Shah is the eldest son of Mr and Mrs K.
The family suffered a lot when Shah's father, Mr K started taking drugs. Sometimes he'd go missing for a week before he comes home. With his drug addiction, even when he was home he wasn't of any help to the family. More of a burden really. At one point of time, Shah actually said to his mother that he felt like killing his own father. He was only 13 then.
Mrs K became so desperate for money to feed her 3 children, she resorted to borrowing from an unlicensed money lender. From then on, her bank book and ATM card had to be surrendered to the money lender. Every month, when her pay (she works as operator at a nearby factory) gets credited into her bank account, the money lender will take out the interest portion of the loan and only leaves a small amount for her to feed her family. This has continued until today.
Mr K is no longer on drugs now. But he has AIDS and his CD4 count is really low. He knew of his HIV infection rather late - by then he had already been infected with a list of opportunistic diseases. He's already too weak to work. Worse, when he found out about his HIV, Mrs K was pregnant! Thank goodness the tests done on her showed that she was negative.
So now the whole family has to depend on Mrs K to earn an income for the family. She gets about RM300 net pay per month... ooops, correction... she's SUPPOSED to get RM300 per month. But the bulk of it goes to the money lender, remember?
With a house rental of RM180/month, utilities, groceries, children's schooling needs... even those lousy in maths can easily tell she doesn't earn enough! She couldn't afford to pay for her children's bus fares, the bus driver simply refused to bring her children to school. As a result, the children missed school quite a lot last year (that was before the family's case was referred to my NGO).
That brings us back to Shah, the eldest son. He was in form 3 last year. Since they couldn't afford to pay for bus fares and his school was quite a distance, he had to depend on a neighbour who'd take him to school if the neighbour so happened to be going to town. Otherwise, Shah would miss school. And he missed school a lot! In addition, Shah had not been paying his school fees either.
So, Shah got into his school's bad books. Every time Shah goes to school, he always gets scolded by the teachers. They never bother to visit his family at home to find out why he hadn't been paying his fees or why he had been missing school. All they knew was that his mother wasn't a single mother and he didn't come from a big family (only 3 children) and therefore he didn't qualify for any help from the school! How easily they came to conclusions! (I know of another school whose teachers are more concerned and they do house visits to assess the families of their needy students. If only Shah's teachers were like that!)
Anyway, as expected, Shah didn't do well in his PMR exams. He is reluctant to go to school and even if he does go to school, it's just for the sake of going to school, not to learn. Noticing his interest in motor mechanics, I asked if he was interested to go for Aliran Kemahiran at Sekolah Teknik. He was obviously happy with my suggestion. So, I helped him apply to go to the Sekolah Teknik near his home.
Sadly though, there were only 7 applicants for that school and as such, the school wasn't ready to start a class. He could go to Sekolah Teknik in other towns, but they don't offer hostel facilities for Aliran Kemahiran students, so where was he supposed to stay? Rent a room for him to stay? His parents didn't agree to it and I wouldn't recommend it either. Shah is such a naive boy, he'd easily get into trouble if he lands up with the wrong group of friends.
So Shah is frustrated. He still has to go to the same school. My NGO now pays for his school fees and bus fares but since he is already in the school's bad books and he's not doing well in his studies, he still gets scolded almost every day. He has enough problems at home and the school is not helping at all to lighten his burden. The poor boy is only 16 but he is definitely not enjoying his teenage years!
Since the school is not giving him the much needed motivation, now Shah just wants to lessen his family's financial burden. He does some odd jobs and sometimes gets home late. And when he gets home late, he'd miss school the next day. And he gets scolded yet again the next time he goes to school.
I have submitted the family's application for Welfare Department's financial aid. But I don't know how long it will take for the application to be approved, IF it gets approved. Who knows, when they see the TV set at the family's home, they may think if this family can afford a TV, they don't deserve welfare aid. (the TV was bought when Mr K was still working)
For the time being, I make sure I visit this family every month. Every time I visit, I'd bring along monthly groceries, baby's needs (Mrs K delivered a baby girl in early January this year - her fourth child) and whatever other donations I could source from the public.
I hope by next year, the Sekolah Teknik near his home will be able to start a class. They promised they would if they have enough applicants from the 2 batches combined.
Hang in there, Shah! Don't give up on school yet!