THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The children, the fees and the food...

Today is 1st Muharram, 1429 Hijrah. It’s a public holiday and here I am parking my butt in front of my home PC after coming back from visiting Fuzi and her kids.

School reopened last week and I thought by now matters concerning schooling fees (oh okay, bayaran tambahan if you insist) would be settled by now. But no, I am still unable to finalize my list to enable me to claim whatever amount from my NGO’s Children Education Fund. Yes, I can claim part by part but isn’t it so much easier to claim everything together under one list? Sigh

Apparently some schools have yet to give the full list to the students. Maybe because of the hoo hahs or maybe the school and the respective PTAs couldn’t come to an agreement. I don’t know for sure. But it’s sure making my life more difficult as until now I still cannot finalize the whole list.

I had already given a certain amount to Fuzi when I brought her children out to buy their uniforms and other schooling needs earlier. But last week she told me the amount was not enough to cover the fees for her 4 children, including Ijam, the HIV positive boy who just joined kindergarten this year. Since Fuzi had spent so much money to legalize her Narathiwat marriage cert, she couldn’t afford to pay first the shortage, which is about RM150.

Having seen in the news our Minister saying that those who can’t afford can opt not to pay (oh, he even said those who had paid can claim back if they want to – as though it’s as easy as that!!), I thought at the very least the school teachers would give the students some time to pay up. But no, yesterday I got a text message from Fuzi to tell me that Wina, her eldest daughter was instructed by her class teacher to pay up by Friday. Maybe for the more educated parents, they’d dare argue with the teachers. But for people like Fuzi, even to ask simple questions, she’d hesitate.

And how come it looks as though the schools are given the freedom to decide for themselves how much to charge the students for their so-called FREE education? Fuzi’s primary school children had to pay RM58.90 each for the workbooks and exercise books, another RM30.50 for their “bayaran tambahan” and an additional RM15 as DERMA PIBG. (Hmmm… derma? Derma shouldn’t be a compulsory amount, should it?) That’s slightly more than RM100 each.

Another primary school child in another town had to pay a total of RM81.70 to the school while another primary school child in yet another town had to pay a total of RM210!!! Oh wow!!

For the ones in secondary school, let’s just compare 3 children who are all in form one in different schools in different towns.

Fuzi’s daughter had to pay a total of RM140; Mrs. K’s daughter had to pay slightly over RM100 while Lin’s son had to pay RM195.

Even at kindergarten level run by the same organization (KEMAS) the charges at different places differ. While Fuzi had to pay RM87.50 for Ijam, Zainab had to pay RM101.70 for her daughter.

I still have no idea how much Hana, Pushpa or Valli had to pay. They are all staying in the same town and my NGO sponsorship committee, which I’m coordinating, will be doing our house visits this weekend. Hopefully by then, I’d be able to settle everything.

What’s obvious to me is that the ones who benefit from the “abolish school fees/free text books” budget are the rich ones. They no longer have to buy text books, so there’s a lot of savings there (although to the rich, the amount may not be so significant). For the poor who had already been given free text books previously, the only amount abolished is the school fees of RM4.50 each. But the so called bayaran tambahan seem to be much more than it had ever been (I still keep last year’s list so I know…).

Wouldn’t it be better if the amount used to buy text books for the rich be utilized instead to cover for the workbooks, exercise books and whatever hidden fees for the poor children?

If you remember, I had been a sceptic since day one. I even posted an entry here right after the budget was announced.

Anyway, since we’re going for our house visits this coming weekend, guess what I did yesterday? Shopping lah! As much as I dread it, I still had to do it. I went to buy some groceries so when we visit the families, we won’t be going empty handed. I even had to pay separately for my own household needs so that I wouldn’t mix up the money. I bought rice, sugar, flour, milo, milk, canned food, biscuits, etc. BUT there was one thing I wanted to buy for them but I simply couldn’t – cooking oil! Since I could only buy one bottle – that had to be just for my own…

When I went to visit Fuzi just now, I also brought along some bread and peanut butter. And you know what? Fuzi’s children (even the one in form one) didn’t even know how the peanut butter was supposed to be eaten. I had to teach them to spread the peanut butter on the bread.

And here we are, taking so many things for granted…

22 comments:

Mat Salo said...

Quite a start to the new year eh? Wa-lau.. more hectic than most parents I know! Hope today you get a break, Pi.

Salaam Ma'al Hijrah 1429.

Zawi said...

Pi,
Reading the things you have to do alone make me feel so tired. Berat mata memandang, berat lagi bahu memikul.
I am proposing another job for you despite all the tasks you already have, to speak on volunteerism to university students. Hope they will invite you for their future programmes. I know you will do a great job on that and relieve you of any stress by sharing your experiences with them.
You should be nominated for Tokoh Maal Hijrah Negeri Perak. Selamat menyambut Maal Hijrah.

Akmal said...

Kak Pi,
Whoa, now that is busy! Wonder woman, you are; but wonder woman needs rest too. So, try to get some time for yourself too OK?
Hey, Pak Zawi's proposal is cool. Most University have their own team, but most of the members are lacking i exposure and experiences. Speaking in Malay context, we should look for someone who knows about the problems and issues Malays' volunteers have to face. I cannot think anyone better than you to do that kak.

kina said...

kak Pi,

About the school fees, additional school fees tu kan, like my kids school, the PIBG will have a say on how much such be imposed on the students for PIBG fees and other stuff (other than the one defined by Jabtan Pendidikan Daerah, if I m not mistaken).

