KUALA LUMPUR – November 13, 2017: Like many of her peers, Wan Noor Mardiana used to be a typical rebellious teenager who grew up in an urban poor household.
Chilling out and loitering at malls on weekends was a routine for her and friends.
“Deep down, you know that you’re lost. You want to change, to start over but most of us don’t know how to do it,” said the 30-year-old resident of PPR (Program Perumahan Rakyat) in Pantai Permai, Lembah Pantai.
PPR is a public housing programme that caters to the lower income group. Some of the flats are in relatively good condition but many of the older ones are seen as urban slumps.
According to a research on youth-related social illness, urban youths like Noor Mardiana make up the bulk of the city’s at-risk-youths – a term sociologists coined to describe a youth that is less likely to transition successfully into adulthood.
The 2015 World Youth Report estimated that 25 per cent of youths cannot unlock their true potential because of their impoverished backgrounds which prevent them from improving their lives.
Not wanting to be a part of the 25 per cent, Noor Mardiana six years ago put a stop to the habit of loitering at shopping malls.
She wanted to do more with her life and when she heard of the free government-funded youth upskilling weekend classes at a nearby PPR, she did not hesitate to enrol.
“My first class at Perkasa Remaja was a make-up and beauty class. I instantly fell in love with it and I knew from then on that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” she recalls.
Now a fully-trained small-time beautician, Noor Mardiana offers affordable house-to-house beauty services, including bridal make-up and cuticle cares.
“I know it’s going to take a while but one day I’ll have my own spa and beauty centre,” said Noor Mardiana.
Perkasa Remaja is an intervention and rehabilitation programme for marginalised youth in urban communities. It is a subset of the Permata programme and the brainchild of the prime minister’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
Although Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia is entrusted with the task of instituting Perkasa Remaja’s programme, some of the teachers are experts who consider their contributions as national service.
Some of the programme’s alumni were also hired to teach because according to alumni-turned-photography teacher Muhd. Afiq Farahi Md. Khusaini, “it takes one to know one”.
“The best way to approach these youths is to not have a student-teacher wall with them. You need to be firm with them but at the same time you need to be seen as their friend.
“That’s why I often treat them to meals and ask about their problems. Aside from teaching, I also want them to open up to me,” said the 28-year-old resident of PPR Desa Rejang, Setapak.
Currently earning a stable income with his wedding photography business, Afiq Farahi feels that he is obligated to teach the marginalised youths.
“I have lived here for the past five years. I can’t just turn my back on these kids. They need someone who lives in the same environment to show that they can live better lives if they try,” said Afiq Farahi.