In recognition of his perseverance in learning, responsibility to tasks in school and at home, and his achievements in sports and music, Muhammed Zikri was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award on 17 August 2017. The Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award honours students in government-funded special education schools who have risen above their inherent disabilities and challenges to motivate and inspire their peers. However, his journey hasn’t always been a smooth one.
Born 15 weeks early, Zikri’s entirety only weighed 740 grams. This led to health complications, landing him in an incubator at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for almost a year. Diagnosed with Global Development Delay (GDD) at age 4, he experienced speech and learning delays, requiring additional assistance for his special needs.
Growing up as a child, was not easy for both Zikri and his mom, a single parent, juggling between work and care for Zikri and his 9-year-old sister. Yet, Mdm Norazlin knew that she could always rely on Zikri to be sensible and thoughtful, and have him as her first line of support.
Mdm Norazlin, as the sole breadwinner of the household, had to leave Zikri in the care of her parents when she went to work. The bond between Zikri and his maternal grandparents made them inseparable. In his free time, it was habitual for him to bring his grandfather, who is wheelchair bound, for walks around the neighbourhood.
However, Zikri was prone to throwing tantrums frequently, exasperated at his own inability to express himself. But with the undying love from his mother, she persisted on, bringing him to the hospital twice a week to receive therapy; doing whatever it took to help better his situation.
It was then when the hospital recommended Zikri to AWWA school. Initially, he constantly refused to attend school for he felt uncomfortable in a different environment. But with the encouragement and support Zikri received in AWWA school, he slowly warmed up to his peers, resulting in a vast improvement in his temperament by his third year in school.
Then, three years ago, he lost both his grandparents five months apart in the same year. Zikri withdrew into himself and stopped attending school for two weeks. Mdm Norazlin decided that she had to do something about it.
She persuaded Zikri to share his feelings of sorrow and grief with her. Through that, both mother and son grew closer and became stronger together.
Today, Zikri has grown to be an independent and responsible person. His numerous awards attest to his determination and perseverance to strive to be the best he can be, taking up various leadership roles in school while teaching empathy to his peers. As an elder brother, he now also contributes to the family by caring for his younger sister over the weekends and helping out in household chores.
Additionally, Zikri has recently started on the School2Work programme by AWWA school. He is attached to Crowne Plaza Hotel and works for two hours, twice a week. His eagerness to learn, dedication to complete his tasks with quality, cheerful attitude and receptiveness to constructive feedback leaves his supervisor continually impressed.
Zikri embodies the true spirit of tenacity and resilience. He is truly an inspiration to us all.