Family keeps them going
Top students share a common inspiration
SHE PUTS DEGREE ON HOLD TO WORK & SUPPORT FAMILY
As a child, she watched her father leave home every evening to work the night shift.
He worked for two companies, sometimes clocking 16 hours a day.
When she was older, her mother worked as a janitor from 11pm to 7am, six days a week.
This month, she will be graduating from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's (NP) optometry course as the top student with a GPA of 3.9 and has made a big sacrifice herself - by forgoing studying for a degree so she can work to help support the family.
Miss Nur Amirah Rosman, 20, and her family have never had it easy.
Her two brothers, Raihan, 22, and Amir, 14, have both been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Both brothers have problems communicating properly.
Mr Raihan is enrolled at the Association For Person with Special Needs, picking up skills so he can be employed in the future. Amir is at Towner Gardens School.
Her father, Mr Rosman Rostam, 49, works as a supervisor in the cargo freight department at Changi Airport. He would work extra hours every day, even after a 12-hour shift.
Her mother, Madam Satirah Jaffar, 46, is a janitor at the airport.
To earn extra money, her parents would also work on weekends and public holidays.
Since she was young, Miss Amirah has understood why they had to do this.
Her polytechnic education was funded by a scholarship, but she has decided to forgo further studies for now so she can start working to support the family.
She said: "An overseas education is too expensive and it is difficult to secure a scholarship."
Another option is to study part-time locally, which would cost about $50,000, something the family cannot afford.
Miss Amirah, who has been working at an optician shop for the past month, earning about $2,000 a month, has chosen to look ahead instead.
She said: "I choose to look at this situation positively. I can ease the burden of my family and gain work experience at the same time."
She also helps out with the household chores and cares for her brothers, even more so after her mother started working six years ago.
MY PARENTS, MY STRENGTH
Miss Amirah said she often draws strength from her parents.
Her mother suffered from a fibroid in her womb two months ago, but is now back at work.
Speaking to The New Paper from their four-room Tampines flat, her parents said they have always emphasised the importance of family to Miss Amirah.
Mr Rosman said: "From a young age, I told her we are not like other families. We (dad and mum) work at night so we can spend more time with the boys, who have special needs.
"She is an intelligent girl and she will excel. But even as she moves forward in life, she mustn't forget about her siblings."
Mr Rosman admits the couple had trouble coping with their autistic children at first.
He said: "We thought, 'Why us?' But things improved when the boys went to school and we talked to teachers and other parents.
"We shared our problems and we also saw other families who were in worse situations. So we really have a lot to be thankful for."
The close-knit family enjoys spending time together, eating with their extended family and watching movies at home.
Miss Amirah has never felt that caring for her brothers is a burden.
To allow her parents more time to rest, she prepares breakfast for her brothers before they head to school.
When she is free, she reads and writes with Mr Raihan.
To Amir, she is not just a beloved sister, but also his best friend.
She said: "To me, family and education are of paramount importance. For now, it's important they get the best education so they can live as independently as possible in future."
I choose to look at this situation positively. I can ease the burden of my family and gain working experience at the same time.
- Miss Nur Amirah Rosman, 20, who has been working at an optical shop
AT 26, HE PUTS WORK ON HOLD TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Bored of studying, he dropped out of school in Secondary 3.
Weak in his studies, the normal academic student had been retained for a year for failing his subjects when he was in Secondary 2.
But Mr Nurazhar Maarof, who turns 29 this year, will finally graduate as the top student from Nanyang Polytechnic's (NYP) Multimedia and Infocomm Technology diploma course at the end of the month.
With a perfect GPA of 4.0, he has come a long way from his early years of aimlessness.
He said: "I was rebellious and felt like I should do whatever I wanted since it was my life. I didn't think much about my future."
After quitting school, he worked as a flyer distributor, a cargo boy and took up odd jobs at an oil rig.
But at his last job as a luggage salesman after serving National Service (NS), he met a colleague who made him think about his future.
"He had many years of experience but not much qualifications so he couldn't rise up the ranks.
"I realised that no matter how many years of experience I had, I'll be stuck to a menial job," said Mr Nurazhar.
After four years earning a comfortable salary of about $2,000 a month, Mr Nurazhar decided to go back to school at the age of 24.
Despite working retail hours, he took night classes four times a week at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
"I never thought of giving up at all. All I could think of was getting to school on time," recalled Mr Nurazhar.
He spent two years as a private student at ITE, first completing his N levels, before graduating with 23 points for L1B4 (language and four best subjects) at his O levels.
This qualified him for his dream course in polytechnic, which allowed him to pursue software engineering and IT.
Mr Nurazhar had honed his interest in the field when he bought his first computer after completing NS in 2007. He taught himself skills like programming from the Internet.
When he started school, he found himself excelling.
"I had all As in my first semester. This was the first time I felt I could accomplish something, especially since I was used to 'reds' (failing grades) in secondary school," Mr Nurazhar said.
His grades came with hard work.
He spent every day of the first semester in the school library, studying even during the weekends.
"I had my fun in the past. This is the time for me to work hard now," he said.
His mother, who works night shifts at a factory, and two older sisters are moved by his achievements.
They had tirelessly encouraged him, with no avail, to get back in school after he dropped out.
MY BROTHER, MY PRIDE
His older sister, housewife Nur Asiah Maarof, 34, said: "We are all very proud. He is the only person in our immediate family to make it to polytechnic.
"All his achievements are his own efforts. He has studied very hard."
Mr Nurazhar is currently working as an associate consultant at the NCS, an info communications technology service provider, at the recommendation of his polytechnic supervisor.
He hopes to gain some work experience before furthering his studies.
He said: "Back then, I wasn't a planner but now I hope to hold a good position in a good company so my mother can retire."
This was the first time I felt I could accomplish something, especially since I was used to 'reds' (failing grades) in secondary school.
- Mr Nurazhar Maarof, 29, on scoring As for his first semester in poly