Second time's the charm for student who failed PSLE last year
Teen close to giving up after failing PSLE but manages to pass on second try - thanks to his mentors at Pertapis Children's Home
Last year, Shahrin's world shattered when he received his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results.
He failed with a score of 139 and could not move on from primary school.
The boy, who lives in the Pertapis Children's Home on Kovan Road, fights back tears as he recounts the bitter experience. He says: "It was not just me, I disappointed my mother too."
Shahrin (not his real name) was so disappointed that he was sobbing loudly, recalls Dr Sophian Kayat, who heads the home.
He was about to give up and go into a downward spiral, says Dr Sophian.
Refusing to allow Shahrin's potential to go to waste, Pertapis intensified its efforts.
Dr Sophian says: "We all knew he could do it, he just had to know it himself."
Thanks to the redoubled efforts of the staff, Shahrin was encouraged to retake his exam. Patiently, they coaxed him to try again and tutored him through the difficult spots.
It was a very different story earlier this week when Shahrin, now 13, got his PSLE results slip.
Not only is he going to secondary school, but his score of 161 means he can enter the Normal Academic stream and eventually take the O-level examinations.
"We knew he would eventually do well. He is a hardworking boy with a good attitude," says Dr Sophian.
Shahrin admits he was a bundle of nerves. "I was scared I would let everyone down."
When his teacher handed him the results slip, he could not believe his eyes, says Shahrin.
His first thought was how proud his mother would be.
Recounting the experience with a wide smile, he says: "I couldn't wait to give my mother the good news. I knew that it would make her and everyone who helped me happy."
Shahrin was placed in the home when he was just six years old by his mother who could not support them both.
Recalling the days, he says he and his mother would often move. The constant moves distracted him from his studies, and he started missing classes in Primary 1. That was when he was referred to welfare officers.
Eventually, his mother consented to his move to Pertapis.
Before he could understand what was going on, Shahrin was saying goodbye to his mother, the one constant presence in his life.
As they parted at the gates of the home, Shahrin said to his mother: "It is okay, as long as you do not have to suffer any more and it makes you happy, you can leave me here."
Despite his brave words, Shahrin suffered terribly during the separation.
To make things worse, his mother visited infrequently.
At one point, the boy became so withdrawn he stopped speaking. When he did speak, it would only be to talk about his mother.
But under the guidance of his mentors at Pertapis, Shahrin started playing soccer and putting effort into his schoolwork.
Eventually, he would also actively volunteer in programmes at the home, leading the nightly prayer sessions and mentoring younger residents.
"I might not have a normal family, but everyone here is my family," says Shahrin.
His mother is never far from his thoughts though, and he says she remains his main source of inspiration.
Shahrin shyly tells this reporter that all he wants is to make his mother proud.
"I called my mother and told her my results, and she said she was proud of me. Hearing her say that made me feel happy."
More recently, things have improved. He now sees his mother fortnightly.
They go out to watch movies, have dinner, and there are even days where he spends the night at her one-room rented apartment in West Coast.
When asked what his hopes for the future are, Shahrin lights up and enthusiastically replies that he wants to be a famous soccer player and represent Singapore.
He also has another dream, which is to one day leave Pertapis and live with his mother once again.
"I love my family here at Pertapis, but I also can't wait to go back and live with my mother. I love her so much," he says.
"We knew he would eventually do well. He is a hardworking boy with a good attitude."
- Dr Sophian Kayat, head of Pertapis Children's Home
Celebs reveal their PSLE results
This year, a total of 39,286 pupils took the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
The results for the examinations were released on Wednesday, and 98.3 per cent of the cohort passed and can move on to secondary school, up from 97.6 per cent last year.
In light of the results, lawyer Josephus Tan took to Facebook and posted a photo of himself holding a piece of paper showing his PSLE score - 183.
In the post, Mr Tan writes: "It's neither the start nor the end of your beautiful lives.
"You might not understand this now but I know in time to come you will. If you can, treat this as just another piece of homework.
"No more, and certainly no less. That's really all there is to this PSLE."
The New Paper on Sunday speaks to a few high achievers and asked about their scores.
