Mendaki gives out academic excellence awards for the first time to those who go back to school

Winners of the Anugerah Mendaki 2016 awards Ms Al Fatimah Begum Abdul Karim and Mr Muhamad Fariz Junaidi.
Winners of the Anugerah Mendaki 2016 awards Ms Al Fatimah Begum Abdul Karim and Mr Muhamad Fariz Junaidi. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

SINGAPORE - A record 518 people from the Malay/Muslim community were recognised on Saturday (Sept 24) for academic excellence.

They received $347,500 in total at the Anugerah Mendaki 2016 awards ceremony held at The Theatre @ Mediacorp in one-north.

Among the winners for the first time are two graduates from the Workforce Development Agency's Professional Conversion Programme, in which people in the workforce go back to school.

At the event, Minister-In-Charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, told reporters that it is important to acknowledge success, no matter what that success or the path taken to get there may be.

"People may find their calling later in life, and then decide to switch over. I think this is also in line with the SkillsFuture movement," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, referring to the national movement to get Singaporeans into the spirit of lifelong learning.

"One day we will see people who started out in engineering, and may end up in nursing, for example. But he or she is able to excel, and to have that knowlege there."

One of the two winners who took up books again is Ms Al Fatimah Begum Abdul Karim, 32, who is currently pursuing a diploma in nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic.

A former assistant manager in the banking industry, she has dreamt of becoming a nurse since her childhood days, after being inspired by nurses who took care of her sickly mother when she was young.

"It has always been at the back of my mind. So after 10 years in that job, the company underwent structural changes, and I decided it was an appropriate time to leave," she said.

In 2013, she registered to do a Nitec in nursing at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East. She graduated in December in 2015, and started at NYP in April this year.

Ms Fatimah feels "happy and satisfied" that she pursued her passion. She is proud of her award, as she sees it as a recognition of her hard work.

For those facing the dilemma of whether to pursue what they love, or find a well-paying job which is less fulfilling, she has a word of advice.

"I would tell them it's never too late to strive towards your dream. Just keep trying."