42-year-old father, former EM3 pupil among graduates

At 42, Mr Ganasekar Sinnakannu, a father of two, is the oldest full-time undergraduate to graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) this year.

Mr Ganasekar, who will graduate with an electrical and computer engineering degree next week, had his studies supported on a full-salary scholarship from his employer, the Republic of Singapore Navy.

When the radar and navigation expert signed up at NUS four years ago, he had wondered if he could cope with the demands of course work, being almost twice the age of other students. But he was thankful that he did not look too mature and his age did not affect his classmates' attitudes towards him. "They recognised that I had drive and was a team player. They valued that."

He completed his NUS studies on a high by winning the first prize in his department's Final Year Project Poster Presentation. He also made the dean's list in his final semester. "Age is never a barrier to learning. Although we must recognise that our body is growing weaker, our willpower must drive us to achieve higher targets and consistently re-evaluate and upgrade ourselves."

He is one of 10,395 students graduating from NUS this year, with 6,491 receiving bachelor's degrees and 3,904 getting graduate degrees. They include those from the pioneer batch of two new NUS courses: the full-time Master of Music programme and the Master of Science (Nursing) research programme.

The first of 23 graduation ceremonies was held yesterday at the University Cultural Centre, with the last to be held next Thursday.

Also graduating from NUS this year is Mr Hairul Hakkim, 24, who excelled in his studies despite difficult family circumstances. Mr Hairul, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Laws degree with first-class honours, said he often went hungry in primary school and secondary school as his family had to pay his father's medical bills. His father, who had kidney failure, died when Mr Hairul was 14.

Mr Hairul's mother, Mrs Rasitha Mastan, now 59, was then working as a factory production worker and earning $500 monthly. To relieve her burden, he worked during his two years in junior college and first two years of university, giving tuition and doing healthcare sales.

Mr Hairul, who has a married older sister, also had his tuition fees covered by the awards he received for excelling in school. He was on the dean's list for all four years of his law studies and was the top student in his third and fourth years.

Another who did well despite a rocky start is Mr Ervin Kwan, 27, who graduated yesterday with a Bachelor of Computing in Information Systems degree with honours (merit). The former EM3 pupil had not thought he would one day be a graduate from NUS.

Inspired and motivated by his tutor, he made it to Singapore Polytechnic and later NUS, where he was selected to serve as a teaching assistant during his second year. "Teaching and sharing my knowledge reinforced my understanding. Giving is as good as receiving."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline '42-year-old father, former EM3 pupil among graduates'. Print Edition | Subscribe