She went through a series of difficult tests and at least two rounds of grueling interviews to beat some 70-odd pupils to win herself a trip to the United States that was being organised by her school’s Aerospace Club.

But after the announcement yesterday that all Year Six pupils had to sit for their Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) English and Science papers on September 30, Alisya Sofea Norisham’s participation in the school trip is now in limbo.

This is because the group will be departing Malaysia on September 19 and return on September 29, just one day before the exams.

“I know she worked really hard to be selected for this trip. But returning to Kuala Lumpur on the 29th is cutting it a little bit too close, I think,” Sheila Hambali, Alisya Sofea’s 41-year-old mom told Astro AWANI yesterday.

The trip, which comprises 12 students and several teachers, including the school’s headmistress, is supposed to first take the selected students of Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Tun Dr Ismail (1) to Washington D.C. before heading to New York.

“Throughout the trip, they are to visit the Smithsonian, several elementary schools and they’re also to attend a dinner hosted by the Malaysian Embassy in D.C.

“I tried asking the teachers if any adjustments can be made to get the Year Six pupils to come back a couple of days earlier, but the flight tickets cannot be changed. There’s nothing the organisers can do,” said Sheila, adding that there were four Year Six pupils in the travel group including her daughter.

The mother-of-four, who works with a media organisation, said although Alisya Sofea is strong in her Science and English subjects, she still feared that something might go wrong if she lets her second child, who aspires to become an astronomer, go.

“Upon returning, she could suffer from jet lag or her focus sidetracked. I’m also concerned that if she does go, she won’t be able to enjoy the trip as much, knowing that she has an exam to return to,” said Sheila.

The Kota Damansara resident said she pitied her daughter and the rest of the Year Six pupils who have been made to suffer such abrupt changes, following the leak of the Science and English question papers that was revealed over the last two days.

UPSR Sheila Hambali
Sheila consoling Alisya Sofea after having to break the bad news to her second daughter of the exam postponement

As for Suriati Karina Mohamed Kamal, 37, she said her eldest daughter, Suria Zurina Huesen, cried upon learning that the Science paper was postponed.

“My husband and I were supposed to take our kids to Malacca this coming Sunday till Tuesday, seeing that we have a long Malaysia Day weekend coming up. The kids had wanted to go to a rabbit farm there. It looks like the trip needs to take a backseat for now.

“Suria was all set to do her victory dance today. Science is not one of her strongest subject and she really had wanted to get it over and done with,” she told Astro AWANI, adding that Suria was strongest in Bahasa Malaysia, Mathematics and English.

Suriati Karina said most of the Year Six pupils were already in a wreck, in fear the dreaded examinations, and the postponement only prolonged that fear.

However, the optimistic mother-of-five also said she considered the postponement as a blessing in disguise as now, her daughter can have more time preparing for the paper, which was her least favourite.

“This somewhat teaches the kids that they need to be prepared for anything at any time, and second chances don’t come often,” said Suriati Karina, a long-time resident of Petaling Jaya.

UPSR Suriati Karina
Suriati Karina with Suria Zurina on the first day of the UPSR exams on Tuesday