Boy overcame the odds to take PSLE after brain tumour surgery
An operation to remove a cancerous brain tumour three years ago left Izzat Hakim Sharif bedridden for more than half a year, and unable to speak, swallow, move or walk.
He also could not attend school, and had to undergo several months of radiation and chemotherapy.
That also meant Izzat had to miss the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 2019, when he was in Primary 6 in Gongshang Primary School
He finally returned to school this year after regaining some of his strength, and with the support of his family and school, was able to sit the exam.
Collecting his results in a wheelchair with his parents on Wednesday, Izzat, 15, said he was happy, particularly with the A grade that he got for his foundation-level mathematics. He scored Bs for English language and science.
Speaking to The Straits Times before receiving his results, he said: “Taking the PSLE seemed impossible after the surgery... but with the support of everyone, I feel blessed that I could complete it.
“I know I have done my best.”
Izzat’s diagnosis of metastatic medullablastoma, a cancerous brain tumor, came as a shock to him and his family in early 2019.
The two surgical operations he went through affected his psychomotor skills as he suffered a condition known as posterior fossa syndrome, where he lost his ability to speak and control his muscles, among other symptoms.
This was especially difficult for him as he was an athlete, participating in his school’s track and field team as a long jumper and in the relay team. He also played sports like basketball, badminton and soccer.
Said Izzat: “I felt sad and frustrated at that time... at first I was a little shocked and afraid, but I try to remain positive by thinking of happy things I like to do.”
He was also eager to return to school. “Being at home is boring. I wanted to make friends and start learning,” said Izzat, whose favourite subject is maths.
His school and parents made special arrangements to make that happen.
Gongshang Primary moved around his classes – he took only core subjects English language, maths and science – so that he did not have to stay in school for too long. His classroom was also moved from the third floor to the first, so it would be more accessible.
His parents employed a domestic helper to help him in school with basic needs like going to the washroom and eating.
Izzat’s father Sharif Shariman, 52, who works in the aviation sector, said: “We don’t know if the same arrangements can be made in secondary school... But the fact that he likes going to school and wants to learn makes it easier for us.”
Izzat, who will likely apply to St Hilda’s Secondary School, said: “I hope to just get better and stay happy.”
He was one of 37,095 pupils who took the PSLE this year. Similar to last year, 98.4 per cent of the batch did well enough to progress to secondary school.
This is the second year the PSLE has been held under the new Achievement Level scoring system.
This year, 68.4 per cent of the cohort qualified for the Express course in secondary school, another 18.7 per cent are eligible for the Normal (Academic) course, and 11.3 per cent for Normal (Technical).
Of the class of 2022, about 62 per cent of those from the Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) courses qualified to take at least one subject at a more demanding level in secondary school. This is compared with 65 per cent last year.