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)

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The boy who dropped out of school

It has been quite a while since I was last on clinic duty. The last time I was supposed to be on duty, something cropped up at the office and as such I had to give my voluntary duty a miss.

Today I was on duty again. With my business partner back from umrah, I didn’t have to worry about things at the office and so off I went to Ipoh GH.

As usual I had to encounter another nightmare (in bright daylight…) finding a parking spot at the hospital, I ended up parking my car quite far from the HIV clinic. Had to walk quite a bit but I suppose it was good exercise for me.

The room we usually use for counseling had to be used for some other matters today so we were given another room further at the back. It was a more spacious room, and even though we had the hospital staff walking in and out of that room, at least we had some privacy at one little corner in the room.

However there weren’t many new cases referred to us today. SN only referred one case to us today, but this one case is one that really deserves attention. When the file was given to me and I saw the name, at first I thought I’d wait for another Tamil-speaking volunteer to arrive. You see, some of the poor from amongst the non-Malays can’t really speak Malay nor English well enough, so I didn’t want to risk having any miscommunication during the counseling session.

But when I saw her age and her address, I figured she should be able to speak Malay well enough. So I proceeded to call her into the room without waiting for my other colleague.

Devi is a 32 year old lady. Her husband had been in prison since about 2 months ago and is expected to remain there for a few months more at least. Devi had been unwell for quite some time, having chest pains and breathing difficulties but never really went for proper check up. That was until about 2 months ago when she was admitted to the hospital and tests revealed that she had HIV.

Ever since her husband was jailed, Devi had been staying with a friend of hers. This friend is married and has a kid, but the friend’s husband didn’t mind having Devi stay with them as he himself is outstation quite often. With Devi staying with them, whenever he’s outstation, his wife would at least have company at home. The problem now is that this friend doesn’t know yet that Devi has HIV. I’m not sure if the couple would still let her stay there if they find out. Such being the case, if we Buddies intend to meet up with her, it is best if we don’t visit her at home. The meeting place will have to be elsewhere.

But I don’t know how long Devi can keep this a secret from her friend. With a CD4 count as low as 6, Devi should be on medication immediately and her friend may be curious and ask her all sorts of questions as to her ailment.

Devi has 2 children – 1 boy aged 14 and a girl aged 4. Both are not staying with her. The boy stays with his grandmother (Devi’s mom-in-law). Apparently Devi and her MIL are not in talking terms. Oh dear. Devi would usually meet her son outside instead of going to her MIL’s house. (Devi’s own parents have both passed away.)

The younger girl now stays with another couple which has no family-ties with Devi. When Devi was healthier, she used to send the daughter to this couple while she was at work. Now she’s no longer working due to health problems, and because of that she can’t afford to bring up the child herself so the couple has sort of adopted the girl. The girl is in good hands no doubt. They send her to kindergarten and the best thing about this couple is that they do bring the girl to see Devi quite often. Devi herself doesn’t have any transport to go to the couple’s house and so they bring the little girl to see Devi at the house where Devi now stays.

My main concern now is Devi’s 14 year old son. Due to poverty he has stopped schooling since more than a year ago. He follows a friend around doing odd jobs to earn a living.

Gosh! He’s only 14. He’s supposed to be going to school, not working! I asked Devi about her son’s performance in school previously. She said he was an average student. That means if given the opportunity and under better circumstances this boy could have probably performed better.

Worse still, Devi’s son has not even had his identity card done. Thank God at least he has a birth cert!

Oh the poor boy! In all the cases I’ve handled so far, I’ve come across poor families having problems paying for the school necessities but they still at least go to school! Yes of course I’ve heard about children who dropped out of school due to poverty, but this is the first time I actually come across one personally.

First thing first – we will now need to arrange for financial assistance for this family. Once we get all the necessary forms ready, we will have to meet up with Devi again to get her to sign the forms and to pass to us the necessary supporting documents. We told Devi to bring along her son the next time we meet so we can coax him to go back to school – we’d of course have to arrange for him to be sponsored under our Education Sponsorship for Children program. We will also need to arrange to get his MyKad done as soon as possible.

The boy has the right to receive basic education at the very least, and basic education to me means at least up to form five! Without basic education, his future looks very bleak.

His family already lives in poverty; if he doesn’t go to school then he is going to inherit his family’s poverty. That’s not the kind of inheritance we would want him to get, would we?


Kerp (Ph.D) said...

when i was 14 i wished i didnt have to go to school!

to many, this is a common case where as you said, due to poverty kids are being deprived from basic education. this proves free education are still very much to be desired in our country. but having said that, parents or guardians must be more responsible to ensure the kid stays in school instead of breaking their bones doing odd jobs somewhere.

my heart goes out to devi. another victim of somebody else's wrong-doing. i know i'm being judgemental here but her hubby was culprit, 100% sure.

Pi Bani said...

At 14, I enjoyed school! No-lah, I didn't enjoy the studying and exams part; but rather I enjoyed whatever other activities... cocurriculum ke...cocurryayam ke... tak kiralah!

Anyway, yes, Devi is just another victim. So are the children. That's for sure.