They may come from different backgrounds, yet these students are all driven by a common objective – to empower themselves with a tertiary education.
WORKING 14 hours daily at a clothings factory is what Low Wee Hwang did after his SPM in 2010.
With only two SPM credits, he was resigned to being a labourer – stamping patterns on garments at the plant.
There weren’t any job prospects for someone like him since he did not have even basic qualifications.
“The job was tiring and repetitive. It was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I realised then, that I wanted a better life,” said Wee Hwang.
“It was a time of reflection and self realisation and with the support of my family, I decided to sit for my SPM in 2012.”
Wee Hwang was determined not just to pass but to ace the three subjects he sat for. It paid off for he scored As for English, Mathematics and Science.
He has since moved forward and the 24-year old, is now a second year student pursuing a degree in finance and investment at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC).
This isn’t all, Wee Hwang was beaming with joy when he received a scholarship at the Star Education Fund 2017 award presentation ceremony on Wednesday.
He is one of the 176 students who received the scholarhips amounting to over RM9.5mil.
“I think the hardship I went through juggling the 14-hour job, and paying for my tuition, plus my determination to complete my tertiary studies, got me this scholarship,” said Wee Hwang who plans to work in the banking sector when he graduates.
The Star Education Fund, along with its partners-in-education have awarded over RM118mil worth of scholarships to 3,757 deserving students to help them pursue their tertiary education.
Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai during his address at the awards presentation ceremony, said that the media group has always emphasised on education as a tool to achieve progress, development and success.
“Through education, we empower our young and inspire the nation to reach for nothing less than the best,” he added.
“The unwavering support (from our partners-in-education) have been truly invaluable and a crucial component in the success of the fund,” he said.
Also present at the ceremony were Star Media Group Group Chief Operating Officer, Print Calvin Kan, editor-in-chief Datuk Leanne Goh, and representatives from the fund’s 29 partners-in-education.
School leavers Yong Lih Wei and Ong Pei Sze were pleasantly surprised when they received confirmation that they were chosen as recipients of the fund.
A relieved Lih Wei, who achieved a CGPA of 3.5 in her STPM, said she had almost given up on pursuing pharmacy as she could not secure a spot in Universiti Sains Malaysia or Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
“I am so fortunate to be able to receive this scholarship. I can’t wait to begin my academic journey,” said the Ipoh-born lass.
Lih Wei plans to venture into academic pharmacy and also further her studies after graduating from Quest International University Perak.
Pei Sze, who scored a CGPA of 3.75 in her STPM, said that receiving the scholarship is “one of the best things that has happened to me”.
“Education is very important because it gives you a future. The scholarship has given me a great opportunity to further my studies because my parents can’t afford to send me for tertiary education,” said the girl from Klang, whose father works as a lorry driver.
The second youngest of four siblings, Pei Sze wants to pursue nutrition because she wants to help her father and others who have health issues that are usually related to food intake. She is currently a Year One student at UCSI University pursuing her Bachelor of Nutrition with Wellness degree.
Hailing from Malacca, Priyag Bashkar knew his father’s earnings from selling carpets and furniture was not sufficient to fund his tertiary education.
He took it upon himself to change his destiny and worked hard for the the SPM examinations.
The 19-year-old obtained 10As and went on to study matriculation.
“My first choice has always been the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) but I knew my father could not afford the fees.
“After finding out about the Star Education Fair through a friend, I travelled to Kuala Lumpur and met Star Education Fund manager Susanna Kuan.
“She walked me through the process and I applied to three institutions and later received an offer from UNMC, which was a pleasant surprise,” said the excited teen.
Priyag is currently pursuing a Bachelor in Chemical Engineering with Environmental Engineering.
He feels having good grades alone will not take a student far in life.
“You must have soft skills and know how to socialise, in addition to being actively involved in various activities.
“Don’t give up because when there is a will, there will always be a way.”
The cherry on the cake for Peter Selvaraju who turned 57, a day after the Star Education Fund award ceremony, was his son receiving a scholarship from KDU University College to pursue a Diploma in Computer Studies.
Beaming with pride, the father of five said, the family went through rough times because of financial constraints.
Selvaraju whose previous work contract ended in May, is now a part-time taxi driver while his wife Gerardine Gregory, is a kindergarten teacher.
An overjoyed Gerard,18, described himself as an average student in school.
“As the SPM drew closer, I realised I had to work hard considering my parents’ financial difficulties.
“The news from KDU was both a shock and surprise,” said Gerard who obtained 3As, 3Bs and 3Cs in the SPM.
He was even thinking of taking a loan or working, to fund his tertiary studies.
That was when his father, chanced upon the Star Education Fund scholarship advertisement in the paper.
“It has been tough for us and the scholarship is timely and we really appreciate it,” said Selvaraju.
He advised parents and students to be on the look out for organisations offering scholarships and to grab the chance.
“Coming across this scholarship in the paper felt like a miracle!
“I immediately called up my son and we began the application process,” he shared.
