Last year, Shahrin's world shattered when he received his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results.
He failed with a score of 139 and could not move on from primary school.
The boy, who lives in the Pertapis Children's Home on Kovan Road, fights back tears as he recounts the bitter experience. He says: "It was not just me, I disappointed my mother too."
Shahrin (not his real name) was so disappointed that he was sobbing loudly, recalls Dr Sophian Kayat, who heads the home.
He was about to give up and go into a downward spiral, says Dr Sophian.
Refusing to allow Shahrin's potential to go to waste, Pertapis intensified its efforts.
Dr Sophian says: "We all knew he could do it, he just had to know it himself."
Thanks to the redoubled efforts of the staff, Shahrin was encouraged to retake his exam. Patiently, they coaxed him to try again and tutored him through the difficult spots.
It was a very different story earlier this week when Shahrin, now 13, got his PSLE results slip.
Not only is he going to secondary school, but his score of 161 means he can enter the Normal Academic stream and eventually take the O-level examinations.
"We knew he would eventually do well. He is a hardworking boy with a good attitude," says Dr Sophian.
Shahrin admits he was a bundle of nerves. "I was scared I would let everyone down."
When his teacher handed him the results slip, he could not believe his eyes, says Shahrin.
His first thought was how proud his mother would be.
Recounting the experience with a wide smile, he says: "I couldn't wait to give my mother the good news. I knew that it would make her and everyone who helped me happy."
Shahrin was placed in the home when he was just six years old by his mother who could not support them both.
Recalling the days, he says he and his mother would often move. The constant moves distracted him from his studies, and he started missing classes in Primary 1. That was when he was referred to welfare officers.
Eventually, his mother consented to his move to Pertapis.
Before he could understand what was going on, Shahrin was saying goodbye to his mother, the one constant presence in his life.
As they parted at the gates of the home, Shahrin said to his mother: "It is okay, as long as you do not have to suffer any more and it makes you happy, you can leave me here."
Despite his brave words, Shahrin suffered terribly during the separation.
To make things worse, his mother visited infrequently.
At one point, the boy became so withdrawn he stopped speaking. When he did speak, it would only be to talk about his mother.
But under the guidance of his mentors at Pertapis, Shahrin started playing football and putting effort into his schoolwork.
Eventually, he would also actively volunteer in programmes at the home, leading the nightly prayer sessions and mentoring younger residents.
"I might not have a normal family, but everyone here is my family," says Shahrin.
His mother is never far from his thoughts though, and he says she remains his main source of inspiration.
Shahrin shyly tells this reporter that all he wants is to make his mother proud.
"I called my mother and told her my results, and she said she was proud of me. Hearing her say that made me feel happy."
More recently, things have improved. He now sees his mother fortnightly.
They go out to watch movies, have dinner, and there are even days where he spends the night at her one-room rented apartment in West Coast.
When asked what his hopes for the future are, Shahrin lights up and enthusiastically replies that he wants to be a famous football player and represent Singapore.
He also has another dream, which is to one day leave Pertapis and live with his mother once again.
"I love my family here at Pertapis, but I also can't wait to go back and live with my mother. I love her so much," he says.
This article was first published on November 29, 2015.
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