SINGAPORE - As a 15-year-old, he was failing badly in all his classes in school.
He never expected himself to eventually attain a first-class honours degree in mechanical and production engineering from Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
Mr Sairin Sani, 36, who has been a manufacturing engineer at United Technologies Corporation Aerospace Systems since 2007, said: "Back then, I found myself going nowhere. My mum had given up hope on me, and I didn't know what to do with my life."
Mr Sani, who had played truant and did not do well in school, thought about his future and realised that he could not achieve anything if he continued failing in his studies.
His story of perseverance and hard work to upgrade himself will be showcased at the "Total Defence 30: An Experiential Showcase", which started on Saturday, as part of the 2014 Total Defence campaign theme "Because You Played A Part".
The turning point came when he was asked to transfer from the Express Stream to Normal Stream when he was in Secondary 3.
He vowed to start afresh at the Institute of Technical Education, where he felt that he could better relate to the practical aspect of his course in automotive mechanics.
Mr Sani said: "Being able to apply the skills practically gave me a sense of purpose, and I started to put in more effort in my work."
His hard work paid off and he made it to Singapore Polytechnic, where he studied mechanical engineering.
He went on to achieve a first-class honours for his degree at NTU at what is now known as the school of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Mr Sani, who is married with two children aged five and two, said he is thinking of going back to his alma mater for his master's degree soon.
He believes that his story of perseverance will encourage others to upgrade themselves continually.
He said: "Our jobs are not guaranteed. Manpower and skills are one of the few resources that Singapore has. So, if we don't improve ourselves, we might fall behind."
He stressed the importance of lifelong learning as a form of economic defence that will help Singapore become strong and resilient as a nation.
Colonel Roland Ng, director of the Defence Ministry unit Nexus, commended Mr Sani's contribution to Singapore's Total Defence.
He said: "Sairin shows determination and willpower to overcome life's challenges.
"He consistently upgrades himself, so that he is equipped with skills that open doors to more opportunities.
"His spirit, and that of many others like him, is what keeps Singapore's economy thriving and vibrant."
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