Helping hand for economically-disadvantaged students
02 Sep 2023 | The Star
The Gamuda Scholarship’s ethos revolves around inclusivity, and this is reflected in their selection with 20% of scholarships for students from Sabah and Sarawak.

Gamuda Scholarship funds for mainly B40 and M40 students’ higher education

There were times when Nurul Hikmah Rumaini felt her dreams of pursuing higher education might be out of reach.

She spent most of her teenage years growing up in Beaufort, a quiet rural town on the west coast of Sabah, where her father – an imam at the local mosque – worked side-jobs to support their family of five.

Like many families across the country, Hikmah’s household falls under the B40 bracket – a lower income group that survives on below RM4,850 per household monthly.

Despite her stellar scores in her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), the fifth-former knew her family lacked the financial means to support her studies. Determined to carve out a better life for herself and her family, she set her sights on scholarships.

Today, Hikmah is one of 79 students awarded the 2023 Gamuda Scholarship – a programme renowned for providing education opportunities to underprivileged students.

Transforming lives

An annual initiative by the engineering and infrastructure company Gamuda, the Gamuda Scholarship has been empowering the lives of economically-disadvantaged Malaysian students since 1996.

The scholarship, however, is designed to be more than just financial aid; the holistic nature of the programme includes a slew of engagement and development programmes as well as job placements within Gamuda.

Since its inception, the scholarship has paved the way for 640 students to study in top-tier universities, both locally and abroad – widening their horizons, expanding their networks and offering them a platform for a better future.

This transformation has led scholars to pursue successful careers in their chosen fields, many of whom have returned to join Gamuda and now helm senior management positions in the company.

Nurul Hikmah Rumaini wants to use this study opportunity to contribute towards the development of her home state Sabah.

This element that nurtures talent beyond tertiary education is also the reason why the scholarship is one of the most sought-after in the country. This year alone, the programme received a staggering 3,500 applications.

With soaring education fees, Gamuda has also increased the scholarship fund to RM20mil per annum – up from RM13 million in the previous year. Two-thirds of its funds are allocated to B40 families, and the rest to M40 families.

While the scholarship focuses largely on B40 communities, the emphasis on inclusivity remains equally important.

This inclusivity – a core principle of the Gamuda Scholarships’ mission of fostering unity and opportunity across the region – is mirrored in the deserving recipients this year, which include scholars from Peninsular Malaysia’s Orang Asli communities as well as 20% of students from Sabah and Sarawak.

More than money

For Hikmah, who will be furthering her studies in information science at the University of Northumbria in the UK, having the opportunity to study means more than just reducing the financial burden on her family.

Being able to pursue her dream is also about becoming a role model for her younger siblings and contributing her talents to her country.

“With my degree, I can better digital infrastructure that can contribute towards the development of network and communication systems in Sabah,” she says, noting that poor internet connectivity in the state’s rural areas presented obstacles for students who needed to access educational tools online.

Fellow 2023 Gamuda scholar, Kajang-native Deeva Hareen, says getting a scholarship is akin to breaking the cycle for the B40 communities.

Despite being a straight-A student all his life, Deeva – a second-year student of electronic engineering technology at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia – admits that he understood limitations at a very young age.

Gamuda Scholarship student Deeva Haren understands limitations at a very young age, ‘when you come from the B40 bracket.’

His late father, who was a sales manager in the medical field, had worked tirelessly to feed the family, while his mother – like Hikmah’s – was dedicated to raising the children at home.

“When you come from the B40 bracket, your access to other experiences outside school – like music class, for instance – comes at a cost,” he says, adding that children growing up in the B40 group rarely have the opportunity to see life beyond what they’ve experienced.

Education is always a priority in his family, says Deeva, but the scholarship offers the opportunity for B40 students like himself to attain a different kind of future.

“Today, when I talk to young people in the B40 community, I can tell them from my own experience how it has helped me widen my horizons and allowed for much personal growth.

“And I tell them studying hard and having the right values will get companies like Gamuda to notice you and invest in your potential,” he says.

Nurturing talent of the future

When it comes to good talent, no one knows it better than Gamuda. What started as a construction outfit in 1976 grew into Malaysia’s leading infrastructure company with regional presence in Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam and the UK.

While much of its growth is attributed to the stewardship of Gamuda group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling, a core part of their journey also lies in the strength of their large, and diverse talent pool – one that has kept the company innovative and competitive in the fast-changing world.

‘In a landscape where access to quality education remains a privilege, we plan to increase the scholarship fund to RM30mil next year, with an anticipated reach of over 120 students.’ – Datuk Lin Yun Ling

For Gamuda, the scholarships are a way of nurturing talent and workforce needed for both the company, and for the country.

Of the 79 recipients this year, 19 will be furthering their studies overseas in Ivy League universities such as Imperial College, National University of Singapore and Melbourne University, including six students who will enter China’s prestigious Tsinghua University and Peking University – a first for any Gamuda scholar.

This international exposure, as Gamuda knows, will contribute significantly to the personal development of these young scholars.

Lin, who himself spent his university days at King’s College in London, encourages the recipients studying abroad to maintain an open mind, immerse themselves in new cultures, and grow into all-rounders.

“In a landscape where access to quality education remains a privilege, we plan to increase the scholarship fund to RM30mil next year, with an anticipated reach of over 120 students,” he says.

This is an expansion Lin hopes will create a significant ripple effect in nurturing a generation of capable Malaysians.

Click here to find out more about the Gamuda Scholarship.