Remember that kampung boy who went viral for studying in UK and worked as a cleaner to pay for his parents’ flights to attend his graduation? He had previously credited his success to his parents as well, as he used to be just a shepherd boy in Kelantan who did not get good results.
In an interview with Humans of Kuala Lumpur, he told them his story about his humble beginnings and how he got kicked out of school but eventually became a first-class honours graduate. Mohammad Afiq Ismail said, “I didn’t do well for PMR and was kicked out of my previous school but now, I am the first person from my kampung to ever study in the UK, graduating from the University of Essex with First Class Honours in Accounting and Finance.”
He only received 4As for his PMR when he needed six, so he had to leave school. Luckily, his mother tried her best, and he ended up in a good high school in the Accounts Stream. Although his friends looked down on him for his low marks, he was determined not to give up and worked hard in Accounting.
“Alhamdulillah, I received 10As and 1B for SPM and was offered a JPA scholarship to study in the UK. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At one point, I wanted to give up on my studies and go home to help my parents. My dad was against the idea and urged me to continue studying. When I got accepted to study at the University of Essex, my dad performed korban (sacrificial butchering of cows and goats for a feast), and 500 people from the kampung came to our house.”
He was inspired by his father, who took on all sorts of work so he could support the family. His father was only earning RM1,500 a month for the whole family but was determined because he knew Afiq could only have better opportunities in life if he continued studying. His dad’s work ethic obviously followed him to the UK, as Afiq said that he worked part-time as a “Premise Assistant” under the Student Union to earn extra money, which was just a fancy way of saying “cleaner.”
“My day starts at 4am. Then I’d cycle to the university, and started working at 5am. I had to scrub the floor, rearrange the chairs, clean the tables, and then clean the toilet. It’s not much, but I felt happy when I knew that I helped others by making the university clean. It’s actually much easier than working in the kampung. I didn’t have to work under the hot sun, do hard labour, and lift heavy things.”
“I worked three days a week, for up to 20 hours. 5-6 hours a day, earning £7.50 (RM40) an hour. I got about £100 (RM 500) a week and finished my shift at about 11am.” He said that the people in UK were different, they did not consider a cleaning job as “lowly” and were very respectful.
Afiq added that he actually likes working as a cleaner as he can concentrate on his tasks and doesn’t have to interact with other people. With this newfound money, he spent on things he never got to buy when he was younger for the first two years, but he still remembered to save money for his parents’ flight tickets to the UK, which cost about £2,000.
“It was their first time on an airplane and travelling outside of Malaysia, and I knew it meant a lot for them to be there with me. I wouldn’t be here today without them,” he concludes.
This is such an inspiring story! Congrats to Afiq and may he have a bright future ahead!
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