JOSEPHUS TAN, 36
Claim to fame: Lawyer
"Even before I got my results, I knew I would not do well. The pressure is tremendous - you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders at the age of 12. Children that age should be enjoying their childhood, and we should encourage a thirst for knowledge instead."
BEN YEO, 37
Claim to fame: Actor and television host
"My score was not very good. Singapore education is very stressful, it is not just stress from school but also from society. You are only young once and children should not be so stretched like that. It is not the end of the world if you didn't do well."
ROYSTON TAN, 39
Claim to fame: Film-maker
"My results left me traumatised. Even now I think about it sometimes because it reminds me of a very low point in my life. But I also learnt that one exam does not determine who you are as a person."
IRENE ANG, 48
Claim to fame: Actress and CEO of artist management agency Fly Entertainment
"I don't believe PSLE scores determine our future. The learning journey is a lifelong process and some of us might develop and reach our full potential later in life. It is our passion and our outlook on life that guide us. I believe in nurturing young talents and guiding them so each and every one of them can eventually reach their fullest potential. My advice is don't ever give up."
'Comment on killing kids not hate speech'
The Media Literacy Council (MLC) has been "unable to conclude" that a comment by one of its members, about killing the children of terrorists, amounted to hate speech.
But it did find the comment, by former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng, insensitive and inappropriate.
He has apologised for the comment he made online.
He had said that "terrorists are not common criminals" but "a mortal enemy intent on killing and destroying". Then he added: "So you kill them before they kill you. And their children too in case they grow up to take revenge."
Some bloggers and other netizens reacted by calling for his removal from the MLC, which aims, in part, to "encourage users to be more reflective about the ethical choices and impact they make as communicators".
Mr Cheng made the apology yesterday in a piece titled Final Thoughts On My Post on ISIS.
HomeTeamNS to ensure relevance
Minister Desmond Lee announces review
Band of brothers: The extraordinary morale in 823 SIR
An officer's viral Facebook post has highlighted the extraordinary camaraderie in his army unit. The men have gone to great lengths to make sure they don't miss their in-camp training. SEOW YUN RONG (email@example.com) explores the special bond among this band of brothers
Mr Larry Mok, 36, could have been declared non-combat fit after his bout with cancer, but his bond with his fellow servicemen in the 823 Singapore Infantry Regiment is so strong that he insisted on taking part in their in-camp training (ICT).
He admits with a smile that his wife was apprehensive about his decision, but as far as he was concerned, he belonged with his brothers in the field.
"We're family," he tells this reporter proudly.
Last week, an open letter on Facebook by the unit's commanding officer (CO) was widely shared. In it, LTC (NS) Darren Tan spoke of an extraordinary unit that had men pleading to reject deferments for ICT requested by their employers.
A unit that had people requesting to join them, and one where men reported to serve, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.
Mr Mok, who is a business development manager in civilian life and who holds the NS rank of First Sergeant, echoes his CO's words.
He explains that there is genuine affection among the men. "Even if something happens, I know that they will take care of me," he says.
Mr Larry Mok had to ungergo two months of radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the National Cancer Centre for Stage 3 nose cancer last year. PHOTO COURTESY OF LARRY MOK
Over the last seven years, this band of brothers has seen each other go through life, starting off as raw soldiers, says Mr Mok.
"We've been there for one another all this while, even through life problems such as debt and failed relationships."
One of them used to be a gangster and always got into trouble, but the unit watched over him and nudged him to a better path. They all watched him change into a better man and eventually become a father, he says.
Similarly, Mr Mok experienced the full strength of the brotherhood when he was down.
In August 2014, the week he turned 35 years old - he received bad news from his doctor: Stage 3 cancer in his nose.
His son was just three years old and his newborn girl, less than two weeks old.
It was a body blow to the man who had been extra fit all his life, often running full marathons.
The next two months were painful. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy meant that he lost hair, appetite and energy.
He was buoyed by the comforting messages left by his army mates.
When he reported for ICT, he saw that heavy loads like boxes had already been lifted so that he would not have to carry them. Their gentle reminders for him to rest ensured that he never over-exerted himself.
"Those gestures meant so much to me," says Mr Mok.
Looking back on his decision to join up with his unit on the last time they trained together, Mr Mok says wistfully: "I hope that when my kids are older and hear about what daddy did, they will know that I chose the right way instead of the easy way out."