At 49, Tim (not his real name) is the oldest A-level inmate student at prison school. The school is located at Institution Tanah Merah 1.
Jovial and chatty as he talked about his A-level results, his world was different in 2008 when he was caught. He collapsed and dreaded the fate that awaited him.
13 years later, life is now a lot more hopeful for Tim.
Tim described the opportunity to resume his education in 2018 while behind bars as the second second-chance at life.
“The first (second chance) was when my capital punishment for drug offenses was reduced to life imprisonment in 2012,” he said.
The father-of-one has done well for his A-level exams. He received his GCE A-Level result recently, scoring two As for H1 Math and Mother Tongue, and 1 Distinction for Mother Tongue Oral.
Two years ago, he retook his GCE O-level exam with a score of 9 points.
“In my youth, I was distracted with a lot of other things. I dropped out of Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 1989 while pursuing a Diploma in Electronic Engineering. Today, despite being in prison, I’m competing with my 19-year-old son, who is preparing to pursue a diploma after scoring a 3.9 GPA in his ITE course.”
Amazing as it may be, being in prison and resuming his education behind bars has helped bridge the gap between the father and son duo.
“We have so many more things to talk about now,” Tim said
With Chinese New Year just over, Tim shared with a sense of yearning and regret that being behind bars means many missed reunion dinners with his parents, wife, and son.
“I made a mistake and I’m paying the price for it, but what hurts is that my family is also paying for my mistakes. I’m denying them their son, husband, and father at the reunion table.”
So how did Tim keep himself going despite the harsh realities of his circumstances?
“Through these books and even studying for General Paper (GP), I’m able to escape to the outside world for a while. It’s not about education anymore, it’s about the quest for learning and making the most of my time here.”
“The biggest irony is that only after coming here, at my age, I’ve resumed my education, renewed my relationship with my family, and found my faith once again,” he said.
Tim credited his Rehabilitation Officer (RO) Mohd Faizal who he said played an important role in that.
“On a day-to-day basis, he checks in on me, helps me where possible, and actually facilitates to get my religious books for me when I need them.”
The quest for learning will not stop for Tim. He intends to further his learning and quest for knowledge behind prison walls.
He has a message for the young students on the outside.
“Don’t focus on temporary enjoyment. Develop a passion for learning. Not just education, but learning. Change comes when you start to learn.”
Wise words to take heed.