Retired parking attendant becomes a graduate at 67

Madam Rokiah Omar graduated with a bachelor's degree in Islamic studies.
Madam Rokiah Omar graduated with a bachelor's degree in Islamic studies.PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Fond of reading, retired parking attendant Rokiah Omar always wished she had attended a madrasah - an Islamic religious school - when she was a child.

Yesterday, the 67-year-old fulfilled her childhood dream by graduating with a bachelor's degree in Islamic studies. She was the oldest among the Jamiyah Education Centre's (JEC) 33 graduands.

"I didn't want age to be an obstacle to my learning," said Madam Rokiah, who did not graduate with O levels, and got her first diploma in the Arabic language only in her 40s.

With the support of her husband, three daughters, and two grandchildren, she obtained her degree after 11/2 years of part-time study.

Her thesis examined the role of Muslim women in Singapore, and she looked to Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and family physician Elly Sabrina as examples.

AGE NOT A BARRIER

I hope to be a role model for others my age, to not give up and to pursue lifelong learning.

MADAM ROKIAH OMAR

"I hope to be a role model for others my age, to not give up and to pursue lifelong learning," she said.

For Madam Rokiah, the learning continues - she is currently pursuing a certificate in Islamic psychology, which she believes will help her understand her religious texts better. Next year, she will embark on a master's in Islamic studies.

At the ceremony yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman said lifelong learning is one of the tenets of Islam, as there are many things that are constantly changing and which require new ways of thinking.

He encouraged the graduates to take advantage of their SkillsFuture credit to improve their skills and "guarantee a brighter future".

He also urged them to make use of their knowledge to help others understand Islam better, whether in Singapore or abroad.

"Give guidance to members of the public, especially those who are on the Internet with information that is less accurate, but can become viral quickly," he said.

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 16, 2017, with the headline 'Retired parking attendant becomes a graduate at 67'. Print Edition | Subscribe