Story Of Cleaner With First Class Honours In Accounting and Finance
“My name is Afiq. I’m that guy whose story went viral, where I worked as a cleaner in the UK, to pay for my parents’ flight so they can attend my graduation. This is my story.
I didn’t do well for PMR and was kicked out of my previous school but now, I am the first person from my kampung to ever study in the UK, graduating from the University of Essex with First Class Honours in Accounting and Finance.
I received 4As for my PMR and did not meet the school’s 6As requirement, so I had to leave the school along with 5 other peers. I felt horrible – out of 200 people, I was one of the 6 who had to leave because we had the lowest scores. I missed school for about a month because none of the schools near my area wanted to accept my application.
I didn’t really think much about it but my mom was very disappointed in me. She went to the Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri and pleaded to the Director to place me in a good high school. I ended up in the Accounts Stream, and all of my previous schoolmates looked down on me. I felt left out and told myself, ‘kau tunggu la’. I eventually fell in love with Accounting and worked hard to prove them wrong.
Alhamdulillah, I received 10As and 1B for SPM and was offered a JPA scholarship to study in the UK. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At one point, I wanted to give up on my studies and go home to help my parents. My dad was against the idea and urged me to continue studying. When I got accepted to study at the University of Essex, my dad performed korban (sacrificial butchering of cows and goats for a feast), and 500 people from the kampung came to our house.
Growing up, my father did mostly kerja kampung. He planted palm oil and herded cows and goats at our small farm. At one point, he even sold fish, operated a kedai runcit (grocery store), and was a tauke getah (he acted as a middleman by collecting produce from rubber tappers and sold them to factories). During school holidays, I would help my father do things like cutting grass, mending fences and even taking care of the goats. He was earning RM 1,500 a month for the whole family.
In my first year, I took up a part-time job as a “Premise Assistant” under the Student Union to earn extra money. It may sound fancy but I was actually working as a cleaner.
My day started at 4am. Then I’d cycle to the university, and started working at 5. I had to scrub the floor, rearrange the chairs, clean the tables, and then clean the toilet. It’s not much, but I felt happy when I knew that I helped others by making the university clean. It’s actually much easier than working in the kampung. I didn’t have to work under the hot sun, do hard labour, and lift heavy things.
Honestly, I felt lazy to work as a cleaner because I had to wake up very early to work. My own friend who recommended me this job left after working for 2 days. And I had to work every weekend. My supervisor said I was a good employee, and he eventually granted me more flexible working days.
I worked 3 days a week, for up to 20 hours. 5-6 hours a day, earning £7.50 (RM40) an hour. I got about £100 (RM 500) a week and finished my shift at about 11am.
I highly recommend listening to ‘It’s a Hit’ on Spotify when you are cleaning. I have even used the mop as a microphone as I sang Awie’s ‘Tragedi Oktober’. I liked working as a cleaner because I can concentrate on doing my tasks. Unlike those who work at restaurants, they have to deal with people and customers, especially during peak hours.
In the UK, people don’t pandang rendah if you are a cleaner. They are considerate and apologise when they accidentally step on the spot I was cleaning. They also respect and greet cleaners by saying ‘Good Morning’, or ask me how I am doing. In Malaysia, if you see a cleaner, you throw rubbish on the floor, expecting them to clean after you.
For the first 2 years, I spent on things I never got to buy when I was younger. Eventually, I saved the money for my future from my cleaning job and managed to raise enough money, which was about £2000 to buy flight tickets for my parents to come to the UK.
It was their first time on an airplane and travelling outside of Malaysia, and I knew it meant a lot for them to be there with me. I wouldn’t be here today without them.
InshaAllah, I hope one day I can afford to pay for their Hajj trip to Mecca.”
– Humans of Kuala Lumpur
The post that made Afiq’s story viral can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/590015750/posts/10157230804490751/
Photostory by Yasmin Mortaza and Mushamir Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah Mustaffa