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November 1, 2002

Staying the course for two diplomas - and an award

From: Straits Times, Singapore
Nov. 1, 2002

A full-time job and deafness did not stop Mr William Chew, one of 23 people to get inaugural award for lifelong learning

By Goh Chin Lian

OVER the past 12 years, deaf draughtsman William Chew has picked up two diplomas studying part-time while holding down a full-time job.

The father of three - twins aged 10 and a younger child who is five years old - said his goal is to 'live life to the fullest, and do whatever normal people do'.

He would hit the books every evening after dinner until 2 am, and wake up for work at 7 am. Once, he had to sit for an examination while his wife was in hospital giving birth.

Yesterday, he received a national award for his efforts.

He was recommended for it his by Singapore Polytechnic lecturer, Mr Ho Kah Hong, who was impressed by his perseverance. He said that three to four people usually drop out of a 30-strong class due to work commitments.

He said: 'Doing part-time studies is tough for many people, but William has managed to achieve what other Singaporeans are not able to do.'

Mr Chew, 41, had an NTC-2 certificate when he started on a five-year course for a diploma in architectural technology in 1990, then went on to do a two-year advanced diploma in multimedia development in 2000.

The time he had to take an examination while his wife, Anna, 39, who is also deaf, was giving birth, was his most trying, he confessed.

He wrote in an e-mail: 'That was my wife's first labour. I was naturally worried about her condition. I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate on my examination.

'She finally gave birth to a pair of healthy twins.'

He said he found the determination and enthusiasm to press on with his studies because of the support from his family and friends.

His story was voted the most inspiring in an online poll organised by MediaCorp Radio. It got more than 190 votes out of about 500 votes.

He is also one of 23 people who received the inaugural Lifelong Learner awards from President S R Nathan yesterday at the opening ceremony of the Learning Expo 2002 at Suntec City.

The awards, organised by the radio station and supported by the Manpower Ministry, are given to model citizens or permanent residents who return to beating the books again.

In his opening address, Mr Nathan told the audience that he realised at a young age 'the threat of remaining unemployable in a world where there were many others better educated and more qualified'.

Like many of the award winners, he, too, left school without completing his secondary education, and his first job was as an office boy.

He was a jobless teen when World War II broke out, but studied Japanese on his own until he was good enough in it to work as an interpreter.

He went back to school after the war and graduated from university at the age of 30.

Mr Nathan, who is 78, said: 'Instead of becoming upset and lamenting about my situation in life, I became motivated to learn and acquire knowledge and skills to do better.

'Everyone - no matter what the circumstances, how old, how educated or lacking in formal education, how busy - you can and must continue to pick up new knowledge and skills as you move on in life.'