On Saturday I spoke at the Graduation Ceremony at a primary school. I told them the story of a professor who graduated from primary school twice. When his elder brother entered primary 1 at the age of 6, his parents decided to send him to the same school, so that they can take the brothers to school together. He was only 4 at the time.
He didn’t do too well but survived primary school, competing with classmates 2 years older. When he finished primary 6, he was allocated to King’s College, a prestigious secondary school. He was put in section D, believed to be the worst performing section. His parents were afraid he might not be able to make it, and decided to send him to Aberdeen Technical School. ATS was a desirable school for the working class children at the time because the technical training prepared the students well for apprentices’ jobs after finishing form 5. The other reason was that he got a government grant for attending it, due to the family’s low income status. Because of his young age, he was only admitted into primary 5. Hence two years later, he graduated from primary school again, at age 12.
When he finished secondary school 5 years later (completing form 5), he had no expectations of entering university because, in those days in the early 70s, there were only 2 universities in Hong Kong, and the fees were high. But he did so well in the public examination that he was admitted into form 6 by La Salle College, another prestigious preparatory school. When several of his classmates applied for a prestigious scholarship for study at American universities, he followed suit, without much hope. Against all odds, he was granted a full scholarship for 4 years.
It was a big, bold step for him to accept that scholarship. At that point, he had never left home, and he had never taken an airplane. Using borrowed money, he bought a one-way ticket from Pan Am, which is now defunct - not knowing when he would have enough money to come home. … Many years later, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and, more years later, returned to Hong Kong. He is now a professor at a local university. He has an unusual job - taking students away from Hong Kong, to Cambodia, Rwanda, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, …, to help them learn through performing community service. They are installing computers, computer networks, …, and solar panels to generate electricity, for communities that are without electricity nor running water.
The lesson then is that you often do not know what future holds for you. One may aim at being a professor, or may not. One may end up a doctor, an engineer, a businessman, …, a librarian - all laudable posts in life. You simply don’t know what opportunities may open up for you. At different stages in life, you may also encounter benefactors who give you help. But you must be prepared to take up the opportunities offered to you. And you must be courageous to take on challenges. How you turn out depends on you.
I hope the audience find the story useful. At the least, it is real.