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Boy with profound hearing loss gets early admission into poly course

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Boy with profound hearing loss secures place in Singapore Poly

As if having profound hearing loss was not bad enough, school bullies threatened to rip out his hearing aid.

But Muhammad Nihal Mohamed Abul Kassim, 16, persevered, grew in confidence and took his O-level exams last year.

Not only has he secured a place in a polytechnic, he was recognised by his school, Bukit Merah Secondary, for his resilience.

The O-level results for 2017, released last Friday, shows 83.4 per cent getting at least five passes, slightly lower than the 84.3 per cent in 2016.

The Ministry of Education said that 99.9 per cent of the 29,100 school candidates and 90.8 per cent of the 1,570 private candidates were awarded certificates.

Nihal, who has had hearing loss in both ears since a young age, scored 24 points for five subjects. He was one of eight students in his school's cohort to receive the Resilient Achievers award.

He started in Canossian School, a special education institution for those with hearing difficulties, before moving to a mainstream secondary school.

"It was scary initially," Nihal said. "Sometimes students would tease me and even bully me for being different. They also kept asking me about my hearing aid."

Some students tried to rip apart his hearing device, he said.

"But I had close friends who stood up for me and helped explain my condition to others," he said.

The teachers also tailored their teaching methods to Nihal's needs.

One of them, Ms Faith Ng, said they ensured Nihal sat in front, and a buddy would take notes for him if his hearing aid malfunctioned.

She said: "I realised there were times he couldn't hear but he didn't speak up about it. Now he has grown so much in confidence, he has become someone others can rely on as well."

Nihal has been accepted into Singapore Polytechnic's landscape architecture course through early admission.

His passion is working with his hands and designing tools.

Looking back on his school journey, Nihal said: "I want to tell students who have certain needs like me not to worry. We may be differently abled, but there is help along the way from teachers and friends alike."

She studies for O levels while cooking for sick dad

Hillary Heng Jia Xin, 17, went from the N levels to O levels while juggling family commitments. The Northbrooks Secondary School student scored 23 points for five subjects.

About a decade ago, her father, now in his 60s, was frequently hospitalised after being diagnosed with a chronic illness. While studying for her O levels, Hillary cooked for him and did housework.

Her mother, who is in her 50s, works as a cleaner.

Said Hillary: "I do the chores and keep the home clean. Sometimes, I do wonder why I have so many things to do when my classmates are just studying."

She said she enjoyed science but struggled with Chinese and mathematics, so she studied for 10 hours during weekends with friends to keep up.

She gets support from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and the Singapore Children's Society (SCS).

Her monthly visits to her social worker at SCS have inspired her to become one as well.

Said Hillary: "The social worker is understanding and patient when she listens to my problems. It made me want to help others as well."

Last year, Hillary successfully applied for early admission to the social work course at Nanyang Polytechnic.

Sometimes, I do wonder why I have so many things to do when my classmates are just studying. Hillary Heng Jia Xin

"I was really shocked to get in. I did not expect it because I heard it is a competitive course," she said.

As a senior warrant officer in the Red Cross Youth, Hillary helped to plan activities for juniors to interact with the residents of old folks' homes.

To those who are struggling, she has some words of encouragement: "Do not give up. It does not mean that if a situation is bad, there is no way out. There is always another angle to look at a problem and a way to overcome it." - SUE-ANN TAN