A Story of Perseverance : From Felda Settler Orphan to Doctorate

Written by: Siti Tafzilmeriam Binti Sheikh Abdul Kadir

Nurulafifah Yahya, a 34-year-old from Felda Maokil, Johor, who studied marine science at Institute Oceanography and Environment (INOS), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, has become the first woman from Felda Maokil in history to earn a doctorate.

It was a double joy for Nurulafifah when she and her younger sister Nurul Ezzah both graduated with Nurul Ezzah achieving her bachelor’s degree in tourism management.

It was a day to be remembered for two siblings who all received their scrolls upon graduating from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) at the university’s 19th Convocation Ceremony on March 20 and 21, 2022.


“Words of encouragement from our mother became the main driving force for our success and we obtained our PhD’s and Bachelor’s degree at the same convocation.

“This is indeed a sweet memory for the rest of the family and me.”

“My mother’s perseverance in bringing us up after my father’s death was our inspiration to achieve excellence in our studies, to change family’s fate.”

“Mom always encouraged us to study to the highest level possible,” said Nurulafifah, who received MyBrain15 (MyMaster and MyPhD) sponsorship from the Higher Education Ministry.

Conducted a macrobenthos study while participating in Scientific Voyage Sampling Expedition in the waters of Kelantan and Terengganu with researchers from the Institute of Oceanography and Environment (INOS).


I am the second child of six siblings. I am the daughter of a Felda settler who lives in Felda Maokil, Labis. My father passed away when I was 11 years old. My mother is a full-time housewife. After my father passed away, my mother also did not work because we were still small. Furthermore, my youngest brother was only 7 months old then, and he was diagnosed with a ‘heart hole’ after a series of high fevers after my father passed away. Therefore, my mother needs to go to the Segamat Hospital and National Heart Institute for his regular check-up. Life as a child of Felda settler back then is not as pleasant as it is now. We felt the hardships and struggles of living especially during inflation. Luckily, we live in Felda and can make a debt at D’Mart Felda to get food and basic needs.



I want to be an example and inspiration to my sisters to pursue their ambitions. As a fully educated student in a day school in the Felda area, I want to prove that I can succeed like my other friends who get a better opportunity. We can do it if we are determined to do so. When starting my studies at the postgraduate level, I want to do research that benefits the community and the country. I want to be someone who contributes something to others.



Determination. Persistence. Perseverance. For postgraduate study, I always tell myself this special quote “FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED”.

Nurulafifah Yahya (left) and her sister Nurul Ezzah (right) in graduation costumes posing with their beloved mom at the 19th UMT convocation ceremony.