Petronas scholarship lifted husband and wife out of poverty

Sazali Selamat

KUALA TERENGGANU: Sazali Selamat grew up in poverty. His clothes were hand-me-downs from neighbours, so he never knew the joy of wearing new clothes.

He never dreamed that the son of a village labourer would rise to the position of oil production division manager at Petronas Penapisan (Terengganu) Sdn Bhd, Kerteh one day.

The 43-year-old from Sabak Bernam, Selangor said life became better after he received a small Petronas scholarship for his schooling at Sekolah Menengah Tuanku Jaafar in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan.

“Aside from the fees, Petronas also gave me pocket money every month for my five years at secondary school.

“So, ayah (dad, Selamat Basir, 73) didn’t have to worry about my school expenses and could focus on giving my other siblings an education,” said Sazali, who is the third child in a family of nine children.

He said he also felt fortunate to have been a Petronas Education Sponsorship Programme (PESP) recipient while studying chemical engineering at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Skudai, Johor in 1996.

“Alhamdulillah, once again ayah didn’t have to worry about my expenses.

“Petronas didn’t just pay the fees for my five-year course at UTM, but also gave me a laptop to use and monthly allowance,” said Sazali, who joined Petronas immediately after graduation in 2000.

Nor Sharihan Md Saad (second left).

Sazali’s wife, Nor Sharihan Md Saad, 40, grew up in similar circumstances and was also a PESP recipient.

The mum-of-five is environment manager at Petronas Chemicals Ethylene Polyethylene Sdn Bhd in Kerteh, too.

Md Saad Md Isa, 71, her dad, was a rice mill labourer earning about RM200 in the 1980s, which meant she and her younger sister had to make do with very little.

“Our living expenses were limited to RM3 a day. As we didn’t own a fridge, ibu (mum, Halimah Abdul Latif, 68) would go to the nearby shop every day to get what we needed.

“I still remember that ibu would buy three ikan kembung (chub mackerel) for RM1 which was enough to feed the family that day,” said Nor Sharihan from Baling, Kedah.

She said life changed for the better after Petronas sponsored her chemical engineering course at Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) from 1999 – 2004 and then offered her a job as a health, safety and environment executive at Petronas Chemicals Methanol Sdn Bhd in Labuan after graduation in 2005.

Poverty should not be an excuse to neglect your studies, instead it should be the motivation to succeed, she said.

“And when we become successful, we must stay humble and shouldn’t forget our family,” she added about her secret to success.

Since 1975, Petronas has invested over RM3.3 bln in the PESP which has benefitted around 37,000 students.

In 2020, it set aside over RM100 mln to sponsor 370 students in courses related to oil and gas (O&G) at UTP, selected Malaysian universities and renowned universities in the US, UK, Australia, China, Japan, Canada and New Zealand. – Bernama