At Ngee Ann Polytechnic's graduation this week, Madam Serimaryati Abdullah will not only be a proud mother seeing her son getting his diploma, but she will also be graduating with him.
The 51-year-old, who is the oldest NP student to graduate this year, will receive her Diploma in Health Sciences (Nursing) on Wednesday.
Her 22-year-old son, Mr Muhammad Nur Aniqq Ab Rahim, will get his Electronic and Computer Engineering diploma tomorrow.
"It's a double blessing for my family this year," said Madam Serimaryati, who was an enrolled nurse at Singapore General Hospital before she joined NP in 2013.
She holds a National ITE Certificate in Nursing, and had not gone to a polytechnic earlier as she did not meet the minimum grade point average of 3.5 required in 2008. The criterion was lowered later. "I've always wanted to go further (in my education), so I can do more as a nurse with better training.
"When I found out I could, I thought to myself, 'It's been so long since I've been to school'. I was initially worried about the generation and age gap. I was so afraid I wasn't able to blend in with the other students." But her son encouraged her and even helped her sign up.
Madam Serimaryati, who has four sons aged between 18 and 27, said: "My children motivate me a lot. They will ask me, 'How's school life? Anyone bullied you?' or 'Are the students rude? Do you understand what the lecturers are saying?' "
She added: "When we see each other in school, Aniqq would call me 'Ibu' (mother in Malay), hug me and hold my hands."
But she kept their relationship a secret to avoid unnecessary attention.
"People would ask me, 'Who's that?' And I would say that he is my friend's son. I didn't want them to ask so many questions."
Mr Aniqq, who is the third child in the family, said that even when he told his friends, they did not believe him.
As one of NP's mature students, Madam Serimaryati said one concern was taking longer than her peers to understand concepts.
"Sometimes, for essay writing, other people can finish in one hour, but I would take about three hours. But my children would help me go through my grammar. And I got better."
On her first week, she said: "Initially, I was very quiet. I would look and observe. In the classroom, I would sit in the second row. The students who came in would look at me, and ask, 'Excuse me, are you in the right class?'
"When the lecturer came in, I would be the first person he would notice. He would ask for my name and check it against the list to make sure I was an enrolled student.
"I got these a lot. But later, the lecturers were firm, and there was no special treatment for me. I was just like the other students."
On the decision to go back to school, Madam Serimaryati, who will start work at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital at the end of the month, said: "I'd tell others like me to just go ahead and do what you want. Age is not an excuse. Don't worry what others might think. There will always be people who will help you. Learning is never ending."
Mr Aniqq, who hopes to get a degree in computer engineering at Singapore Institute of Management, said: "I'm happy and proud that she decided to go back to school. She has always been my role model and I look up to her even more now."
This article was first published on May 9, 2016.
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