Student gains strength from hardship
Teen looks after grandparents, scores 15 points for L1R5
For 12 years, Mohamed Afiq Mohamed Aris' paternal grandparents helped look after him.
Today, his grandparents, who are both wheelchair bound, rely heavily on the 16-year-old, for things like getting around the flat to going for medical appointments.
His grandfather, Mr Hussein Ahmad, is 90 years old and his grandmother, Madam Asian Dollah, is 86.
Despite devoting at least four hours a day looking after his grandparents, the former student of Pasir Ris Crest Secondary School scored an L1R5 of 15 points in the 2015 GCE O-level examinations.
The L1R5 is based on O-level results for English or Higher Mother tongue and five relevant subjects.
When he was in Primary 4 in 2007, he started doing chores, like sweeping and ironing, after his mother had a heart operation to attach a pacemaker. She had a hole in her heart.
Afiq's father is a full-time cleaner at a hospital. His mother, a housewife, has had to avoid strenuous activities since the operation.
Eleven people share the four-room flat in Bedok including his older sister, her husband and their three children.
"When I entered secondary school, that was when I became heavily involved in helping my mother take care of my grandparents," said Afiq.
Once every two months, he would miss lessons to help his mother take his grandparents for their medical check-ups.
His grandfather, Mr Hussein Ahmad, was initially worried that Afiq's duties would affect his studies.
Mr Hussein said: "Afiq does not complain or whine about taking care of us. We are very proud of him for studying so hard at the same time."
Afiq started his preparation for the exams in March last year.
Because it was noisy at home, he studied at the void deck of his block three times a week, for up to four hours in the evening.
He intends to enter a junior college before pursuing Aerospace Engineering in university.
GRIT: Afiq studied at the void deck of his block to prepare for the exams as it was noisy at home.
Afiq credits much of his success to his teachers.
Ms Ong Xinyi, 29, who was Afiq's form teacher from Sec 1 to Sec 4, recalled first knowing him as a reserved student.
"He has since become a more confident, positive person and a supportive friend who bonds his class together," she said.
Afiq's classmate of four years, Teo Jun Hao, said: "Whatever Afiq participates in, he does it a hundred per cent."
Jun Hao recalls last year's school cheer competition, where Afiq took the initiative to plan his class performance.
He said: "Afiq even wore a long, black wig while performing in front of the whole school. Without him, our class wouldn't have won the competition."
Afiq was also the president of the school's Information Technology and Public Address Club, which lends IT support to school events.
His father, Mr Mohd Aris Hussein, 60, is glad that his son is self-driven towards success and has high hopes for him.
Dealing with hardship has only made him a stronger person, Afiq said.
"I take everything in my stride and hope that my efforts in my studies will turn my family's situation around."
His mother and I did not push him towards studying or helping the family, he does it on his own. I am only worried that our financial situation will become an obstacle for his future studies.
- Mr Mohd Aris Hussein, father of Mohamed Afiq Mohamed Aris (right). Afiq was on a Ministry of Education Financial Assistance Scheme throughout his secondary years