HSBC scholarship lightens load for med student


BY PHILIP AUGUSTINE

APPRECIATIVE: Siva, who is grateful for the grant, receiving the award from Cama (right).

EVEN before Siva Saravana Kumar goes for class in the morning, he will have already worked a full 12-hour shift as a paramedic with St John’s Ambulance in Cheras. That is because the second-year medical student has to find enough money to pay for his tuition fee at the International Medical University (IMU). 

Inspired by his grandmother who used to work as a nurse, Siva, 25, had spent four years trying to get into various local universities to do medicine, but to no avail.  

“When I wasn’t given an opportunity to study medicine in a local public university, I took up a degree in biomedical science in Universiti Putra Malaysia instead,” he says. 

Despite this initial setback, Siva - who grew up in a single-parent family and is the eldest of three kids - never gave up his dream of becoming a doctor and eventually enrolled in IMU. 

Working from 8pm to 8am daily, it is common for him to have only about two to three hours sleep before his lectures.  

“Sometimes I’ll be very tired and fall asleep during class,” he admits. 

However, Siva’s lack of sleep is the least of his worries when faced with fees of RM20,000 each semester, an amount his RM1,000 monthly salary hardly makes a dent in.  

“I had to take the maximum government loan of RM100,000 to help pay for my fees,” says the determined lad, whose mother works as a babysitter. 

But things are getting a little better as Siva was among the group of 22 students awarded the HSBC Scholarship worth RM24,000 recently. 

Presented by HSBC deputy chairman and CEO Zarir J. Cama on Monday, the three-year scholarships will be disbursed in three RM8,000 annual instalments to deserving undergraduates currently pursuing degree courses at universities and colleges locally. 

“This is our corporate social responsibility of giving something back to the community,” says Cama, adding that out of the 22, five recipients were children of HSBC employees. 

With over 100 applicants, the three-member selection panel increased the number of awards from last year’s initial 15 to this year’s 22.  

Cama also draws attention to the higher ratio of female scholarship recipients. 

“When the literacy level of a country is low, that is because women’s literacy is also low. If more women are educated, they will also push for their children to be educated.” 

And unlike last year, students are now free to choose the field of study they wish to pursue. 

“Education is very wide and we don’t want to channel students to any specific area. A broad education is what people need,” says Cama. 

He adds that there are no strings attached to the scholarships. 

“When you put conditions, it creates unnecessary pressure. As it is, young people today already face a lot of stress.” 

The HSBC Scholarship Scheme is open to all Malaysian students aged 18 to 25 with a minimum of 3As in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). 

“Students must enrol full time in any local three-year programme,” says HSBC public affairs head Elizabeth Wee, adding that students must show proof of successful yearly completion of studies (with a minimum pass) to continue receiving subsequent instalments of funds.  

HSBC Malaysia also supports post-graduate education. 

“Beginning last year, HSBC Malaysia has been co-sponsoring two Malaysian students to do post-graduate studies in the UK under the Chevening Scholarships, run by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Another two students will be going to the UK this year,” notes Cama.  

Although the scholarship will not be quite enough to cover his entire cost of study, Siva is nonetheless very grateful and optimistic about the future. 

He says: “This means a lot to me as it will help cover one semester’s worth of fees. It's tough but I’ve made it through the first year and that brings me one step closer to my goal.”  

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