Hawker parents for their children’s education


She made her hawker parents proud

[Source:  The Straits Times, 1 August 1997]

Her parents, both hawkers, urged her daily to study hard so that she could have a better life than they did.

On 31 July, 1997, they had the satisfaction of seeing her graduate from Temasek Polytechnic as its best business student.

Miss Toh Chew Hong, 20 (photo above), earned that accolade and a Singapore Technology Gold Medal with a final report card of eight As and 19 distinctions.

As she went on stage to receive her prizes and business diploma, she was accompanied by her beaming parents, Msr Toh Seng Song, 47 and Madam Ang Poh Lian, 41.

The couple have sold prawn mee and laksa at a rented stall in Serangoon North coffeeshop for the past five years.

Besides Miss Toh, who is now an assistant tax officer with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, they have another daughter, and two teenaged sons.

They work 12-hour days, seven days a week, taking only one day off a month.  Some days they are up as early as 5 am.

Miss Toh helps out at the stall on weekends.  She said: “I know what it’s like to work in a coffeeshop stall – it’s hot, its stuffy.  So I really appreciate what they have done for me.”

She now plans to study accountancy at the Nanyang Technological University.

He kept his promise

Three years ago, Nsg Lip Chye nearly missed getting a place in Temasek Polytechnic because his application was too late for admission.

Yesterday, he won a Lee Kuan Yew Award for being the top technology students to graduate from the polytechnic.

The 20-year-old National Serviceman bagged seven As and 22 distinctions during his three-year Diploma in Electronics course.

Quite a feat for a youth who had missed the deadline for applying for the course in the last week of June 1994.

Desperate, he begged the polytechnic’s admissions counsellors to give him a chance and promised that he would study hard, if admitted.

They did, and he kept his promise, scoring nine distinctions in his first-year examinations.

Friends saw her through

She went blind in her left eye just as she was preparing for her second-year polytechnic examinations.

Blood vessels in her eye had burst.

To add to her woes, she could not pay her school fees as her medical bills were mounting.

But her mother, friends and lecturers rallied round to help.

Today, Miss Ong Sok Kim, 23, now working in a financial audit firm, holds a diploma in accounting and finance from Temasek Polytechnic.

She had to fight long odds to get it.

The injury in her left eye in late 1995 was caused by complications arising from the diabetes she had been suffering from since she was 15.  An operation failed to save the sight in the afflicted eye.

She read her notes and sat for some of her papers while in hospital.

Friends and lecturers helped by enlarging her notes and examination papers so that she could read them better.

Her mother also took to sewing clothes for manufacturers to supplement the family income and to help meet the hospital bills, while Miss Ong took a bursary and a book grant and worked part-time to pay the rest of her fees.

Despite the hardship she has been through, she is cheerful.  “I plan to upgrade myself by taking further courses in accountancy.”


She is doing grandma proud

By Dawn Quek
[Source:  Today, 7 July 2005]

JC dropout wins Lee Kuan Yew Award

Four years ago, Dian Farziana Mohd Farid was skipping classes at Anglo-Chinese Junior Colleg.

Yesterday, she became the first Malay student to win the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew award, which is given to the top graduates from mathematics or science-related courses at secondary. pre-university and polytechnic levels.

The 20-year-o;d Singapore Polytechnic (SP) graduate also won a Public Service Commission (PSC) Merit Scholarship from the Ministry of Education, after bagging 38 distinctions during her three years at SP.

Dian dropped out of junior college after her first year to enter the polytechnic and quietly worked her way to the top of her cohort.  Her family members did not even know.

Said her paternal grandmother Madam Salmah Rahman: “I was shocked.  She had distinctions all the way from Year 1!”

Dian cites her late maternal grandmother, whom she lived with, as her inspiration.

She recalls visiting her often at her workplace at the then Kandang Kerbau Hospital.

It was there that Dian developed an interest in medicine and biology.

Said the graduate:  “To me, my late grandmother epitomises what a woman should be.

“Not only was she successful in her career as a head nurse, she was also a mother of four, my mentor, guide, friend and ‘mother’ all rolled into one.”

However, Dian is not planning to be a nurse.

She wants to get a degree in biomedical science, then teach biology and chemistry in a secondary school.

Another winner at the awards ceremony was Han Zhihang, who was given the Toh Chin Chye Gold Medal – one of the polytechnice’s four top institutional awards.

Despite suffering from juvenile arthritis since he was 15, Zhihang topped his Computer & Technology course.

The 22-year-old wants to get a degree in Computer Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University and, like Dian, plans to teach once he graduates.


Poly grad owes his success to hard times

By Shahida Ariff
[Source:  The Straits Times, 19 July 2002]

His outlook on life changed after his father’s near-fatal accident forced him to take up odd jobs at 13

Singapore Polytechnic graduate Thum Yew Leong had to grow up fast when his father was almost killed in a traffic accident in 1994.

The accident left his father with serious lung injuries and unable to work again.  So, at the age of 13, Mr Thum started working during school holidays to help support his father and family.

But he also worked hard at his studies, and on his graduation day next month, he will receive two gold medals and five book prizes as the top student in the diploma in maritime transportation (management) course.

