Monday, 26 September 2016

MENDAKI and SINDA awards for academic excellence 2016

518 get MENDAKI awards for academic excellence
They include two working adults who went back to school under Workforce Development Agency programme
By Fabian Koh, The Sunday Times, 25 Sep 2016

A record 518 people from the Malay/Muslim community were recognised yesterday for academic excellence.

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

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

One of the two winners who hit the books again is Ms Al Fatimah Begum Abdul Karim, 32, who is pursuing a diploma in nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic after doing a Nitec in nursing at the Institute of Technical Education.

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

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

Ms Fatimah feels "happy and satisfied" that she is pursuing her passion. She is proud of her award, which she sees 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 this advice: "I would tell them it's never too late to strive towards your dream. Just keep trying."

Minister-In-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim told reporters at the event 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 knowledge there."

Another person who took the path less travelled is the valedictorian for the ceremony, Mr Muhammad Fariz Junaidi.

Mr Fariz, 25, graduated from the Singapore Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Arts in communication design with first class honours in July this year.

He had done a diploma in visual communication at Nanyang Polytechnic before going on to his undergraduate studies.

"It was not easy to get approval from my parents, as the creative industry is not a popular field here," he said.

"In fact, I initially wanted to do fashion design, but we compromised and I reluctantly decided to go into communication design."

But he has since grown to enjoy what he studied and is now freelancing as an "information designer" - someone who uses graphics to communicate information - for French news agency Visactu.

He submits his work to the Paris- based agency via e-mail.

"When I started school, there were only three Malays in my class. Now you can see that there are more," he said.

He finds it "satisfying" to see more Malays in his course as it shows that the community is increasingly seeing the potential of the communications industry.

He said: "Most Malays usually become technicians or engineers. Few of us take up jobs that are obscure."

Record 466 students win SINDA awards
They are given to those who excel in studies or areas such as sports
By Linette Lai, The Sunday Times, 25 Sep 2016

A month after entering the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) in 2010, Mr Sarannath Devanathan got bored with his electronics course and saw no point in it.

He dropped out and nearly signed on with the Navy during his National Service, but an officer there convinced him to go back to school. "She asked me to think long-term, and told me that I had the potential and should go back to study," said Mr Sarannath, who has two siblings.

He did so - passing his Nitec (National ITE certificate) and going on to Singapore Polytechnic, where he is now a first-year student in electrical and electronic engineering.

"My father encouraged me to try studying one more time," said Mr Sarannath, who graduated from the ITE with a 3.9 grade point average, out of a maximum of 4.

The 22-year-old was one of 466 students who were presented yesterday with the Singapore Indian Development Association's (SINDA) Excellence Award, given to students who excel in their studies or areas such as sports. This is the largest number of winners in the award's 25-year history.

"The awards reflect the fact that there is a much broader definition of success, by recognising excellence in areas other than pure academic performance," said SINDA president Indranee Rajah, who is also Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law.

She presented the awards yesterday with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is SINDA's chairman.

Ms Indranee said more of this year's award winners come from the post-secondary education categories, showing that more Indian students are pursuing their studies past secondary school.

In 2000, she said, only three-quarters of Indian students were eligible to enrol in post-secondary institutions. But by 2014, this had gone up to 95 per cent.

"However, this does not mean that we have made it and that as a community we can rest on our laurels," she said, stressing the importance of helping others who are not doing as well.

"As a community we must work to ensure that no one in our community is left behind."

This is what Mr Sarannath hopes to do eventually - working his way up to a degree before going back to ITE to become a lecturer.

"From experience, students there can be half-hearted about their studies," he said. "I want to prevent people from making the same mistakes as I did, and show them that if you want to achieve something, it is possible."

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