New approach needed to break cycle of poverty for Kuala Lumpur's street children

Lack of ID documents, outdated education hinder upward mobility for street children

18 Feb 2024 10:02am
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo illustrated by Sinar Daily
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo illustrated by Sinar Daily

To this day, the issue of street children remains unresolved. Is it true that the government's efforts to address this issue lack potency, thus causing this community to continue struggling to escape alley life and perpetuate the cycle of poverty? This question is explored in the fifth and last part of a special report on the future of street children.

KUALA LUMPUR - Various efforts made by the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help improve the well-being of the minority group living in the alleys near Chow Kit seem insufficient in breaking the cycle of poverty they endure.

Aside from being ensnared in numerous social challenges, the lack of identification documents among children from this community poses a significant barrier to their upward mobility, hindering their escape from the bleak circumstances of street life.

Hence, according to experts interviewed by Bernama, the government's approach to addressing the issue of street children is still inadequate, and warrants a thorough review to put an end to this longstanding cycle.

In their perspective, resolving the issue involves more than just assisting the community in obtaining identity documents, it also entails revising the education syllabus to better equip them to confront future challenges.

"Obtaining identity documents due to parents failing to register the birth of their children is a challenging and time-consuming process. Therefore, I believe that addressing this issue involves more than just reviewing the problem (of lack of documents).

"The Ministry of Education (MOE) and relevant agencies need to collaborate on enhancing support for this community, and they also need to review the education syllabus and the aid provided to them,” Dr Abdul Rahman Ahmad Badayai told Bernama.

Explaining further, the head of the Psychology Clinic and Consultation at the Centre for Research in Psychology and Human Well-Being, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) said the existing steps in resolving the issue were not keeping pace with the changing times.

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He emphasised the importance of providing residents of the dark alleys with various Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), thus helping the community while waiting for the process of obtaining the identification documents.

The fact is, being born in Malaysia does not guarantee automatic citizenship because they must meet the conditions set by the National Registration Department (JPN) as outlined in the Federal Constitution and the Citizenship Rules 1964.

"These street children are victims of circumstance due to their parents' failure to register their births. We aim to prevent these unfortunate circumstances from persisting and we don’t want them to live like refugees.

"Apart from academic education, TVET skills training such as cooking, electrical and car repair, are very important. It is understood that the Sekolah Bimbingan Jalinan Kasih (SBJK) provides skills training but not specific and just the foundation," he said.

Citing the Philippines as an exemplary model, Abdul Rahman said such measures can be implemented collaboratively by the government and NGOs.

The food aid that is more focused by NGOs needs to be diversified with an emphasis towards the career development of the targeted community including changing the mentality from being just a recipient of aid to an individual who is independent and committed towards economic improvement.

"It can be done in phases but needs to be continuous, which means, the skill training starts from children to adults. I also see that there is a need for the government to allocate funds for this community especially SPM leavers to establish businesses utilising these acquired skills," he said.

People also need to learn to embrace rather than stigmatise these individuals often associated with hopelessness, social issues, crimes and dark alleys.

"I'm sure they have a future but people need to help them, not just the government. I have seen the reaction of a few people who look at this community with cynicism that makes them stay away.

"This prevailing prejudice and discrimination stem from a lack of understanding about the community," he added.

The importance of enhancing the strategy for assisting these children was underscored by Prof Dr Haslinda Abdullah, the director of the Institute for Social Science Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), who emphasised the necessity to better explore and refine their talents and potential.

"...not through the current syllabus, but with the different mode of operations that emphasise their talents and potential. I am optimistic about the capabilities of these street children, they are smart, but they don’t have formal avenues to harness their potential," she said. - BERNAMA

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