School is a draw for ex-convict, 45, with teachers' support

04 September 2020
The Straits Times

At age 45, Mr Rahman Sanip stands out among his teenage coursemates pursuing a fine arts diploma at LASALLE College of the Arts. But he is determined not to let this deter him, as the course is a fresh start for the former convict, who has spent the last 20 years in and out of prison. The former drug addict was released in April last year, and said he was very thankful that his school's head had taken a chance on him. Mr Rahman, who is in the second and final year of the course, said he had rediscovered his passion for art during his last stint in prison, and wanted to see how far he could go with his talent. He said that his prison officers, noticing his artistic talent, encouraged him to continue studying and one of them introduced him to the head of LASALLE’s McNally School of Fine Arts, Dr S. Chandrasekaran. Mr Rahman was elated when Dr Chandrasekaran decided to accept him into the school after seeing his portfolio of work and interviewing him.

Dr Chandrasekaran, 60, said he could tell that Mr Rahman had a lot of passion for art and was very determined to make things work. He added that he saw a bit of himself in Mr Rahman, as he too, faced a lot of difficulties studying art. Dr Chandrasekaran had started his arts education in the largely Chinese-speaking Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in the 1980s, and had to fund his own way through it. He also helped Mr Rahman when the new student faced challenges settling into school. For instance, when Mr Rahman had difficulties paying the school fees, Dr Chandrasekaran recommended him to the school's student services body, which worked out a subsidised scheme for him. The fees are also being subsidised by the Yellow Ribbon Foundation's Star (Skills Training Assistance to Restart) bursary programme. Mr Rahman said he is very grateful for the support of Dr Chandrasekaran and his lecturers in school. He added that some of his fellow students, who are mostly 17 or 18 years old, also help him out in classes, despite the different path he took to be in the class. For now, he is focusing on his greatest challenge in school: essay writing. It is not his strong point, and the last time he was in school was more than 25 years ago, when he obtained a National Trade Certificate Grade 3 level in mechanical fitting. His dream is to one day have a stable job as an art teacher, or to work as a display artist.

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Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.