Deaf student worked doubly hard to score 5 As

Despite being deaf and juggling heavy schoolwork and CCA commitments, Mr Lau (centre) studied consistently. His former classmates from Millennia Institute, Miss Lena Loke (far left) and Miss Agustin Charisse Grace Esmama, also learnt sign language to
Despite being deaf and juggling heavy schoolwork and CCA commitments, Mr Lau (centre) studied consistently. His former classmates from Millennia Institute, Miss Lena Loke (far left) and Miss Agustin Charisse Grace Esmama, also learnt sign language to communicate with him.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Results of students who sat the A-level exams last year are the best since the curriculum was revised a decade ago. Among them are two students who beat the odds to do well

Mr Brendan Lau was just one year old when he lost his sense of hearing. He was born with Hirschsprung's disease, a congenital condition that affects the large intestine and causes problems with passing stool.

While the surgery to fix the condition went well, he said the medicine he took after the operation destroyed the nerves connected to his brain to process sounds.

The loss of hearing meant he had to work doubly hard in school.

His efforts paid off last Friday when the 21-year-old former student of Millennia Institute (MI) collected his A-level exam results slip.

Mr Lau had scored five As for his A-level subjects, except for a B in project work.

"It was difficult as I had very demanding schoolwork and CCA (co-curricular activities) commitments," said the former vice-chairman of the school's Young Diplomats Society, through a sign language interpreter.

INDEPENDENT

He doesn't like to be pitied, he doesn't like to depend on others completely... He worked very hard, almost (to the point of) punishing himself.

MRS TAMILSELVI SIVA, who was Mr Brendan Lau's history tutor, form tutor and CCA tutor.

"I made sure that, at the end of every day, I understood all my schoolwork. I had to be consistent in my revision throughout my years in MI," said Mr Lau, a Singapore permanent resident whose family came from Johor.

Mr Lau cited his mother, a 45-year-old housewife, for "endlessly encouraging and motivating" him. His 53-year-old father is an accountant while his 19-year-old sister is an undergraduate studying environmental science in Tokyo.

Studying literature in English was a challenge as it was the only subject for which he experienced problems directly related to his disability, Mr Lau said.

"We had to learn how to read and interpret the mood in poems in order to figure out underlying messages. We had to pay attention to the sounds made when each word was pronounced, and spot a pattern.

"Initially, I was confounded by this, but with practice, I was able to overcome this issue," he wrote on the electronic board that he uses to communicate with others.

His history tutor, Mrs Tamilselvi Siva, 46, who was also his form tutor and CCA tutor, called him a "fearless, independent person".

She said: "He doesn't like to be pitied, he doesn't like to depend on others completely.

"He read his history notes before coming to class every time and he read extensively outside of his notes. He worked very hard, almost (to the point of) punishing himself."

His classmate, Ms Lena Loke Jia Hui, 21, picked up sign language to help him.

She recalled: "The student who sat next to Brendan on the first day of school didn't seem willing to be the one to constantly tell him what's going on.

"So I volunteered to sit next to him and helped relay information. Sign language also helped us communicate easier and it's more convenient than writing."

Mr Lau hopes to study political science at the National University of Singapore.

"I hope to be an advocate for the furthering of legal and social recognition to the disadvantaged in our society," he wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Deaf student worked doubly hard to score 5 As'. Print Edition | Subscribe