Moses Lam Ka-nam, 18, of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School scored 5** in six Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) subjects this year. He was just one step away from joining the four top scorers with seven 5**, but his personal story may be the most encouraging of all.
Moses’ father left the family when Moses was just six years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his two older sisters single-handedly. As the sole breadwinner, she had to make ends meet by working long hours at a laundry shop. In primary school, Moses had to wait until 6pm before she could pick him up. The family ate whatever was cheapest at the market, and Moses studied using second-hand textbooks.
“As a child, I was insecure. I would feel scared when my mother let go of my hand for even just a moment to pick groceries,” he tells Young Post over the phone.
But with support from his family, teachers and Christian faith, his confidence grew and his grades soon picked up, sweeping academic prizes throughout his secondary school years.
Months before the DSE exams, Lam received news that his father was in hospital and in critical condition.
“We hadn’t heard from him since he left us, so it was emotional for me," Moses says. "Looking at him lying in bed, I didn’t know what to say to him. I knew I would cry if I said anything. But my mother and sisters encouraged me, and I told him that I loved him,” he recalls.
Moses says he forgives his father, and loves him just as God loves His children.
“I might not have a lot if you think about it in terms of money, but if you think of it in terms of the love and support that I have, I think I’m very blessed,” he says.
Moses achieved grade 5** in all of his core subjects, as well as in his electives of BAFS and chemistry, and he scored a 5* in physics. Of his secret behind his outstanding grades, Moses says it was all through God’s grace.
“He’s helped me through so many challenges. And if it wasn’t for Him, my own efforts alone wouldn't have been enough.”
While he took tutoring classes for a few months during summer last year, Moses says it was more important to work hard on your own. Beginning in Form Six, he dropped all extra curricular activities to make time for studying every day, often staying at school until 9:30pm and revising all day during weekends. His short breaks were for meals and to listening to Jay Chou music for relaxation.
Moses says he found it most helpful to compile his own notes from textbooks, past papers and exercises, including key concepts and questions that he found difficult.
“What helps is to do many exercises so you know all of the types of questions you may have to answer,” he says. For Chinese and English, in addition to DSE past papers, he also did a lot of Hong Kong A-Levels exam papers. He says doing past papers allows you to practice managing your time efficiently.
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Moses also developed a colour coding to help him prioritise his revision: orange labels for challenging questions he needs to ask teachers about; green for concepts he had to memorise; and blue for tricky problems that were easy to get wrong.
“It's vital to know what mistake you make, and to improve on that,” he says. And believes this philosophy isn’t only true for grades.
Last year, Lam experienced one of the biggest failures in his life thus far: he was leading the only contending cabinet for the school’s Student Council, but the students still gave them a vote of no-confidence because they didn't feel they'd be well represented. Plagued with guilt and devastation, he persuaded his teammates to run again, and finally gained a majority support after revamping their campaign.
“I love how ‘hope’ is an acronym for Hold On, Pain Ends. If you just hang in there, all challenges can be overcome. And when you look back on it a couple years later, you'll realise that it’s really nothing,” says Moses.
He plans on studying medicine at the University of Hong Kong, and already he’s planning to be prepared by spending six weeks of his summer holiday volunteering at a hospital.
“I’m only two days in, but it’s been amazing to see how the doctors work,” he says. “I think it’s imperative not only to care for patients’ illnesses, but also the needs of their hearts.”