Saturday, December 3

UCTS confers aegrotat degree to cancer-stricken student Phu Joon Meng


A beaming Phu is kissed by his parents as he displays his aegrotate degree.

KUCHING: University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) yesterday conferred a degree under special provisions to its student Phu Joon Meng.

UCTS vice chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Khairuddin Ab Hamid said this was the first time the university had conferred the degree under special provisions, or aegrotat degree, to a student.

“This ceremony is dedicated to a special person to be awarded with a special degree and for a special reason. Soon, he will be conferred with a Bachelor degree in Quantity Surveying under special provision, known as the aegrotat degree.

“The aegrotat degree is awarded to a candidate who is unable to complete and undertake his courses and exams due to serious illness, under the presumption that had he completed the courses and exams, he would have satisfied the requirements to graduate.

“This special person who we are celebrating today, despite being very ill, he is very determined, worked extremely hard and was so committed towards his studies,” Khairuddin said in his speech at the ceremony.

He noted that the UCTS Senate was presented with Phu’s case by the caring and concerned head of the Quantity Surveying programme, Dr Kan Fock Kui, and was strongly supported by School of Built Environment dean Assoc Prof Haris Fadzilah Abdul Rahman.

“With the cooperation from the registrar Mohamed Azmi Ramli, a special paper was prepared and presented to the Senate.

“Without much deliberation, a special Senate approval was granted thus making this award possible today,” Khairuddin added.

Khairuddin (second left) presents the aegrotat degree to Phu, who is accompanied by his parents. — Photos by Roystein Emmor

Phu joined the Quantity Surveying programme in April 2017 at the Sibu campus after graduating with a Diploma in Quantity Surveying, and was an active participant in UCTS’ extracurricular activities, even helming the Taekwando Club and was a black belt instructor.

Unfortunately in May 2019, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was in his final semester, causing him to defer his studies to undergo treatment at Sarawak General Hospital.

“Because I’m in the Taekwando Club, I felt very dizzy and weak after training. Initially I thought that it was because I was overexerting myself until one day, I was not doing any exercise but I felt very dizzy and was vomiting, so I went to the hospital. That’s when I found out something was wrong.

“At the time, I did the check-up in Sibu but the doctor advised me to get a second opinion in Kuching. That was when I found out I had a brain tumour so they advised me to go for surgery, which I did on June 29 last year,” the 23-year-old Phu said.

After six months, he resumed his studies in February earlier this year, and many lecturers were moved when they realised that Phu was still attending their online lectures on his way to the hospital.

However despite the treatments, the cancer cells were found to have spread to other parts of his body and it was emotionally stressful for him when physicians advised him that the most appropriate action now would be for him to stop treatment and enjoy the rest of his life.

Phu expressed his appreciation and gratitude for UCTS and the aegrotat degree.

“I am very appreciative and thankful to UCTS because they came all the way from Sibu to organise this ceremony just for me,” he said.

Also present at the ceremony were his parents Phu Sek Ann, 57, and Yah Lee Yuen, 52, who were also very appreciative and grateful towards UCTS for holding the ceremony for their son.

“When we found out about his condition, we were very concerned because he was not at home in Kuching with us but was studying in Sibu, so we could not care for him directly. After treatment in Sarawak General Hospital, he went back to Sibu to study.

“At first, it was hard for us to accept that he had a brain tumour and we were very saddened by it. But in time, we accepted the situation and tried to do our best to help him as much as possible,” they said.

When asked if they had any advice for parents who may be facing a similar situation,
they said that it was very important to take care of their own health.

“You must take care of yourself and your own health so you can be a good caretaker for your child. Always find ways to spend more time to support and take care of your children,” they added.