The problem comes in when the relatively low income parents are not represented in this committee of PIBG. I hardly see them at the PIBG meetings. They have the rights to voice up their hard times in paying the fees, so they will not be subjected to the fees.

Another step is for the teachers to identify the students who are economically challenged, they filled up the Borang Kaji selidik ke apa ke, that details the income of the family for federal budget allocation purposes. Can identify the needy students la from that form kan?

I think banyak menda can do, if the PIBG and the teachers work together.

Selamat Tahun Baru Kak Pi.

Pi Bani said...

Mat Salo:
Yep, quite a start to the new year. Memanglah hectic when all the anak-anak stay in different towns! Kalau dok serumah at least not too bad.

Salam Ma'al Hijrah to you too.

Pi Bani said...

Zawi:
I wish I can do full time voluntary work, it's much more satisfying than my office work. But, I simply can't afford it. Nak tolong orang, kalau tak mampu nak tanggung diri sendiri tak jadi juga kan?

Tokoh Maal Hijrah? Haha... don't kid me lah! Orang separuh tiang macam I ni takde tokoh langsung!

Pi Bani said...

Akmal:
Wonder woman? Oh yes, I always wonder what I'm supposed to do next... :)

Anyway, being able to do the work doesn't mean being able to talk in public too. Mana you tau kot kot I gagap ke gugup ke apa ke? ;)

Pi Bani said...

Kina:
Yes, I am aware that some schools do take that extra step to really identify the poor students. I know sekolah lama I memang buat... and in fact siap ada Dana Ehsan for students of families from the lower income group.

But not all schools take that extra step. It all depends on whether class teacher masing-masing prihatin enough or not. Kalau dapat class teacher mendesak suruh bayar, siaplah budak tu...

Raden Galoh said...

Salam aka..namapaknya dah ada breather sikit...boleh duk depan PC...

Salam Maal Hijrah...tahun 2008 ni kita berhijrah 2 kali nampaknya ye...

Akak...saya suka mata yang kat atas tu...manja2 gitu..jelingan manja..ehem!

Pi Bani said...

Raden Galoh:
Ada breather ke takde breather ke, kena cari juga ruang to breath...

Oh, jelingan manja? Tu bukan jelingan manjalah... tu jelingan nakal!!

Salam Maal Hijrah to you too, sis. Semoga iman kita tidak goyang, jiwa kita lebih tenang dan hati kita lebih senang...

Nightwing said...

Helo Kak Pi,

Like Akmal mentioned, u also have to take care too.

Good suggestion by Pak Zawi. I think not many young people know about volunteerism per se.

Try to have a rest over the weekend.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

chill, kak Pi. them Gs are even a better twister than all of us could ever be.

Pi Bani said...

Nightwing:
Rest over the weekend? My outstation house visit IS over the weekend. I have to work on other days so any outstation visits will have to be on weekends or public holidays.

Funny though... you people telling me to take a break, but at the same time suggesting more things for me to do... :)

Pi Bani said...

Kerp:
Then maybe we can become the ARM-twister? ;)

PrincessJournals said...

i think iv said it before tht rather than giving free school textbooks to all students, they should only give to those really in need and use the excess money to support the lower-mid income (maybe w combined hsehold mthly income of rm4k and less) family w the rest of the 'hidden' fees.

those schools and/or their pibg yg takde hati perut tu shud be ashamed of themselves!

Pi Bani said...

Princessjournals:
Yes I remember you mentioning before that they shouldn't be giving free text books to all; but only to the deserving ones.

And yes, I really wonder macam mana ada yang boleh sampai hati desak their students to pay without taking into account their background...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Pi,

Im back!

It's sad, isn't it, that they don't know what peanut butter is?

Actually, our governemnet's policies and the bawahan punya all lain-lain...The atas say no need pay (fees), but the bawahan (as in the district, state etc) come up with policies which order schools to collect money (they come up with other kinds of fees) from the kids...

Who are the teacher going to listen to? And everywhere people point fingers at the schools...

Haih...And other people like you get stuck in between too! Darn...

ruby ahmad said...

Hello Pi,

I too do not see the point of the free textbooks. That is so ridiculous. So much money going down the drain cos it does not help the have nots effectively.

A lot of public funds are wasted as it seems there is little thought process being expended these days when it comes to usage of public funds. All I see is spend spend spend anyhow asalkan spend! Terrible state of affairs!

silversarina said...

salam,

Salam Mal Hijrah.

Semoga Allah memberi ganjaran pahala dan syurga buat Pi atas segala yang dilakukan membantu golongan yang memerlukan. Amin.

Cheers !!

Pi Bani said...

Daphne:
That's why... by right all government schools should have standardized rates and standardized system lah to determine who needs to pay and who need not pay. What they're doing now, aiyo, banyak susahlah...

If everything standardized at least I tak lah pening need to ask each child how much they have to pay kan?

Pi Bani said...

K.Ruby:
Tu lah pasal... sana sini I dengar ramai yang tak agree giving free text books to everybody when the money could have been used to really help the poor.

So how now? VOTE FOR KAK RUBY!!! ;)

Pi Bani said...

Silversarina:
I can only do sekadar yang mampu. To really help the people in need, each of us need to play our part... doesn't matter how small.