KUALA LUMPUR: The Tan family of Damansara Utama is proof that the average Malaysian family cares for its domestic maids.
Sarmini Muhyadi surrounded by the Tan family in Petaling Jaya on Saturday. The Indonesian maid will graduate with a diploma in management from the Open University of Malaysia today. — NST picture by Zulfadhli Zulkifli
Not only do the Tans treat their maid of seven years, Sarmini Muhyadi, 28, as a member of the family, they also helped her get a diploma at a local university.
Sarmini studied part-time and completed a diploma in management course at the Open University of Malaysia (OUM) with an admirable cumulative grade point average of 3.39 at the end of last year.
She will graduate today.
Industrial design lecturer Tan Choo Tang, 56, and his wife, Wee Phooi Khuan, 47, are so used to Sarmini taking care of the house and their four children that they would find it difficult to replace her when she returns home to Kampung Banyumas in Jawa Tengah, Indonesia, to work as a teacher.
The diminutive Sarmini was featured in the New Straits Times four years ago when she enrolled at OUM.
In the article, Choo Tang was quoted as saying that Sarmini had wanted to return to Indonesia to further her studies after working here for three years.
Knowing well that her savings were insufficient for a tertiary education in Jakarta, Choo Tang offered to cover half the cost of her studies in Malaysia.
Although the course was mainly in English, a language foreign to Sarmini, she quickly picked it up from Choo Tang's children, particularly his eldest daughter, Yin Yi.
The NST on Saturday paid the Tan family a visit. The atmosphere of jubilation in anticipation of Sarmini's graduation was tinged with sadness over her impending departure.
A bubbly Sarmini showered praises on her employer, whom she said had always treated her like one of the family and helped fulfil her dream of getting a tertiary education.
"I decided to come to Malaysia when I could not complete a four-year course at Sekolah Tinggi Agama Buddha back home as my scholarship only covered the first two years of study. My father, who works as a carpenter, could not afford to pay the fees.
"My plan was to work and earn enough money so that I could continue my studies and become a teacher at one of the government schools."
Sarmini said she was glad to have taken up Choo Tang's offer to study here, as besides obtaining a diploma, she also learned English and information technology as her course involved online assignments.
She is now quite adept with the computer and has her own laptop. Wee, a company manager, said Sarmini picked up English by following her children's reading programme -- moving up from Enid Blyton to Ronald Dahl and Harry Potter books.
"She also received support from Yin Yi, 19, who is now studying in Canada.
"My sons, Yin Qin, 17, and Yin Xun, 15, and another daughter Yin Bei, 12, are very close to Sarmini and helped her get through the diploma course."
Yin Qin said: "In return, she taught us how to cook. She is an excellent cook."
Sarmini said Wee's sister, a book company manager who helped with her assignments, would even take leave to send her to OUM during the examination period, which usually fell on weekdays.
Sarmini was also allowed to concentrate on her studies after 9pm. - NST