SINGAPORE - He was doing well in his studies. He was consistently in the top 10 in his class and was receiving a bursary given to the top 25 per cent of his cohort.
But after Primary Four, the boy decided to drop out of school.
Not because he had lost interest in his studies - he wanted to take care of his depressed mother.
Though just 10, he just could not bear to see her slip further into depression.
A decade later, Madam Zalinah Abdul Gani, 42, was beaming with pride yesterday. The youngest of her three children, Mr Muhammad Asyraf Chumino, had just graduated with the Sng Yew Chong Gold Medal, which is awarded to top Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates.
A Building and Construction Authority (BCA) scholar, Mr Asyraf had a near perfect score of 3.9 for his Nitec in Facility Technology (Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration).
The 20-year-old is soft-spoken, but his demeanour belies his steely resolve and fierce love for his mother.
His father's death from cancer, when he was just two in 1996, devastated his mum. The loss of her husband sent Madam Zalinah on a downward spiral into severe depression in the ensuing years.
Three years later, she had to give up her job. As her health deteriorated, she often had to rest in bed at home. She even found it difficult to walk long distances.
SIBLINGS TOOK OVER
It pained Mr Asyraf and his siblings, sister Fairuz, now 24, and brother Abdul, 22, to see her like this.
Despite their tender years, they had to take over household chores, including shopping for groceries and cooking, and tended to their mother's needs.
Mr Asyraf was inseparable from his mother.
His brother, Mr Abdul, said: "He would just be crying by my mother's bed and trying to comfort her by saying, 'Everything's going to be okay, I won't leave you'."
Mr Asyraf's desire to be with his mother at every moment, coupled with his reluctance to see her sent to an institution, meant he skipped school just to be with her.
"It was just logical to sacrifice my education for my mother," he said.