Never too old to learn

Muzzy’s determination and humble attitude have allowed him to transcend stereotypes and find passion in the service industry.
SOLDIERING ON: Muzzy’s determination and humble attitude have allowed him to transcend stereotypes and find passion in the service industry. (Photo: Mursyid Hassan)

The grey in his short hair has begun to sprout like weeds in a neglected garden. If that doesn’t betray Mustafa Syed Ahmad’s age, his brown pants, beige shirt and metal framed glasses most certainly would. Mustafa turns 30 in June and he graduates with a cohort easily a decade younger than him.

Known affectionately as ‘Muzzy’, this RP student’s journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. Diagnosed with mild autism as a child, Muzzy enrolled in a special school at a young age, but finding the pace of learning there to be too slow, he moved into a normal school.

However, he soon discovered how tough that was and began lagging behind his peers and somehow struggled to complete his N and O level exams. Without good results to get him anywhere, he began working in McDonald’s.

“Reality strikes you hard, you don’t have a proper cert, and you can’t get a job anywhere else. Then I decided I could not continue this way and I made the decision to go back to school,’’ said Muzzy who is single. He graduates with a Diploma in Hotel and Hospitality Management.

He enrolled in ITE and realised if he did well, he could get into a hospitality course in RP. “I felt that the service industry was something I could do naturally,’’ he explained adding that the satisfaction of meeting people kept him interested.

By the time Muzzy entered RP, he was already 27 – at an age where people get married. He was far older than many of his peers, and recalls that many of them initially avoided him, as they were not sure how to interact with him. But soon his warm, jovial personality charmed his peers.

Having been a slow learner all his life, Muzzy initially struggled with the pace in RP. Thankfully, he says, the PBL system made it easier. “For a slow-learner like me, the concept was really refreshing. If I was in a different poly, I think I wouldn’t have even survived the first year!”

“Muzzy was very determined from the start and always had a professional attitude not just towards his facilitators, but also his peers,” said Thomas Lazzerine, Muzzy’s mentor.

The highlight of this time in RP came when he secured an internship with Crowne Plaza Hotel at Changi Airport, doing so well that after his stint, he was offered a full-time position there. Something Muzzy says is a dream come true for him.

“The excellent facilities and experienced facilitators in RP really equip you with a realistic expectation of what to expect in the industry,”said Muzzy.

With a smile he said: “I know where I want to go, I know what kind of work I want to do, and at the end of the day I know that I am happy with my job. It has been a very long journey but I regret nothing.’’

Muzzy is a good example of lifelong education and continuous skills upgrading, topics at the heart of the ASPIRE committee reviewing polytechnic and ITE education. For more information, go to

For more stories on our graduands, click Final Graduation Pull-Out or view our graduation video