Mr Thum, who is now doing his national service, said his father’s accident, and the financial prssures which came with it, changed his outlook on life.

“I used to be mischievous in class and didn’t study much,” said the soft-spoken 20-year-old.  “But after the accident, I told myself to put more effort in my studies and help lighten the family’s burden.”

His 16-year-old brother is studying in a secondary school and his 50-year-old mother works as a chambermaid.

From Secondary 1 until last month, he spent his school breaks doing various jobs, from waiting on tables at a hotel to doing odd jobs at a shoe factory.

When he started out, he took home just $20 for a day’s work, of which half went to his family.

In later years, he got double that amount, but he remained prudent, confining his spending to an occasional compact disc or movie.

“I learnt how hard life can be,” he sid.

“The environment in the working world was not sheltered, like in school.  So I told myself to work hard so I can progress to a higher level and get better jobs.”

At the polytechnic, he scored distinctions and As for 27 of the 37 modules he took.

He plans to go to university to do a business-related or logistics course, and then in the marine industry.

His father, Mr Thum Weng Soon, 49, said he was proud of his son’s achievements.

“I’m very happy he did well.  I hope to see him do well in the university and to his work.”

Another proud parent was retiree Lim Poh Swee, 63, whose son, Kok Heng, won the Tay Eng Soon gold medal, awarded to the polytechnic’s top Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduate.

The 24-year-old Mr Lim, who is now working as a senior officer at NatSteel, entered the ITE in 1993 after failing his Primary School Leaving Examination.

Said his father:  “In primary school, I had no hope for him, his results were very bad.  Now, I’m so proud.”

Are the children of hawkers, coolies, bus drivers, odd job labourers and other low-income parents ashamed of their parents or did not reveal to their friends the type of work their parents do?  Did they appreciate and be thankful to their parents who have to go through hardship to earn a living and to send their children to schools and universities?

Something to learn about the ways of people who have rich or poor parents from the article below:

IMG_20191223_152202.jpgMiss Melissa Kwee

[Source:  New Paper, 25 February 2000]

She’s filthy rich but …

Her family is behind the massive Millenia Singapore development at Marina Centre, owns he Regent Hotel and several residential properties.  But Melissa Kwee does her own laundry and cleans her room herself.  GENEVIEVE HANG meets a woman determined to live a life less extraordinary.

RICH.  Many people dream of being that. Rich. Life would be so easy, if you are rich.  Just kick off your shoes and relax.

Well, you would think that is what Miss Melissa Kwee does all the time.

Her father is a multi-millionaire.  She lives in a semi-detached house with two maids.  And she doesn’t need to work for a living.

But getting her to talk about her wealth is like squeezing water out of stone.  She will have none of that rich-lifestyle story.

Indeed Miss Kwee, 28, who belongs to the family which owns a Pontiac Land, takes great pains to live a life less extraordinary.

She says she does the laundry and cleans her own room.  No caviar and smoked salmon for her.  More like popiah at a hawker centre.  And yes, she takes the bus and MRT most of the time, although she has a car.

She is in T-shirt and jeans, with hardly any make-up on her face.

During our interview at Millenia Tower, she waved and smiled at almost anyone who walked by, even the security officer.

No one would guess that she’s the daughter of the man who owns the tower, Mr Kwee Liong Tek, 54.

Said Miss Kwee, the eldest of four children: “I know that I’m blessed.  That’s why I try not to waste, and use whatever resources available to me to do something worthwhile.”

She set up Project Access (PAX) in 1996, a company which designs programmes for secondary schools and junior colleges, to help develop leadership qualities in young people.

She is now busy with an Aids awareness campaign.

PAX is non-profit organisation.  Miss Kwee says it earns enough to support herself and her crew, though she admits her parents pay for a part of her monthly expenditure.

“I haven’t come across many nasty people saying that I’m some rich girl with too much time.  And I don’t feel like people don’t take me seriously.

“Nothing bothers me,” said the Harvard University anthropology graduate.  She took time out from college to spend a year in Nepal teaching and doing research work.

Said her mother Mrs Donna Kwee, 54, a housewife: “Of course, we were worried, but Melissa has always had this adventurous spirit and confidence that she can make a difference in other people’s lives.


“And as parents, we don’t want to stand in the way of her ideals.  We’re supportive of what she does, so long as she doesn’t hurt herself or others.”

Miss Kwee recalled the trip:  “The first night I was there, I had to sleep in the loft of a barn.  There were buffaloes and chickens below me.  I couldn’t sleep the whole night, but it was quite an expereince!”

For a year, she lived without proper toilets, electricity or telephones – and without complaining.

“But it was worth it because you see them ploughing the field and singing and whistling.  There’s this sense of fun in all they do.  It’s a great attitude to have.”

When she’s not working, she relaxes with her family at home.

Or goes for a picnic with friends at the Botanic Gardens.

Fiercely protective of her privacy, she declined to tell us if she was seeing anyone special.

So how does she see herself 10 years down the road?

“Probably happy, with lots of kids, taking long walks by the beach!”

She (Melissa Kwee) has no airs at all.  She never mentions her family connections, I think she doesn’t need to.  She’s always nice and very down to earth

– An acquaintance of Miss Kwee’s, who declined to be named.


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