By April Chong
MORE than 300 students from primary school to university were handed awards yesterday for their graciousness, courteous disposition and kind acts.
They were the latest winners of the almost two-decade-old Friend of the Singa Award, which was created to encourage courtesy and kindness among youth.
During the ceremony yesterday, Singapore Kindness Movement chairman Koh Poh Tiong said it is just not enough to teach values in school.
'Our young catch our habits, good or bad,' he said. 'We need teachers and parents to reinforce the positive values and lead the way by setting good examples themselves.'
The Friend of the Singa Award is in its 18th year and has recognised some 50,000 youth, including 319 yesterday.
One recipient this year was Guangyang Secondary School student Cher Siew Hwee, 16, who said she was 'surprised' by the honour.
Siew Hwee's kindness shone through when she extended her friendship to a classmate in need of emotional support, said her form teacher Jaslyn Seah, 29.
While applauding the latest awardees, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang said 'there is still quite a lot more work to be done' for all Singaporeans 'to continue to internalise the value of kindness'.
'We will have a unique opportunity in 2010 to show the world how kind and gracious we are when we host the inaugural Youth Olympics,' said Dr Lee.
A Straits Times poll of some of yesterday's winners supported that. Only half of the students said they always clear their own trays in fast-food restaurants.
A third also admitted they do not regularly clear their trash after watching a movie in the cinema.
Tray clearing and the need to improve other social graces hit headlines when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned them during last month's National Day Rally.
However, the winners scored well when it came to flushing public toilets, saying 'thank you' and relinquishing their seats on buses and trains.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 11, 2008.
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