At 12, PSLE top student is man of the house
Thin and bespectacled Samuel Foo shops at the supermarket like an experienced housewife.
Standing on tiptoes, the 148cm-tall Primary 6 pupil compares the prices carefully and picks the cheapest items.
Unlike other children his age, the 12-year-old skips the snacks and sweets section. "I don't usually eat snacks. Besides, they are unhealthy," he said.
Shopping for groceries for his family is part of his responsibilities.
Samuel had to grow up quickly after his divorced mother had a stroke three years ago. His 82-year-old grandfather, who is suffering from the onset of dementia, lives with them in a four-room flat in Bedok.
Yesterday, he was accompanied by his mother, Madam Seryne Tong, 42, who is unemployed, to collect his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results.
Samuel, who is head prefect of Damai Primary School and one of its top scorers, said he was a little disappointed with his results.
While declining to reveal his score, he said shyly: "It's between two and 12 marks below my expectations."
But he still qualifies for the school of his choice.
"I'm excited about secondary school," he said.
His mother, a former primary school teacher, was very pleased with his results.
Madam Tong said: "He sets very high expectations of himself. From Primary 1, I never had to push him to study."
"I wish he would play and go out with his friends more. He was always surrounded by piles of assessment books," she added with a laugh.
From a young age, Samuel has been running errands for his mother.
He would help by buying food from a nearby coffee shop, and it is now his daily chore after school.
The family had to keep a closer watch on their expenses after Madam Tong stopped working because of her health.
Samuel said: "I will spend $2 on green leafy vegetables and another $3 on meat. Usually, I will choose soya sauce chicken or sweet and sour pork."
He also shops for fruits at a provision shop near his home. He usually buys bananas and occasionally, a watermelon.
When asked if he would prefer other fruits sometimes, he shrugged.
"Bananas are soft enough for my grandfather to chew," he explained.
Samuel's form teacher, Ms Janice Tor, who taught him mathematics and science, called him a "rare gem".
"He is always thinking of others and is a brave boy who took it upon himself to take care of his family," she said.
"There was no sign that he was facing difficulty, and he was always helping his classmates when he noticed that they were unhappy.
"In fact, we didn't know about his situation at home at first and found out by chance when he fell sick in Primary 5."
When asked why he did not tell anyone, Samuel said softly: "They have their own lives and I have my own."
Madam Tong said she went through depression after becoming jobless because of her illness and was worried about the family finances.
But she is thankful that her mature boy has been a pillar of support.
"He is my motivation to pull through this difficult time.
"Maybe it's because he's so close to his grandfather, Samuel acts like an old man sometimes," she said with a laugh.
"He is always thinking of others and is a brave boy who took it upon himself to take care of his family.There was no sign that he was facing difficulty, and he was always helping his classmates when he noticed that they were unhappy."
- Ms Janice Tor, Samuel's form teacher
He keeps going after mum's death
OVERJOYED: Ramzul Hiekam and his father, Mr Farid Wajdi Mohd Sani. - TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
To manage his busy schedule, Primary 6 pupil Ramzul Hiekam explained that he had a timetable "in his head."
The Mayflower Primary School vice head prefect and member of the infocomm club had tuition three times a week.
After completing his homework, he squeezed in time for mobile phone games and TV to relieve stress.
And in the last few years, Ramzul, who is the youngest child in the family, had other duties - chores like vacuuming and cooking rice.
His mother died two years ago from an asthma condition when he was in Primary 4. Ramzul has an older brother who is 15.
Ramzul said: "My dad is alone. I have to help him with housework so that it's a better environment for all of us to live in."
The 12-year-old's well-organised schedule has paid off.
Yesterday, father and son were overjoyed to receive Ramzul's PSLE results. He scored 256, which was above their expectations.
His form teacher, Madam Sivakami Sellakumaran, who teaches him English, was full of praise for him.
She said: "He is always focused in class and actively involved in discussions, never shy about asking questions. He is a role model for his peers."
His father, taxi driver Farid Wajdi Mohd Sani, 42, said: "He had a lot more responsibilities after his mother passed away suddenly. But we grew closer as we supported one another."
Ramzul also recalled the strong support he got from the school counsellors and teachers.
The bubbly boy said quietly: "I was comforted because they told me that my mother is in a better place now. Besides, she was with me for 10 years of my life and we were happy."
The family visits her grave weekly and were excited to share Ramzul's results with her.
"I think she would be proud of me," he said.
By the numbers
42,336 Number of pupils who took the PSLE this year
97.6 Percentage of pupils who qualified for secondary school
66.4 Percentage of pupils who qualified for Express Stream
20 Percentage of pupils who qualified for Normal (Academic) Stream
11.2 Percentage of pupils who qualified for Normal (Technical) Stream
1,007 Number of pupils who did not qualify for secondary school