S'porean man, 33, who is Original Vadai boss, completes poly diploma after dropping out 15 years ago

He took the last five years to finish his education.

Belmont Lay | June 07, 2021, 01:21 PM

A Singaporean man, who missed the chance to complete his polytechnic education due to family circumstances when he was younger, has gone back to school and got his certificate -- 15 years later.

Stephen Suriyah, 33, wrote about his achievement on Facebook on June 6, 2021.

According to Stephen, he had to drop out of polytechnic at age 18 as his family was poor and could not afford the S$1,200 school fees per semester.

He also could not afford to pay for the daily transport and meals incurred, which contributed to his decision to quit school.

After leaving school, he worked with his mother to sell vadai, a fluffly fried dough snack that is frequently found at night bazaars.

Nagging feeling to complete education

A decade after leaving polytechnic to work, Stephen said he had the nagging feeling he should complete his education which he missed out on.

Stephen wrote in his post: "Enrolled myself five years ago. Yes, you saw it right. It took me five years to finish this."

The certificate said he attained a diploma in Business Practice (Business Management).

However, the last five years were not easy on him.

Cheated in business venture

In that span of a half decade, he had two business failures and incurred a S$200,000 debt.

Speaking to Mothership.sg, Stephen said one of the business failures involved a joint venture for a motor workshop business, but he claimed that he ended up being allegedly cheated out of S$120,000 by his partner.

In that time he took to complete his diploma, he fell into depression and was even diagnosed with severe tuberculosis.

These setbacks occurred one after the other.

Stephen said: "I almost gave up."

At that time his girlfriend, who is now his wife, stuck with him through thick and thin, and they eventually got married.

His life then turned around when his food business got off the ground.

Today, The Original Vadai has outlets at Beach Road, Joo Chiat and Amoy Street.

Stephen wrote: "Brought the business back up. Slowly paid off outstanding debt. And today, I just received this certificate."

Never give up

In his post, Stephen also explained that he went back to complete his education for the knowledge and it was affirmation for himself.

"Phew... what a journey it has been!!! Many asked me why was I even wasting time studying since I'm a already a 'towkay', he wrote.

"This cert is not going to land me a job. Its for knowledge and self satisfaction. Those struggling right now, just remember this. "Never say Die!!" I thank God for what he has done and is doing. To God be the Glory!!"

Stephen also told Mothership.sg he did not attend the graduation convocation as it was held during Ramadan this year, which is a peak business period.

All photos via Stephen Suriyah