THREE teenagers dropped in to my house this morning, making them the first visitors on Hari Raya day. Mohd Saiful is 13, Adam is 15 and Azhar is 12. As they sipped their cold drink, I threw them a few questions but the answers stunned me.
Saiful should be in Form 1 this year but has dropped out of school; Adam sat for his PMR but seemed dazed when I asked him questions about his studies and family; Azhar is the son of a taxi driver whose ambition is to be a soldier inspired by the war movies shown on TV>
Saiful's family moved house and he had to change school too. He had some fees to pay but his parents couldn't raise the money. He just dropped out of school and is now enjoying his childhood by doing nothing except play with friends in the multi-storey flats. It's now almost a year since he dropped out of school. He has two other siblings, one still in school.
Adam is a gangly lad whose father works as a guard in factory not far from his house. Questions thrown at him had to be rephrased by Azhar. Only after this could he answer. Through some supplementary questions, I found out that he's the sixth among his siblings. When asked who's the youngest in the family, he had to ask Azhar for the answer.
Adam and Azhar are not related but Adam just seemed unable to comprehend basic questions. I wonder how he would fare in his PMR exams.
Of the lot, Azhar was the one who appeared to have some semblance of responsibility and awareness. He came out fifth in his class. His father is a taxi driver and mother is a housewife. His father is not driving his taxi today and everyone has gone out for their Raya rounds.
I was disturbed by the attitude of the other two boys. They just didn't seem to know what's happening around them; just didn't seem to even care about themselves. Today, they have only one mission - to go to as many Muslim homes to celebrate Raya (read collect duit raya), regardless whether they know the households or not.
In my days, children would go only to homes of people they know. But times have changed I guess...
I know kids will always be kids, and going on Raya rounds is a normal thing to do. I love having visitors on Raya day and it feels good if they are also well-mannered. Raya has less meaning and enjoyment without children. Hari Raya is also a time of giving and sharing. Just look at the faces of the children when you pass them the duit raya and you'll see how their eyes lit up!
I wonder how many more children are there like Saiful and Adam - who seem to know nothing else except to have fun, play with their handphones all the time, have no inkling about their studies, and knows even less about what they hope to get out of life. You can't blame them for some of their problems and the situation they are in.
What does the future holds for them? What happened to big plans mapped out by people like Puteri Umno who boasted about their tuition centres in flats and residentials areas? have these boys escaped the safety nets provided by Puteri Umno and other like-minded bodies?
It's not easy I know. But we just can't turn a blind eye on these children. Giving them the duit raya is not much of a help and won't go a long way in easing their hardships. But then again a boy like Azhar, staying in a similar environment like Saiful and Adam, is still able to at least show a decent result in his school exams.
(I take him at his words but he does show a more pleasant and intelligent personality). I told Azhar to study hard and make something for himself. Fine if he wants to be a soldier but make sure he becomes a good one, and strive to rise to the very top.
While one must acknowledge the initiatives of people like Puteri Umno and NGOs, more has to be done if we don't want to see our children end up as street urchins and hooligans and irresponsible individuals. Some sustained self-help programmes perhaps?
My sincere wishes and warm regards to everyone who drop in to my blog. May your days be blessed always and may all your dreams come true! Maaf Zahir Batin.