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Pregnant student drops out of school to have twins, returns a year later to score almost straight As at A-Levels

SINGAPORE — When Ms Ashvini Annathurai discovered that she was pregnant during her second year of study at Millennia Institute, she was prepared to drop out of school to care for her babies that she had with her boyfriend then.

In early 2020, Ms Ashvini Annathurai (pictured) gave birth to twin girls after dropping out of school.

In early 2020, Ms Ashvini Annathurai (pictured) gave birth to twin girls after dropping out of school.

  • At 20, Ms Ashvini Annathurai found out she was pregnant in her second year of study
  • She then decided to discontinue her studies at Millennia Institute to focus on being a mother
  • At 22, she resumed her studies in 2021 and sat for her A-Levels at the urging of her family
  • She said it was not easy being a parent and a full-time student
  • She received A and B grades for her A-Level results

SINGAPORE — When Ms Ashvini Annathurai discovered that she was pregnant during her second year of study at Millennia Institute, she was prepared to drop out of school to care for her babies that she had with her boyfriend then.

“I was ready to just stop (schooling) and become a mother and just go to work or something,” she recalled.

Ms Ashvini, now aged 23, was one of more than 11,000 candidates to receive their GCE A-Level results on Tuesday (Feb 22).

She was one of the top academic performers at the pre-university school in Bukit Batok.

Having taken a year off to give birth when she was 21 and then to raise her twin daughters, she returned to Millennia Institute to complete her studies last year at the urging of her family.

Before she became a mother, Ms Ashvini’s goal had been to be a doctor — and the ambition remains unfettered. 

At the A-Levels, she scored As for H2 biology, chemistry and mathematics, H1 economics and project work.

H1, H2 and H3 refer to the levels or depth of the subject taken, with H1 subjects being briefer than H2 and H3 subjects, and H3 being a more advanced level. 

She also received a B grade for general paper.

The Ministry of Education said in a press release on Tuesday that 93.5 per cent of candidates attained at least three H2 passes, with a pass in general paper, or knowledge and inquiry.

This is comparable to the performance of candidates in past years, notwithstanding Covid-19, it added.

Speaking to TODAY at Millennia Institute after receiving her A-Level results, Ms Ashvini described herself as someone who performed “quite well” academically and consistently topped the science stream at Millennia Institute.

After her O-Levels, she had enrolled in Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)’s International Baccalaureate diploma programme, but moved to Millennia Institute a year later because she preferred the A-Levels’ examination-based assessments.

I think I needed a few days to recollect myself and my thoughts before seeking support from my family
Ms Ashvini Annathurai on finding out that she was pregnant out of wedlock

In her first two years at Millennia Institute, which offers a three-year pre-university course, she was active in co-curricular activities, serving as the vice-chairperson of the school’s Indian dance group and facilitating the orientation programme for new students.

She juggled these activities on top of her part-time work at coffee chain Starbucks to earn pocket money. Her family was going through financial hardship at that time.

When she realised that she was pregnant sometime in her second year of studies, she was shocked.

“I think I needed a few days to recollect myself and my thoughts before seeking support from my family.”

However, her mother, to whom she first broke the news, showed only concern for her well-being and was supportive of her, Ms Ashvini said.

It was the same with the rest of the family, including her then-boyfriend whom she married the same year.  

She declined to say more about her boyfriend-turned-husband and their relationship, only that he is 25 years old this year and working full-time.

She chose to leave Millennia Institute at the end of 2019 anyway to focus on parenting.

In early 2020, she gave birth to twin girls and took up administrative jobs to support her family.

For most of 2020, it did not cross her mind to return to school. 

"I was mainly focused on taking care of my kids," she said.

Towards the end of 2020 though, she began to toy with the possibility of continuing her studies when her family encouraged her to write to the school to ask if she could return.

Taking a chance, she wrote to the school’s principal, Mrs Tan Wan Yu, and was glad to be accepted back as a Year 3 student last year.

Despite initial doubts about having to juggle full-time studies with parenting, Ms Ashvini decided to push on because she believed that there were other young mothers in Singapore who had done the same, too.

Unlike most other students that year, she would drop her daughters off at a preschool in the morning before arriving at Millennia Institute. She would then spend a few hours in the afternoon to study after classes had ended, before picking up her daughters from preschool in the evening.

My reason for returning to school was also because of my children. I wanted to perform well so that I could go to university after this and get a good job (to support them).
Ms Ashvini Annathurai on resuming her studies

It was not all smooth-sailing. In a “difficult period” in February last year, just as she was adjusting back to school life, Ms Ashvini was forced to miss a few days of classes when her daughters were hospitalised for asthma.

She said that she was able to catch up on her work after returning to school with the help of friends.

Another major obstacle in returning to school was having to catch up with other students.

“Everyone was learning things as Year 3 students, but I had already forgotten everything I had learnt in my first two years,” she added.

To get around this, she spent the school break in June catching up on the syllabuses of the first two years.

And then there were days of having to go to classes early after a night of interrupted sleep caring for her infants.

“Even through that, I still had to wake up, get dressed and go to school. I just had to do it,” Ms Ashvini said, adding that she was never once late for school that year.

“My reason for returning to school was also because of my children. I wanted to perform well so that I could go to university after this and get a good job (to support them).”

Ms Ashvini is grateful for the support shown by both her extended family and her teachers.

Her extended family would take care of her daughters over the weekends so that she could spend time studying. Her teachers also checked in on her regularly and gave her children toys, milk tins and diapers.

Preparing for the A-Levels while parenting has shown her that she can take on more than she thinks, she said.

“At times, I felt very stretched as if I could not go on anymore, but somehow I found the strength to just push through.”

With her results, Ms Ashvini said that she intends to pursue a job in the healthcare sector as she believes it is a line of work that is meaningful.

She is now an intern at Eden School in Bukit Batok, which caters to students with autism, because she wants to pick up skills that might be useful for her future profession. She will be applying to take up a course in medicine at universities here.

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