Tue, May 25, 2010
The Straits Times
True grit by poly grad and his grandma

By Kimberly Spykerman

Madam Koh Woon Keng, 76, has attended classes for the past 13 years - not as a student, but as a caregiver to her grandson who suffers from muscular dystrophy.

Her efforts paid off when Mr Tang Ziwei, 21, graduated with a diploma in information technology from Temasek Polytechnic (TP) last week.

Diagnosed with the genetic disorder at eight, he has been wheelchair-bound since. Muscular dystrophy is a condition where the muscles of the body weaken over time.

At the graduation ceremony, his proud grandmother accompanied him on stage to get his diploma. It was a moment she had waited a long time to witness.

After all, she had been his constant companion at TP, tirelessly pushing his wheelchair from one class to the next.

'It's not tiring for me at all; he's my grandson,' she said in Teochew at the family home in Bedok.

The grandmother of seven lives with Mr Tang, his elder brother and their parents.

Mr Tang's parents work during the day. His mum is a cleaner. His father, a technician, would drive Ziwei and his grandmother to the polytechnic in the morning. The pair would return home by taxi at about 5.30pm.

In class, she would set up Mr Tang's laptop and sit beside him, helping to turn the pages of textbooks. She made sure he could see clearly and write comfortably.

Said TP lecturer Jocelyn Lim: 'She knew his needs so well, and was very attentive towards him.'

The school helped by holding the classes that Mr Tang took in rooms that were near one another.

Before enrolling in TP, he studied at Minxin Primary and Bedok South Secondary schools.

Madam Koh said she exercised daily so that she could be fit enough to manoeuvre his wheelchair.

Mr Tang plans to apply for a job that will allow him to work from home. Asked how he feels about the sacrifices his grandmother made, he said simply: 'Thankful.'


This article was first published in The Straits Times.

For more The Straits Times stories, click here.

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