Teens overcome dad's death, cancer to reach O-level goals
Only child who lost her dad and boy who had cancer want to inspire others to be positive and resilient
While her peers were getting used to home-based learning during the circuit breaker last year, Chua Jia Xuan found herself coping with an additional burden.
The 17-year-old student from Damai Secondary School suffered a huge blow when her father, a cleaner at a school, died of cardiac arrest on April 30.
She was among the 23,688 candidates who collected their O-level exam results yesterday.
Jia Xuan, an only child who was "very close" to her 62-year-old father, told The New Paper: "I felt very sad and lonely because my father supported me physically and emotionally. But I had to be strong for my mother because she was also having a hard time."
Covid-19 restrictions during that period meant the teenager was unable to meet her friends for comfort, and fewer relatives were allowed to attend the funeral.
Jia Xuan, who was a member of her school's student council and captain of the handball team, threw herself into her studies as a distraction - consulting her teachers frequently and studying with her friends every evening after school, until midnight at times.
She said: "The most challenging part of preparing for the O levels was managing my anxiety and emotions because of my father's passing.
"He was very hardworking and I aspire to be like him. When I felt unmotivated to study, I thought of him and felt encouraged.
"I wanted to make my father proud. He never forced me to do anything but just wanted me to do my best."
Her efforts paid off when she scored 11 points with five distinctions, and she is overjoyed that she would have made her father proud.
Jia Xuan, who hopes to be a pharmacist by studying science in junior college or pharmaceutical science at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), said: "I hope to inspire others to be strong and not give up easily. We can overcome life's challenges if we are resilient."
Caleb Lee, 17, also did not have an easy O-level journey.
In September 2018, the St Hilda's Secondary School student woke up one morning to a sharp ache in his thighs and was "shocked and sad" when he was eventually diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
What followed was a year of intensive treatment and chemotherapy, which caused him to miss three quarters of Secondary 3.
Caleb, who was an active member of the Boys' Brigade and student council, told TNP: "I felt quite sad seeing clumps of hair on my pillow every morning, and my face swelled so much that my relatives could not recognise me."
Armed with an attitude to give his all, he pressed on with his O-level preparation with support from his family, teachers and friends, who visited him and passed him worksheets regularly so he could keep up with his studies.
Caleb, who has been in remission for four months, received 13 points with two distinctions and has been accepted into TP's accounting and finance course through the Early Admissions Exercise.
He said: "I hope my story will inspire others to always be positive and optimistic when faced with problems."
85.4% of 2020 O-level cohort attain 5 or more passes, up 0.2%
Students who wish to apply for admission to junior colleges, Millennia Institute, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education may do so via the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE).
The JAE-Internet System will be accessible from now till 4pm on Friday for students to submit their course choices through www.moe.gov.sg/jae
Students who would like guidance on their education options can approach their teachers or the Education and Career Guidance counsellor supporting their schools, or refer to the interactive MySkillsFuture portal at go.gov.sg/ mysfsec to find out more about the range of education options and career pathways available.
By the numbers
99.9% Candidates who passed
96.8% Candidates who achieved three or more passes
85.4% Candidates who achieved five or more passes
85.2% Candidates who achieved five or more passes in 2019