A former bursary recipient Dr Koh (Dentistry ’58) is now helping students like Muhammad Idaffi Othman embrace new opportunities.
Honours Year student Muhammad Idaffi Othman from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS felt it was a stretch when he had to give tuition, earn money through the online marketplace Carousell and also work part-time to cover his expenses while going to school. He started enjoying his studies more when he received the NUS Bursary, and was able to stop giving tuition.
“I started managing my own finances after graduating from junior college. I knew it was hard for my parents to finance the household expenses especially when my two brothers are also in tertiary institutions. I had to juggle work and studies and it wasn’t easy.
Receiving the NUS Bursary, which is funded by the Annual Giving campaign, allowed me to focus on one thing at a time, and also to enjoy the process of learning more. I’ve got to say that I have enjoyed all my years in NUS, thanks to the financial aid that I received,” he explains.
Many bursaries are funded by donors who have received financial aid while studying at NUS and are giving back. Dr Koh Geok Kuan (Dentistry ’58) is one such donor who wanted to help students in need.
“Sixteen of us lived in the staff work quarters of the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), where my father worked. With only two rooms in the apartment, my eight brothers shared a room while my five sisters and I shared another. My parents had to sleep on the balcony,” shares the retired dentist.
Her mother, a housewife, would plant tapioca and kang kong in the back garden to put food on the table and the frugal family would even eat the tapioca skin fried in sambal. One sister had a talent for making cakes and curry puffs and they would set up a stall at the gate of the port to sell breakfast to workers. The delicious snacks usually sold out in a very short time and they were able to use the income to supplement household expenses. Her brothers also worked part-time and gave tuition. Despite these challenging conditions, her parents still ensured that their children focused on their studies.
“My family was very relieved when I received the Elizabeth Choy Bursary given by a government then. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to attend NUS and become a dentist. The Bursary covered my school fees and also allowed me to stay in the school hostel. We lived in Telok Blangah then, and I would have had to take two buses to school,” recounts Dr Koh, who met war heroine Ms Elizabeth Choy at the bursary interview.
A few of her siblings also received other bursaries and scholarships to go to University and went on to become family physicians and pharmacists.
Together with her husband, whom she met at NUS, Dr Koh went on to work in the government hospital for many years, preferring a stable income as opposed to going into private practice. While still a member of the Singapore Dental Association, she has retired since and has three children and five grandchildren today.
Having lived through such an experience, Dr Koh encourages students to “work hard, study hard and be thrifty!”