan uses Jaws (a text-to-speech software) and Braille Sense (a note-taking device) to support him in his learning.
He even uses WhatsApp to communicate with friends.
A buddy system allows him to move around the sprawling campus.
He said: "I am very grateful to have such understanding and supportive classmates."
His classmates even took time off their schedule to help him catch up on lessons whenever Mr Tan was unable to keep up in class.
But his road to success has not been easy.
When he was in secondary school, Mr Tan did not care about his studies.
His attitude improved after he met his English teacher in Secondary 4.
"She really pushed me to do my best. Then I knew I was able to do anything if I put my heart to it," he said.
Mr Tan, who used to take swimming lessons and was part of an a cappella group in school, added: "I don't let my impairment get in the way of learning new things. There are many things I'm able to do as well as anyone else."
About the Student Excellence Awards
Six months after bad accident, she wins medals
Triathlete bedridden after 2014 crash bounces back to win Ngee Ann Poly's Outstanding Sports Award
She was a promising young triathlete, but a cycling accident in October 2014 almost threatened to take it all away.
Six months after the crash left her bedridden and then wheelchair-bound, Miss Jeremia Christy Suriadi, 19, has won over 10 medals in various competitions.
She will also be the recipient of the Outstanding Sports Award at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s (NP) Student Excellence Awards this year.
The awards are to recognise the outstanding achievements of NP students in the non-academic arena.
Yet, not long ago, Miss Christy thought she might never take part in triathlons again.
As a result fo the accident, she had compression fractures in seven vertebrae, and a fracture in her hip bone.
Get the full story in our print edition (July 29).
Subscribe to The New Paper in print and digital at www.tinyurl.com/getTNP
Allan Wu returns as Amazing Race Asia host
Singapore-based US actor-host Allan Wu is back on our small screens again to host the The Amazing Race Asia 5 after the show’s six-year hiatus.
But the 44-year-old went through a much-publicised detour in his own life during that period, and admitted he’s a different man now as compared to six years ago.
After The Amazing Race Asia 4 aired in 2010, Wu moved to Shanghai, China with his then-wife, local actress-host Wong Li Lin, and their two kids to explore career opportunities there.
The celebrity couple got divorced in 2013 and soon after, Wong and their children returned to Singapore. Wu followed suit in 2014.
He told TNP over the phone from Jakarta, Indonesia, where the press conference for The Amazing Race Asia 5 was held: “Definitely a lot has changed. Every ending has a new beginning.
“Through the years, I’ve been blessed to be able to do two other versions of The Amazing Race franchise – China Rush and The Amazing Race China. Obviously now, I’m older, the show is bolder and I’m coming back with more experience.”
He added: “Of course, (when it comes to) my personal life, I cannot predict what happens when I’m out there. One thing led to another, where we realised that maybe we weren’t life partners and things started happening in that direction.
“But even with that happening, that would probably be my defining moment in terms of a life-changing (moment) or having to grow up.”
Wu said he will relish hosting The Amazing Race Asia 5 in English again as he’s been “doing it in Mandarin for the China version (of the show)”.
But what he definitely didn’t miss about the show was having to wait at the pit stop for the contestants, sometimes even up to 15 hours.
What’s new this season, however, is the addition of Indonesian actress Tara Basro as Wu’s co-host on selected legs of the race.
On whether he’s afraid that she may steal his spotlight, he said: “They always say ‘out with the old and in with the new’. I think for the most part, I’m okay. Who knows? Maybe we will have amazing chemistry.”
Singapore siblings to take on Amazing Race Asia
For the first time, a brother-sister team will be representing Singapore in the upcoming fifth season of reality TV series The Amazing Race Asia.
Previous local pairings have comprised only friends of the same gender.
And it looks like Rei Umehara, 30, and her younger brother Keiji Umehara, 26, are going to provide much of the entertainment value on the show as your typical squabbling siblings, judging from how they were jokingly bickering with each other during a joint 15-minute phone interview with The New Paper on Thursday (July 28).
