SINGAPORE - Crest Secondary student Nurashikin Mohd Noor, 18, had a patchy school attendance record for years because she often stayed home to take care of her ailing mum.
Ms Nurashikin, who was an only child and whose father died when she was three, found it difficult to focus on her studies. Since her primary school days, she had felt that her main duty was to take care of her mum, who had diabetes and also suffered a stroke.
Even passing her PSLE exams was a struggle, but somehow she made it to a secondary school of her choice. She was, however, barely able to juggle the demands of school with the need to care for her mum.
"It was just the two of us, so my main priority was to spend time with her. I lost all motivation to study, and although I still passed lower secondary overall, I was not interested in my grades at all," she said.
During her secondary school years, she switched schools twice and had to repeat Secondary 3 after missing almost an entire year's lessons.
Her mother died last year (2020) from complications from her illnesses, and Ms Nurashikin is now staying in an accommodation run by a welfare agency.
After her mother's death, the shy and soft-spoken teenager took a long time to come to grips with her grief.
Finally, she decided to resume attending classes regularly at Crest - a specialised secondary school for Normal (Technical) students.
Teachers and classmates at the school were supportive, she said, and she got an award for her results during the Industry Experiential Programme this year.
Ms Nurashikin said she now has her sights set on becoming a social worker - to help others like her who are in need - after all the support she has received through the years from welfare agencies.
She has already received an offer to pursue a Nitec in community care and social services through the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) early admissions exercise, which assesses students' aptitude and non-academic qualities.
On Friday (Dec 17), Ms Nurashikin received results equivalent to five passes at the Normal (Technical) level.
Ms Nurashikin said: "I think my mum would have been proud of me for finishing the N levels. I think she would have been happy."