SINGAPORE - Despite having worked for many decades here as a special education teacher, Ms Barbara D'Cotta, 60, never felt that her work had helped build the nation until recently.
"I've never thought of it as we built a nation, but the advertisements on the Merdeka Generation got me thinking, and when I look around at many of my friends, I realised that they were actually pioneers in their own field," she said.
She is happy that the authorities are paying tribute to them through the Merdeka Generation Package.
"It's very thoughtful of the Government to look into the needs of a generation like mine, where many of us did not go for higher education because of family needs or the lack of opportunities,"said Ms D'Cotta, who teaches deaf students at Mayflower Primary.
People back then often had to make do with what they had and accepted their lot in life but worked hard in their own respective fields, upgrading themselves slowly along the way, she said.
She herself could not go for higher education when she was 19 years old after she completed her A-level examinations.
To support her mother, she had to start work as a special education teacher at the Singapore School for the Deaf.
But this early setback did not stop her from working hard and eventually getting a bachelor's degree in Special Education from Flinders University in Australia at the age of 57 in 2016.
And she has not stopped there.
Ms D'Cotta, who is now pursuing her master's degree in Special Education at the National Institute of Education here, was hailed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat as "an excellent example of lifelong learning and giving" when he spoke about the Merdeka Generation on Monday (Feb 18).
Ms D'Cotta, who is married with a son, 18, and a daughter, 21, said she will continue to contribute to the community through her work as a specialised teacher for deaf students and by mentoring teachers who work with them.
"I'm looking forward to mentoring more teachers in time. I believe there's a need to educate teachers in teaching deaf children."
"I will continue to fight for the cause however I can."