PSLE pupil balanced revision with caring for cancer-stricken dad
She makes it to express stream despite having to cope with caring for her father, siblings
You wouldn't have guessed from her cheerful disposition that her father was diagnosed with stage four cancer in June.
But C. Abirami, a Primary 6 pupil at Queenstown Primary School, has been caring for her dad and her two younger siblings while studying for her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
The 12-year-old, who yesterday collected her results together with over 38,000 pupils, is among the 98.4 per cent from this year's cohort who can move on to secondary school.
She attained a T-score of 241 points and is eligible for the express stream, same as about two-thirds of her cohort.
Yet, most of her counterparts probably did not have to deal with the stress of juggling their first major examination with care-giving duties at home.
The eldest of three daughters - her sisters are aged 11 and 10 - Abirami took care of her father while her mother, a locum nurse, worked long hours as the family's sole breadwinner.
She said: "I had to manage my time well. Every moment, there was something I had to do."
As her father could eat only soft food, Abirami had to take time out of revision to buy food for him. She also had to set alarms to wake up intermittently to check on her father's breathing.
She said: "Sometimes it was difficult to concentrate as I'm worried about my dad. But I told myself to be positive."
As a school prefect, Abirami also helped others. For example, she would accompany a classmate who was under emotional stress due to personal reasons, to recess to ensure that she did not skip meals.
Abirami's mother, Madam Umadevi Balakrishnan, 44, said that helping others is in her daughter's nature.
"Sometimes when she sees elderly aunties struggling to push their shopping trollies outside our place, she will help them," she said.
Abirami's father declined to be interviewed.
Abirami, an avid reader, also teaches pre-school kids at her church and hopes to sign up for the St John's Ambulance Brigade or join netball next year.
Focusing on others contributed to Abirami's studies as well. Helping classmates and her younger sisters with their homework gave her a chance to recap and revise concepts.
Abirami admits that sometimes it's hard caring for so many people, but added: "It makes me satisfied to see others smile."
That is the secret to how she overcame her challenges to score well enough to apply for Crescent Girls' School - her first choice.
Her father had assured her that he would be proud of her regardless of her results, but Abirami said: "I thought about how happy he would be if I worked hard and scored well."
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