Rei manages a human resources consultancy firm with her husband, while Keiji used to work for local travel and lifestyle website The Smart Local as a content creator for eight months.
He left in February to travel the world and work on his YouTube channel UMeAndHara.
Their father is Japanese and mother Singaporean-Chinese and they were born and raised in Singapore.
Aside from the Umeharas, the other Singapore team in The Amazing Race Asia 5 consists of Power 98 radio DJs Jerald Justin Ko and Michael Tan.
Filming for the show - which is slated to premiere in October on AXN - will begin in two weeks and is expected to last for a month.
Rei said: “We both heard of the auditions when it was first broadcast. We are a very close-knit family, so our first choice for a partner would be a family member.”
However, the siblings did not always get along when they were younger - Rei even remembered violently throwing a ceramic door stopper at Keiji because he was “irritating”.
She said: “When I was a hormone-filled teenager, I couldn’t take it. I was so angry and our parents weren’t home. The only thing in front of me was (that)... I didn’t want to throw it on his head, I was aiming somewhere else, but it hit his head instead and he was bleeding profusely.
“But after that incident, we made up and I think we both grew closer because (that) gave me the fright of my life.”
Even though Rei moved out of the family home two years ago after she got married, she will now have to co-exist with Keiji 24/7 during the shoot.
She said with a laugh: “I have lived with him for 20-over years and I’ve already tolerated him (during that time). I think I can tolerate him for one month - that wouldn’t be a problem.”
They are complete opposites of each other, according to Rei.
Keiji is more “chill and relaxed”, while Rei is more “detail-oriented and careful”.
When asked who will wear the pants, Keiji immediately said: “My sister. Because being her brother for many years, it’s better to just agree with what she says and there won’t be any fights - so simple.
“She will be the leader and I will enjoy the ride.
“I also kind of had no choice but to pick her, as she’s the only one who can drive in our family of five (parents and older brother).”
Rei giggled and replied: “Smart boy.”
Despite being half-Japanese, neither of them are able to speak the language, as they studied Chinese as their second language in Singapore.
Rei joked: “Oh no, don’t ask us this question. It’s such a disgrace. The only Japanese thing about us is our name.”
Keiji added: “We have family in Japan, so we do travel there a lot, at least more than 20 times. (If the race does take us there) I think it would be beneficial as we do know our way around.”
For him in particular, The Amazing Race Asia 5 will also be a good opportunity for him to gain exposure and boost his popularity on his YouTube channel.
He said: “Putting my face out there on international TV is quite a big thing and so far, I’ve only put my face on the Internet, so I wouldn’t deny (the fact) that it will definitely progress my career.”
Two fires in one day at Boat Quay pubs
A fire broke out at The Penny Black on Thursday (July 28) morning.
At 10am, the first fire broke out at the pub at 27 Boat Quay.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived within 20 minutes and put it out.
Employees at the next-door Harry's bar had to be evacuated and it had to close later.
The Penny Black's owner, Mr Bjorn Seegerd, told The New Paper (TNP) the fire was caused by a mechanical fault in their deep fryer.
Seven employees were at the pub at the time. One member of the kitchen staff was treated for a minor burn injury.
Shortly after the SCDF left at around 11.30am, a second fire broke out at 28 Boat Quay, Harry's Bar.
Most of the fire crew from the first fire ended up returning for the second fire.
This time the fire also affected the McDonald's outlet behind Harry's.
It is not known if anyone was injured in that fire.
When TNP arrived at 1.40pm, an eyewitness at the nearby construction site, Mr Bayazid Miah, told TNP the second fire occurred at around noon.
The SCDF returned to the scene barely half an hour after they left.
In a Facebook post, the SCDF said the second fire was caused by "deep seated burning of an internal duct within the void ("attic crawl space") of the roof".
McDonald's, Harry's and The Penny Black have been cordoned off.
The lunch crowd in the busy Boat Quay area is being redirected by the police to avoid the affected area.
McDonald's and Harry's employees have also evacuated their restaurants.
An employee at the nearby TCC cafe told TNP the cafe has stopped serving customers and will resume service only after getting police approval.