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Orphans who never had the chance to go to school

KUALA LUMPUR – July 21, 2020: If she had gone to school, Aida figured that English would be her favourite subject but sadly, it was a wishful thinking that grew into a distant dream as years passed by.

The 22-year-old orphan was unable to go to school because she had no MyKad.

It was a predicament Aida was born with, one that remained unresolved even after she aged-out of the government orphanage where she lived at since she was 12 years old.

“The officers there, they said they will sort it out for me when I first entered… but when I left, I never did get my Mykad,” lamented Aida who learned bits and bobs of English from dictionaries and her properly schooled friends in the institution.

She used to feign ignorance if any of her inquisitive peers asked about her not going to school with them. Sometimes, she would tell them that she has yet to reach schooling age.

Many believed her, as Aida’s petite frame lend credence to the white lie.

Eventually, the officer who was in charge of her, prepared her an answer script. Her fictional previous school from then on was a noteless school somewhere in Negeri Sembilan.

“I was told not to tell my situation. It was to avoid me from being jeered at in case I got into a fight with my friends in the institution,” Aida recalled.

Instead of studying the national curriculum, Aida, who was born in Kuala Lumpur, was given vocational lessons such as cooking, baking and sewing. She however, excelled in makeup and cosmetics.

“Without a MyKad, I can’t even get a proper job let alone open a bank account,” said Aida who now works as a salesgirl at a mall in Johor Bahru. Her salary is wired into the bank account of a friend, who agreed to lend it to her.

Malaysia’s government orphanages are officially called Children’s Home. It was founded under the Child Act, with the aim of caring for not just orphans but other unfortunate and underprivileged children as well. There is one in each state.

Another stateless orphan, Nur, who was institutionalised at a different government orphanage, also shared a similar fate during her stay.

“I never had the opportunity to sit for neither the PMR nor the SPM. Back then I wish I could take them but now… I do not think I want to do it even if I can. I never went to school my whole life,” said Nur.

Like Aida, Nur said that her departure from the institution was filled with dashed hopes.

“I was disappointed. They told me that they would help me. But when the time for me leave was near, they told me that my case was too difficult to handle.”

For now, the only identification documents that both Aida and Nur have managed to secure are incomplete birth certificates for non-Malaysian.

“The Registration Department advised me to change the status of my biological father to that of an adoptive parent… I don’t understand. Is this the only way out for me? I was born here. My father is a Malaysian,” said Nur.

But what made their situation worse, was the discrepancies of their monthly savings allowances, which the two claimed did not tally with what they were supposed to have by the time they aged-out of the institutions.

Aida and Nur said that those who were not schooled were given RM30 per month as savings, which they cannot touch without the permission from officers handling their case. The figure does not include other allowances and disbursement of donations from well-wishers.

Both spent four years in the institution but upon aging-out; Nur received RM500 whereas Aida was only given RM300.

“It was hard to survive with only RM300,” Aida recalled, “Eventually, I had to stay under the care of a friend of a friend who was doing seedy job. He was a drug dealer. But I don’t want to live like that, so, I ran away when I had the chance.”

While Aida and Nur had it rough, another institutionalised orphan, Anna, was a tad fortunate, presumably, due to her having proper citizenship documentation.

However, similar to Aida and Nur’s case, Anna’s seven years’ worth of savings allowances did not tally with the duration of her stay at the institution.

“When I left the institution, I only received RM1,200,” said Anna, adding that those who were sent to school received a monthly savings allowance of RM150.

She did the math and according to her, the amount that she received was woefully less than what she should have gotten.

But what truly broke her heart was the fact that she had to forgo an offer to study recreational sports at the Sultan Idris University.

“The officers at the institution told me that it was too much of a hassle to do the necessary paperwork to get me out early from the institution.

“They told me to wait for a better offer.”

The Mole’s attempts for a clarification from the Welfare Department – which oversees the Children’s Home – were unsuccessful.

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Zaidi Azmi and Ahirul Ahirudin

Zaidi Azmi and Ahirul Ahirudin