When school reopened in January 2021, parents of diverse nationalities flocked to our centre to enroll their children. Ten months of the covid-19 pandemic had robbed these kids of a normal childhood, a normal school life.
In walked 7-year old Danny with his mother, Nina, and his little brother. Nina is a single mother, struggling hard to bring up two little boys.
“Where is Danny’s father?” I asked.
“Ma’am, he was taken by immigration officers and deported. I want my children to have a good education so that they will get good jobs in the future.” “… Not like me,” she added, with tears in her eyes.
I learned that Nina worked in a restaurant. Earning only RM35 a day, they were literally living from hand to mouth, having to pay rent for their room, put food on the table and buy other necessities.
Danny was enrolled in Grade 1.
Then with May 2021 came the lockdown in Malaysia. The economy was being dealt a heavy blow as businesses had to fold up, people lost their jobs, people were hungry, people were dying from the virus. The refugee community was hard-hit. The cry from the ground grew louder and louder with each passing day. The scenario for education inevitably changed. Children were being imprisoned in their very own homes. Schools had to close, students and teachers alike had to learn how to do online classes.
When I learned that Danny had not been attending online class for more than a month, I called Nina.
She told me, “Ma’am, I only have RM5 left. I can’t buy phone data for online lessons. I lost my job when the restaurant closed.”
“Do you have food?” I quickly asked.
“We still have a little rice left.”
“I will send you some money and also a bag of rice and a tray of eggs first. At least you and your boys can have a simple meal of rice and eggs,” I offered.
I was not prepared for her reply. “Ma’am, rice and eggs is not a simple meal. It’s a special meal.”
I felt tears stinging my eyes. Oh, how much we take daily needs for granted! Such is the plight of a family suffering in silence.
But thankfully, Danny is one of many students benefitting from our student sponsorship program. Nina is ever so grateful to ERLC not only for fee exemption and providing lunch in school but also for reaching out to them in times of need.
Now Danny has been given a child’s right to education and the opportunity to dream big!
We can all do our small part. Be the reason someone feels loved and valued because you care.