Clutching onto his scholarship documents, Gerard who has always been interested in Information Technology (IT), said his interest in the subject grew after he had his first mobile phone.
“I was fascinated by its many functions and apps and even reprogrammed some of them.
“This scholarship is for a course I am really interested in, so it will motivate me to work even harder,” he said.
When Kurniati Sur’an, 18, isn’t studying, she works part time for a food catering company, earning RM40 a day for eight hours of work.
The former SMK Bandar Baru Ampang student scored 10As in the recent SPM exams, and is currently doing her A-Levels at Methodist College Kuala Lumpur.
She joined the July intake, and has chosen biology, chemistry, and mathematics, as her pre-university subjects.
“I didn’t expect to receive the scholarship. I’m very grateful.”
Still debating on a career in pharmacy or IT, Kurniati said that she hopes to secure a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom, United States, or Japan.
“For now, I’m leaning towards a career in software development because the world is influenced by technology. I hope to join the civil service.
“I want to do well so that I can give my family a better life. A tertiary education is the only way to move up.”
Articulate and personable, she attributed her achievements to Teach For Malaysia – a social development programme aimed at raising education standards in local schools.
Her parents are from Surabaya, Indonesia, but are now permanent residents in Malaysia.
The second of three siblings, Kurniati and her younger brother were born in Malaysia, while her 26-year old brother was born in Indonesia.
Her father and older brother are both construction workers, while her mother is a cleaner.
She said that both her parents were not present for the presentation because they were at work.“My parents don’t really understand the education system, but they’re supportive of me furthering my studies.
“My mother tells me to pursue whatever makes me happy, and is good for my future. She’s very touched that someone is willing to sponsor my education.”
Sunway Education Group public relations director Jerrine Koay said the group had awarded 24 scholarships worth more than RM1.5mil this year.
There was also a new scholarship for the Bachelor of Arts in Communication introduced this year.
Sunway Education Group is also the biggest partner-in-education to the fund and have been partners, through the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, since 1999.
Taylor’s Education Group group chief marketing officer Ben Foo Kian Beng said the varsity believes that every student is entitled to high-quality education.
“Education is ‘life’. It is how you push through limitations to find your own potential and path, not just about books,” he added.
This year, Taylor’s Education Group awarded scholarships worth a total of RM1.1mil to nine deserving students with “contagious personalities and the desire to make a difference in the world”.
UNMC academic services director Patrick Joseph said deserving students must have access to good education.
“They should have the opportunity to not only study, but to do so at a good university. That’s why we offer scholarships. We want to help stutdents realise their potential to be extraordinary.”
He said every student at UNMC, irrespective of their backgrounds, have the same opportunities to grow and learn.
“All our scholarship recipients have shown great leadership potential,” he said, advising them to be brave, and to always give their best.
“To be an employable graduate, you must take risks. Don’t be afraid.”
Heriot-Watt University Malaysia chief executive officer and provost Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi said the institution is happy to have awarded scholarships to three students who have “fire, passion and potential” to be great individuals in the future.
“Education is an important part of life that should be available and accessible to young people, to impart knowledge and train them to be resillient and thrive in an uncertain world,” he said
He added that the university believes in the potential of young people and would like to be part of their success journey.
Awarding four scholarships, Multimedia University president Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Rafi Mohamed Eshaq said the selected candidates are those who are deserving of the scholarship.
“We look for candidates with good grades and those who have the passion for the courses offered with the scholarship.
“It is our way of giving deserving students a chance of pursuing higher education.”
He said during the selection process, the university gives equal importance to a candidate’s academic and non-academic achievements, in addition to prioritising candidates from financially deprived backgrounds.
For Prof Ahmad Rafi, good academic performance is important but it is merely one deciding factor when measuring success.
“The ability to communicate, having interpersonal skills and having the right attitude also counts,” he added.
Prof Ahmad Rafi said the university will continue providing scholarships under the Star Education Fund.
First time partners, Quest International University Perak, offered three scholarships in the area of medicine and pharmacy.
Its chief operating officer Nicholas Goh Kaw Chin said the varsity received applications from “quality” students.
“The Star Education Fund has been doing a good job by attracting the right students for the different varsities.
“It provides an avenue for us to extend the reach of our scholarships,” he added.
Sharing similar sentiments with Prof Ahmad Rafi, Goh said while academic achievement is important, it is not the sole criteria the university looks at.
“We look at all aspects (during selection), such as the applicant’s family background, their extra curricular involvement and their character.
“We do not want to merely produce students who excel in exams but are not able to articulate (their thoughts) and apply what they learn,” he shared.
Management & Science University International and Corporate Communications vice-president Datuk Rosli Yusof said the varsity is awarding scholarships to four students as part of its social responsibility.
“We are privileged to assist young minds who have just left school and to be part and parcel of their development process as they meet challenges to realise their dreams,” he said.
Describing education as a “must have”, Rosli said it shapes and defines the future of youth.