Most days leading up to her exams, madrasah student Nazifah Mursyidah Nasir, 16, would sleep only five hours a night and find quiet time in the wee hours to study.
In a room she shares with two sisters, she would sleep at 8pm, wake up at midnight and study till 4am, before taking an hour's nap and then getting ready for school.
"There were times when I was too tired to wake up (to study), so I studied on the MRT train instead. I was quite good at doing that," said the Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah student. The 45-minute MRT ride was part of her commute from Woodlands to Jalan Sultan.
Her reward was scoring 12 A1s out of 13 subjects. Yesterday, at the inaugural Madrasah Student Awards, she won two awards - for best performance in secular subjects, and religious subjects.
She was one of 493 students recognised in a ceremony at Max Atria @ Singapore Expo.
Nazifah, who lives in a three-room HDB flat with her parents and five siblings, aged between 15 and 25 years, received a total of $700 from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and the Government for her awards.
She said the money will help reduce the burden on her cabby father, who is the sole breadwinner.
The Madrasah Student Awards come two years after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that the Government would work with Muis to strengthen the teaching of secular subjects such as Maths and Science in all full-time madrasahs.
The Government is funding awards for the best performance and best progress in secular subjects, while Muis is providing a matching grant for the same two categories for religious subjects. The total disbursed was $181,500.
There are six madrasahs here with 3,500 students who get the unique opportunity to learn in an Islamic environment while also studying secular subjects.
Guest of honour and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said:"We hope more students will continue to excel and (that) today's inaugural awards become an inspiration for future generations so that they can continue to realise that if they do well, they will be rewarded".