Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Wednesday January 16th 2019

Poor primary school-going child lives without proper water supply for a year


It is almost a week later after her message for help  that I managed to schedule a time to visit single mum Aisha and her primary 5 school-going daughter at Woodlands.

There is no proper signage at the entrance to the estate and I have to wait for her at a nearby NTUC so that she can guide me into her place. I am a blurred toad when it comes to direction and always feel that its easier if someone could escort me in than having to find my way around.

The cloudy weather threatens to spoil my visit as I hurried to her place with her escort.

Its nicely nestled behind a few new blocks of BTO flats completely obscured from the public eye. There are two blocks of rental flats and I thought that its quite well painted-up and clean.

According to the government website, the government has increased the rental units from 50,000 to 60,000 to cope with the housing demand for the poor. Unfortunately, the Malay community accounts for one-third of all rental occupants and the lack of CPF contributions due to unemployment or odd jobs contributed to the dilemma.

Children living in rental units struggle with the stigma of poverty and though some manage to rise above the situation many are trapped in the cycle of social immobility.

Aisha lives in a small one-room flat with her young daughter largely furnished with hand-me-down and it reminded me of the one that I lived in at Toa Payoh when I was a young boy. Its barely less than 25 sq m and adequate for two people. Its also telling that Aisha’s own mum also lives in a rental flat but on her own.

Its apparent that Aisha has not break out of the poverty cycle which entraps her previous generation and now it has revisited her generation again – the question to ask is will her own daughter be able to break out of the poverty trap?

There is a lumpy Queen-size mattress stucked in the middle of the flat facing a small TV set and a stove lined up against the wall filled with maggi noodles and a row of eggs. A empty small mini fridge completed the bare rental flat.

“We used to eat rice with just eggs and tomato ketchup,” Aisha confided in me referring to her daughter’s obsession with ketchup. I told her that it is not a healthy diet and she nodded in agreement.

“She is a very understanding child,” she reiterated this to me at least twice as I look at her young daughter seated nearby while we talked. She displays a positive demeanour and always is smiling though it could be a false front to hide her tumultous inner self.

I am sure that the single mum has done everything within her means to provide for her child but she has her limitations. There is another younger son who is now cared for by her sibling and at least she does not have to worry for his welfare as he is in good hands.

Children of poor single mums sometimes have the worst deal as they have nothing to fall back on especially if the father is in jail and opt to leave the family. It takes a lot for them to understand their family situation and many are deprived of certain basic necessities eg. a proper diet and basic utilities such as water and electricity.

I am sure that a meal at the Macdonald or KFC is a luxury for her.

Needless to say, its not the ideal situation for a child to grow up in as you struggle together with the ups and downs of your poor single mum. Some grew up well but many faltered as they do not have a positive home environment to look forward to. Their world view of a home is all messed up with alot of struggle and hardship.

Rental units are also a complicating place to grow up in as they house all kinds of people and they all have one common problem – lack of resources and it is not always money.

The constant water dripping in the tiolet irritated me midway through the home visit and I realised that the family has their water reduced for close to a year! They could not keep up with the high cost of living here and eventually the prolonged backlogged SP bill was chastised with a enforced water reduction.

I was wondering how the family could live with no proper water flow for close to a year…its madness! They have a school-going kid…

They have to bring their clothes to a nearby mart for washing as their mini washing machine could not work with the reduced water flow.  Sometimes, plates were left unwashed as it takes time to collect the water in those huge pails in the tiolet.

They have to store the trickling water in a few big and small pails for washing, cooking and general usage. Its a degrading and inhumane move to deny our poor from having proper water flow just because you can’t pay the utilities.

I am however glad that they have switched to Pay U so that their power supply is still available as its not tied to the SP bill.

I asked if they have approached CDC for assistance and her reply was rather unclear so I did not probe further.

Aisha now survives on a part-time factory job that pays $50 daily cash as she needs the money to pay for all her expenses.

Her rental default is also huge – $2300 and its unpaid for close to 20 months. Her monthly rental is only $99.

Her rental contract is already over since last year but mercifully HDB has not taken steps to evict her.

Her immediate concern is her SP bill as the reduced water flow has affected her basic utilities even though its close to one year.

I left her place still wondering how the family especially a young child could live in such a home environment without proper water supply for a year. The only saving grace is that she only has one child to care for and not a handful few.

Its mind-boggling, disturbing and also shameful as we are considered a first-world country with the third richest world tag just after Qatar and Luxumborg – how can this happen to us?

Shame on you Singapore…and God knows how many children from poor families live without proper water supply.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Editor’s note: If you want to help the single-parent family, please pay the bills through AXS machine or online. Just quote the account number on the bills and you can pay any amount so that the family could have a full supply of clean fresh water and a proper home to live in – even though its a basic one-room flat. The family also requested for grocery aid, a fridge, washing machine and a wardrobe if possible – they can be second-hand. If you can sponsor the child for a full year please let us know also. Its $50/monthly and to be credited directly to the mum’s account for her daughter’s educational use.

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One Response to “Poor primary school-going child lives without proper water supply for a year”

  1. where says:

    Where is Mendaki? Given her low income, where are the social allowances and welfare? Now that we have a muslim President, what is she going to do?

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