Perseverance gives duo their just rewards
Sheer determination paid off for two visually impaired students who achieved outstanding results in this year's A-levels after a year of hard work and pain.
Cynthia Zhang Ying-chan, 20, who has lazy eyes - the loss of the ability to see details - received As in geography and history. Her classmate Wong Ka-ho, 21, also scored an A in history.
The pair, who attend St Joseph's Secondary School at Ma On Shan, conquered their fears and disabilities to reach their goals.
They both received extra time and more breaks during the exams.
Wong took his exams in Braille and could input his answers via a computer, while Zhang used a magnifying glass.
'I never felt retarded by my eyes when pursuing education,' a confident Zhang. She also took A-levels in economics, use of English and Chinese language.
Wong, who was diagnosed with retinal detachment and lost his sight when he was three, could not have predicted what would happen to him - he caught flu several days before the exams.
He said determination got him through the pain and anxiety. 'Strong will and calmness are two elements needed to succeed in examinations,' said Wong, who achieved an A grade with a distinction in history.
Wong, who also sat the exams for use of English and Chinese history and language, said he studied six hours a day. 'I don't care about my health, but I do care about my studies,' he said.
He was also grateful for the electronic books provided by the Hong Kong Blind Union's Accessible E-Learning Project. Pupils with vision problems can read them in Braille and listen to the content.
Zhang's determination comes from the phrase 'practice makes perfect', which she applied to improving her English when she arrived in Hong Kong from the mainland in 2003.
She said that was the toughest period of her life because that was when the city was struck by Sars.
At the time her poor English skills made her feel inferior and so desperate that she refused to do homework and locked herself in her room.
But Zhang soon realised that things would not improve unless she took action.
She started memorising words from the dictionary every day and soon she went from scoring just 20 out of 100 in an English test to more than 70.
She described the transition period as one of 'unbearable pain'.
'I thought I was not clever enough, but it did not mean I could not do it,' she said. 'It was only a matter of time.'
Both Cynthia and Wong want to become social workers.
'I believe in myself, being a veteran of conquering hardships and can convince people in need to accept help,' Wong said, while Zhang said she wanted to make a contribution to society.
A public relations officer with the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, said it offered a range of special arrangements for disabled candidates, according to the level of their disabilities.
The authority made special exam arrangements for 257 candidates this year.
Eight of them scored at least two As, including a deaf student who scored 4 As.