Never too busy to go back to school

World Toilet Organisation (WTO) founder Jack Sim will soon be armed with more than an Institute of Technical Education certificate.

On Sunday, the 56-year-old graduates with a Master of Public Administration degree from the National University of Singapore.

Explaining why he decided to go back to school as a mature student 41/2 years ago, the social entrepreneur said:

"My experience is that of a person who grew up in poverty, and of someone with a business background.

"But partial knowledge is dangerous. I did not understand how the civil service operates, so I wanted to equip myself with this knowledge."

Mr Sim, who has operated some 16 commercial businesses over the course of his life, was selected for the degree through his work with WTO, a registered charity which aims to improve sanitation around the world.

Going back to school proved challenging for the frequent flier, who finished assignments on the plane, and touched down just before lessons began.

Now Mr Sim is turning to film to spread his message about the responsibility each person has in keeping public toilets clean. He is a research consultant on a Jack Neo film on public toilets, which is slated for release at the end of the year, and is also in talks to produce a Bollywood film, titled Life Without Toilets.

Another whose busy schedule did not stop her from going back to school was Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) chief Leo Yee Sin, 53.

She will graduate with a master's in public health from NUS on Sunday.

Professor Leo said that it was "tough work" juggling her jobs at the CDC and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she heads the Department of Infectious Diseases, plus leading a $25 million study on dengue, with the two-year part-time master's programme.

But it was rewarding in the end.

She said: "To me, learning is a lifelong process."

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