Mugiyono, a becak (pedicab) driver in the Central Java city of Semarang, burst into tears when his youngest daughter, Raeni, 21, graduated with an undergraduate degree in accounting from the Semarang State University, earning a performance index of 3.96.
"I'm very grateful. My daughter has become a university graduate thanks to God's mercy. We are a poor family. I never imagined I would be able to afford to send my child to university. She is the only person in our extended family to become a university graduate," Mugiyono told The Jakarta Post while attending the graduation ceremony on Tuesday.
Born on Jan. 13, 1993, Raeni, who was raised by Mugiyono and her mother, Sujamah, in Kendal, another town in Central Java, was named the top performing graduate in the class of 955 students.
"I had a passion for study," said Raeni.
"When I graduated from SMK 1 vocational high school in Kendal, I was also named the best graduate. Then I applied for a scholarship to the Semarang State University and got accepted," she added.
She studied at the school of accounting on a full scholarship. She also received a stipend of Rp 600,000 (US$50.68) to cover costs like books and food.
"I hope to continue my S2 [master's degree] abroad in England. However, I must improve my TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] score. My current TOEFL score is only 477. To study abroad, I would have to reach at least 550, so I will have to study harder," Raeni said, adding that she wanted to become a professor someday.
Semarang State University rector Fathur Rokhman praised Raeni for her achievement. "It turns out that economic hardship is not [necessarily] a hindrance preventing a person from realizing his or her dreams," Fathur said.
"Raeni has proven this. Though she would be welcomed to pursue her S2 here, looking at her achievements and her spirit, I would encourage her to continue her studies overseas," he added.
Raeni plans to travel to Japan as part of a student exchange programme in the near future.
"I've also applied for the Indonesia Mengajar [Indonesia Teaches] programme. I passed the first stage, and if I am accepted, I will be placed on a remote island in Indonesia to focus my energies on teaching young children," said Raeni.
The Semarang State University on Tuesday conferred doctorate degrees on six graduates, master's degrees on 73 graduates and bachelor's degrees on 995 graduates. Nineteen students graduated with a Diploma 3, or with non-degree status.