FEATURE: At 23 years old, when many Malaysians her age are still figuring out what to do in life, Norsyafiqah Salimun is already a young woman with many accomplishments.
The Ranau-born lass’ achievements have inspired many of her peers and lecturers at the Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) and earned her the Silver Chancellor Award at the university’s 16th convocation ceremony late last year, where she graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Petroleum Geoscience, with a CGPA of 3.78.
She is currently pursuing a post-graduate programme in Petroleum Geoscience at UTP, and harbours the ambition of obtaining her PhD before she turns 27.
“My father is a farmer, and my mother a home-maker. Although my parents – due to their circumstances – did not receive high education, they recognise and always stress the importance and value of having good education to me and my five siblings,” recalls Syafiqah, as she is fondly known.
The Gold, Silver and Bronze Chancellor Award is presented to UTP students who demonstrate excellence not only in their academic performance but also in co-curricular activities as well as in leadership.
And they must also be well-respected by their peers and be regarded as role models by other students.
Syafiqah’s drive to excel in her studies is matched only by her strive to help others achieve their best. “Like my parents, I truly believe that education and knowledge can change lives,” she says.
Armed with this conviction, she actively volunteers with various non-profit organisations including the Yayasan Dana Kebajikan Muslim Malaysia and the Neo Synergy Training Centre, which requires her to travel to give motivational and leadership talks at various schools and learning institutions.
Her frequent talks inspired her to find ways to encourage students to discover their own individual study methods. She worked closely with UTP and gathered some of the brightest students and alumni, and together they put together Success Secret Revealed, a series of books detailing various study techniques.
“Some of the techniques include studying in groups, self-studying, mentoring, pairing and even last-minute studying methods. The objective is for students to figure out what method works best for them,” says Syafiqah.
The Success Secret Revealed book series were launched early last year in a ceremony officiated by UTP’s Vice Chancellor, Datuk Ir. (Dr) Abdul Rahim Hashim and is currently available in the market.
Syafiqah also participated – and won – in various science, engineering and geoscience quizzes and competitions at university, national and international levels.
She attributes her achievements to UTP’s conducive learning environment and to her lecturers, who she says treat students “like their own children”. She also lauds the university’s efforts in conducting adjunct lectures by speakers with diverse backgrounds, allowing students to learn from the experts and gather knowledge beyond the scheduled classes.
“The knowledge and experiences that I’ve gained at UTP have made me a better person. I am grateful for what I have and what I have achieved so far. There are a lot more people who are far less fortunate than me, and I would like to contribute back through whatever ways that I can.”
Syafiqah says she is driven by the issues her peers and younger generation face in society. “I come from a rural area and I understand that the root causes to some issues are due to the lack of education, or lack of access to education. I would like to, in my small ways, change that.”
One of her “small” ways was the setting up a mini library for children in a multipurpose hall in Kampung Poring in her hometown Ranau, a project that she mooted following her participation in the National Youth Camp programme.
“We hope to instil the habit of reading among young children. We work closely with a publication company which sponsors books regularly to the mini library as well as with volunteers who help raise funds and collect books.
“We’re very happy to see parents frequenting the library with their kids,” says Syafiqah, adding that there are plans to build a proper library in the future.
“I aspire to inspire and motivate the younger generation to have a vision and mission in their life, to make the society we live in a better one. We do not live in this world by ourselves, for ourselves. We can’t afford to be self-centered as this will erode our values.
“My life’s motto is ‘Man Jadda, Wa Jada’, which means whoever strives will succeed. Challenge yourself and aim for the highest achievement in whatever you do.
“At the same time, always remember that the more you give, the more you’ll get in return. You might not get it in this world, but the reward from God is His promise.”