When I was about to end my Dip Esl course in UM in march 84, My friends and I were offered to continue our studies in UKM to do English with 1 semester off. After carefully weighing the fact that I was only earning 600+, am married with a 4 year old daughter and another baby just 2 months away, I decided to decline. On half pay I would be getting about 300+. That's not even enough to see my own self through in UKM.
About 9 years after that at the age of 37, I was getting pretty bored with teaching life and decided to try getting back to the university to get me a degree. I had conditions though. The degree course must be in Penang so that I don't have to uproot. I read a circular of an offer to non-grad teachers to read for a degree in English Language and Literature Studies (ELLS) at USM Penang. Just the kind of opening I needed. I applied and after going through the formality of an interview I was successful. In fact those with Dip Esl were given a year off and we could finish in 3 instead of 4 years. I was jubilant but at the same time afraid. I was wondering if I could do it. In school I was not actually one of those brilliant students. I was only average. Just to digress a bit, my neighbour once told my mother that god would be blind if I could pass my MCE. Well I proved that her god was blind, not mine. That was one fine neighbour, don't you think so?
Then a bombshell dropped, one that required me to rethink the whole matter again. Under the Cabinet Scheme, those who get to further their studies could apply to freeze their housing loan. At most they only pay the interests only. Under SSB, there was not such facility. I wonder whose brilliant idea it was. After doing some serious calculations, considering that I freeze payment on my coop loan and pay subscription and interests only, on half pay I would be getting RM125 per month.
At that time, two of my children were already schooling, one in form 1 and the other in std 3. My wife was not working and I had my car installments of 600+ per month to pay. Look, I could do easy juggling acts but I was and still am surely no magician. There was surely no way I could get a balance sheet out of that kind of shit.
I was lucky when my brother in law offered me and my family a room in his house which is only about 5 minutes away from USM. I could then rent out my house here and use the rentals and what is left of my pay to provide for my family's needs. Rentals in BM were cheap then so that did not come out to much. RM125 plus RM350 rentals to feed 5 people and school 2. In fact the next year, my youngest would be going to std 1. Then there will be the car installments and my own needs as a student.
I decided to sell the car and got some money in hand, not much though, about 6K. I bought myself a used motorcycle for about RM1500. My brother who was was running a canteen in USM offered me a part-time job as a cashier, doing the 5pm to 11pm shift. The pay was not much, but if I tightened my belts, with much hardship, I should be able to get by but there would be lots of sacrifices.
I spent 3 bloody hard years at USM. I had classes in the day time and work 7 days a week at the canteen from 5pm to 11pm leaving me with hardly anytime to study and complete my assignments. About a year before my studies ended, my wife got a part-time job at a factory. She contributed about 400+ and my children were the main beneficiaries to the extra money.
Despite the limited time that I had to study I did quite ok. I passed with a second class upper. There wasn't anyone with 1st class. Only 12 of us got two upper so I could kinda say that I did pretty well.
I am not particularly well off now, but looking back, I wonder how I got through those harrowing years. Would I do it all over again? Well er......
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