Faculty & Centres  |  Home  |  Accreditation & Recognition  |  Contact Us  | 

  Home > > Against All Odds
Open University Malaysia

OUM is a place where people from diverse backgrounds converge in their academic pursuits. Learners run the gamut from young to old, and come from a wide range of professions and trades. While each has his or her own personal struggle, some have greater challenges than others. Fariz Abd Rani is one such learner at the Sabah Learning Centre. Nevertheless, he has proven to be a fighter deserving of respect because he has fought his battles and won on many fronts.

A pillion rider in a motorcycle crash 13 years ago, Fariz was left with a spinal cord injury which rendered him a paraplegic. “I was a first-year undergraduate in Applied Physics in a public university when it happened. After the accident, I wanted to request for a transfer to a university in Sabah. My plan did not pan out at the time,” says the 33-year-old during the interview session at the Sabah Learning Centre.

Life came to a standstill then. “I just stayed at home. All I did was eat, sleep and watch TV,” he says. After three years, he finally came to his senses. “That was when I seriously asked myself what I wanted to do with my life.”

He soon found a job in a medical supplies company where he spent seven years learning the ropes of the industry. In 2010, he set up his own business to become a provider of medical equipment such as prostheses and wheelchairs to hospitals.Due to his line of work, Fariz often has to go out and meet clients, most of whom are accident victims. This is one of the reasons he decided to sign up for the Bachelor of Psychology programme. The new learner in this year’s September intake explains, “I want to reach out to my clients, especially those who are giving up on life. With a degree in psychology, I will be armed with knowledge that can come in handy. All this while, I rely on my personal journey to motivate others. I usually tell them that their future is not that bleak as they can still work and socialise with people like me.”

Also actively involved in Young Voices Sabah, a local group which advocates for the rights of the disabled, Fariz interacts a lot with people who have physical disabilities. “I recommend many of them to further their studies. I want them to know that with an added qualification, more opportunities will be open to them. It is a good thing that OUM offers discounts on tuition fees for persons with disabilities. One of my staff, who has an artificial leg, recently signed up for the September intake. He opted for the Bachelor of Information Technology programme.”

Initially, Fariz had reservations about enrolling at the Sabah Learning Centre. “I was worried that inconveniences that come with my physical condition would be a hindrance, like how do I get in and where do I park my car. My doubts were quelled after I met Lamjin Atoh, the director of the learning centre. He assured me that my tutorials will be held on the ground level, that ramps will be installed and that two parking spots will be reserved for the disabled,” says Fariz, who drives a car specially modified for his needs.

When asked how he finds the tutorials thus far, the charismatic entrepreneur who converses confidently in English says, “It feels good to be studying in a class after having worked for 10 years. It makes me feel young again. The tutors are great. They understand that we are working adults, and thus suitable teaching methods are used to match our learning styles.

“I make sure that I talk to my course mates first so that they do not feel uneasy. We are a good mix,” Fariz adds. One of his course mates in the English Oral Communication class is a retired government employee, and another is a teacher from the interior of Sabah. “He told us that he has to cross six rivers to reach his school. That is quite incredible.”

FARIZ: Learning makes me feel young again

On how he schedules his study hours, he says, “I work on weekdays. My business is fairly new, so I am still very much involved in marketing my products, and that means travelling the whole of Sabah with my staff. Travel makes me tired. Sometimes, I have to work on Sundays. So, the only time I can devote to my studies is Saturday or, if I am not too tired, a few hours on weeknights.”

From plunging into the depths of despair to rebuilding his life from scratch and becoming a full-fledged businessman, Fariz is a living example that one can emerge a stronger person after a lifealtering incident.

“My ultimate goal is to attain a PhD degree because I hope to publish research papers which can serve as educational reference in universities. I have conducted seminars and workshops, but when they are over, the data used in my Powerpoint presentations go unrecorded. It is such a waste,” says the forward-looking learner who also intends to write a book about his life experiences.

Apart from that, Fariz is committed to raising awareness among the public of the rights of the physically disabled.

“The society’s mindset is that if you are disabled, you had better stay at home, why even bother to study. So, it is very important that nonprofit organisations and support groups like Young Voices Sabah continue to work on changing such perspectives,” says Fariz, who takes part in band performances to impress upon the community that people with disabilities can lead normal lives as well.

“When you see somebody pick themselves up after teetering on the brink of despair, the feeling you get is priceless. Family support is important. My family members give me a lot of moral support and encouragement. Without them, I would not be where I am now. But they still worry whenever I have to travel out of town,” says Fariz, before driving off to attend a band rehearsal for a performance in which he plays the guitar.

Last Updated on 24-11-2011