At school, madrasah student Nur Kasih Norman juggles eight religious subjects such as Arabic grammar alongside five more mainstream ones like mathematics and geography.
At home, she is the second of three children from a single-parent family. But her mother Rizsatanti Rafiee, a project officer at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the family's sole breadwinner, said Nur Kasih has never seen their tight finances as an obstacle in her studies.
"She is always hungry for knowledge," said Ms Rizsatanti, 38, laughing. "The mother might be poor, but the daughter is rich with knowledge."
Her 14-year-old daughter has excelled in both religious and national examinations, scoring a PSLE aggregate of 244 in 2012 and entering the express stream.
Yesterday, the Secondary 2 student at Madrasah Al-Irsyad Al-Islamiah was one of 26 recipients of the first-ever Progress Fund Madrasah Assistance Scheme (Promas) Performance Award.
Needy students under the scheme who have scored over 70 per cent in their exams are awarded amounts between $1,155 and $1,770 to pay for expenses such as examination fees and uniforms.
Nur Kasih, who wants to be a gynaecologist, said: "The award is motivation for me to continue studying to reach my dreams." In 2010, Muis launched Promas to help needy students from the six full-time madrasahs who come from families with a per capita income of $500 and below.
They receive annual fee subsidies of up to $1,080, while those in the primary level receive additional financial assistance for expenses like transport and food.
Last year, $464,000 was given out to 260 students. This year, $488,000 will be disbursed, bringing the total to more than $2 million since 2010.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim urged parents at the Promas disbursement ceremony to ensure their children remain in school, even in the face of financial challenges.
He said: "Help is readily available. Prioritise your children's education so that they have a chance at a brighter future."
At yesterday's ceremony at the Singapore Islamic Hub, Mr Yaacob called madrasahs a key religious institution.
"Their role will become increasingly crucial as we face a challenging and complex future in both Singapore and the world," he said.
Since 2007, Muis has contributed more than $10 million to madrasahs in the form of grants, training and development programmes, and financial assistance.
Mr Yaacob said these efforts have paid off, with madrasah students performing better in both national and religious exams.
The community has also played a part in funding madrasahs. Mr Yaacob said: "It shows that madrasahs are close to the community's heart."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.