Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Saturday November 30th 2019

Discrimination faced by a needy child on FAS scheme

A child with limited resources (a.k.a. poor/FAS kid) in a primary school will have her pride crumpled many times over through the 6 years of school.

Looking left and right on the first day of school, her new classmates are primed with spanking new shoes and crisply ironed uniform (by the maid most likely), stack of new books in a brand new bag and a parent standing outside the classroom waving and blowing kisses. All that she witness just as she steps in the class late carrying a red plastic bag of handouts containing the same books, two sets of oversized uniform; one of which is on her body which she has just put on, creases and all, in the toilet on the way to class… At the door, she was ushered quickly to her seat and the big red plastic bag was stashed under the table by teacher. She looked out to catch a glimpse of her mum but mum was no where to be seen. A thousand thoughts run through her mind now as she sit in a room full of strangers twice herself (esteem).

Fast forward a year and three months. It was her birthday. She recalls the many birthday celebration her classmates threw and wishes someone would remember hers. So she drew herself a birthday card and left it on her table just before recess. Back from recess a few of her classmates friends saw the card and one exclaimed out… Hey it is your birthday? She was just about to smile as her friends around her wish her happy birthday when the teacher heard the commotion and looked sharply at the lot and said, “Keep quiet and get back to your seats!”

Fast forward another year, she is still wearing the same set of uniforms handed out at primary one as she waits to receive a fresh set couple of months down the road. During recess, she waits out till the queues subsided so that she can quickly rush over to the stall, hand over the Financial Assistance Coupon and in the remaining 5 minutes finish up the bowl of noodles. As the bell rings, she gobbles down whatever remaining gravy on her bowl, rush to the water cooler for a drink and rush over to the assembly area… among the last again to be seated. She wish she could just have money like everyone else so that she doesn’t have to use a coupon to ‘buy’ food and spend time answering curious queries by her friends.

She is now in P4 doing fairly well to remain standard stream. The teacher just announced an overseas learning journey to China that will take place just before the mid-year holidays. To qualify, students are to answer a questionnaire, write a personal statement of intent and reason for wanting to go and get the consent form signed. When the questionnaire was distributed, the first question reads ‘Would you like to go for the Learning Journey to China?’ and a buzz of yez, yez, yez, fills the classroom. In her mind, the same buzz resonates and she pulls out a pen from her pencil case and writes… A small little ‘no’. No because it is expensive, no because she has to take care of her little siblings every afternoon when mum goes to work, no because she cannot put it to give her mum the consent form to be signed and then witness the worried, disappointed and failure look on her mum’s face.

PSLE is finally over and it is result day now. She enters the school hall and finds her seat with her classmates as usual. The principal speaks to the students and parents (of some) who are present and reminds everyone that “every school is a good school and in every school, teachers are dedicated to maximise the potential of your child.”

As the names are called out one by one, she witnessed parents hugging and congratulating their children upon receiving their PSLE result. As she sat and wait, she reminisced her first day of school all over again. Jolted by the calling of her name, she darts to the front of the hall to meet her teacher. As she sits, one of her co-form teacher stands up, approached Mdm T, the school administrator and they had a short discussion. Mdm T walked towards her and asked,”Girl, are you here with your parents? Can you call them and meet me at the GO? Your parents need to settle the outstanding fees before we can let you collect your cert!”

An overwhelming shame gushes through her emotions as she replied, “No. Only me.”

And with that, the child esteem was crushed, stamped and sealed…

Rafiz Hapipi

Editor’s note: Reposted with permission from Rafiz’s facebook.

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