Millennia Institute student scores four As in A' levels after break from studies to have twins
Ms Ashvini Annathurai left school in the second year leading up to her A-level exams after getting pregnant at age 20.
She took time out in 2020 to look after her newborn twin daughters, but then wrote to her school - Millennia Institute (MI) - to ask if she could go back to finish her course in order to continue pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a doctor.
MI principal Tan Wan Yu said "yes" to her return, and on Tuesday (Feb 22), Ms Ashvini picked up four A grades and an almost perfect score of 88.75 out of 90 for the A levels.
She took biology, chemistry, mathematics and economics as her main subjects, as well as Tamil, project work and General Paper.
Ms Ashvini, now 23, discovered she was pregnant in 2019 when she was due to take her first round of examinations at the end of her second year at MI, and had to battle morning sickness and other ailments while sitting them.
She said: "I actually missed one of my biology exams because I was so sick I just threw up on the bus to school and had to go home."
At MI, a pre-university institute where most students take an average of seven A-level subjects over three years, the H1-level exams are taken in Year 2, and H2 exams in Year 3. H1 and H2 are different levels of difficulty for the same subject.
She completed three H1 subjects before leaving MI to have her twins.
But she did not want to kill her dream of becoming a doctor, so after her hiatus in 2020, she returned to MI last year to finish her three H2 subjects.
When she returned to school, her community rallied around and embraced her, she said.
She said: "My teachers really took the time to take care of me and two of them, including my form teacher, Ms Jamie Shen, even delivered toys, books and clothes to my house."
She said her teachers pooled money to buy milk powder and diapers for her twins, and her schoolmates helped her take notes and catch up on material which she had forgotten owing to her absence from school.
Still, even with the support from her school, her mother and husband, with whom she was living, Ms Ashvini's daily schedule was gruelling.
She told The Straits Times in an interview at MI on Tuesday: "I would wake up at about 6am and take my twins to nursery then take the bus to school. I would finish school at about 3pm, and study until about 6pm.
"Then I'd pick my kids up at about 7pm and spend time with them until they go to sleep at about 9pm, then (I) tried to study a bit more after that."
She and her husband, 25, were married during her year off from school.
MI was not Ms Ashvini's first choice.
After scoring four points at the O levels, the Crescent Girl’s School alumna went to Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) to try out the International Baccalaureate programme.
But she found the IB system foreign and decided to stop after Year 1, and applied to MI in 2018 at the age of 19.
Despite her initial misgivings, she has no regrets studying at MI.
She said: "At first I thought everything at MI would not be that good, but after coming here, I realised I was wrong. It was actually really inclusive and welcoming."
She participated in a variety of activities at MI, including Indian dance, and was the chairman of her class, said her teachers.
Ms Ashvini, who is currently interning at a special education school for children with autism spectrum disorder, plans to apply to local universities for places in their medical courses.
Of her results and performance in school, she said: "I don't know how I did it, but all the while I told myself I had to do this for my kids."