For the past few weeks, I have been scouting around the city for possible stories. It is for a documentary project I am currently working on.
After spending hours doing research, interviewing people and collecting information, yesterday, I finally found the perfect story.
Eager to meet the real life characters of my documentary, my producer and I found ourselves in a small kampong area very close to Chow Kit. There, we met an old lady who introduced us to her grandnephews – Shauqi and Adham (not their real names).
Shauqi, 12 and Adham, six are very active kids. When I met them, they were busy wrestling each other on the grass. At first glance, they seem like typical kids – they love football, cartoons, and KFC.
Intrigued to learn more about these boys, I started asking them questions – about school, friends, their favourite football team, Spiderman and pretty much everything any regular kid would be eager to talk about. While responding to my questions with big smiles, they remained quiet.
Through my conversation with their grandaunt, I learnt more about the boys.
Shauqi and Adham are brothers from a family of eight siblings – they share the same mother but different fathers. Since both their parents have a habit of going in and out of prison, the siblings are scattered around the country, living with relatives.
Shauqi and Adam live in an old, shaky wooden house with not even enough zinc sheets to be called a roof. Clearly, they don’t have much.
Having spent some time with the boys, I realise they were very smart. Shauqi for example will be sitting for his UPSR this year – he doesn’t attend any tuition classes like his classmates. He fully depends on whatever he is taught in school by his teachers.
According to his grandaunt, he doesn’t even have the time to do revision at home as he helps around to set up their pasar malam stall. However, Shauqi has always been a very good student in school. He always emerges the top of his class.
I asked Shauqi what his ambition was – he smiled. I asked him again about his favourite subject in school.
“Tak susah ke?” (Is it not difficult?) I asked.
“Tak lah. Senang je” (Not at all. It’s simple)
As I continued talking to the boys, they started opening up to me, sharing stories about their siblings, school and also funny stories about each other. The more I learned about the boys, the more amazed I was with their ability to express themselves.
Having interviewed many children for similar projects, I believed these two boys were special.
However, in the midst of our chatter, Shauqi and Adham’s mother showed up. She seemed a little ‘edgy’ and threw a tantrum about my producer and I being in her house. It took me a while to explain our visit to her and make her understand that the boys’ grandaunt, who was their guardian, had given us permission to speak to them.
Since their mentally unstable mother refused to allow the boys’ story to be documented, we had no choice but to bid them farewell. As I was leaving, I heard Shauqi saying in tears, “Do you want me to end up like you?”
My producer and I did not utter a word to each other the entire journey back to the TV station. We were both deeply moved by the experience of meeting those lovely boys.
I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for them and others like them who come from similar backgrounds. Living in such dire conditions, how will they cope with their studies? Will their bright minds vanish as the years pass because there is no one to intellectually stimulate them?
It makes me sick to the stomach to think that hundreds of millions are being flushed away in attempts to discover brilliant and gifted children via government projects when kids like Shauqi and Adham who are scattered around the country in ramshackle huts, go unnoticed.
Why are the unfortunate children not given the same privilege as the 17,000 ‘gifted’ children under the pompous RM700 million Permata Pintar project?
Are children like Shauqi and Adham not worth investing on?
People say children are gifts from God. Yet here we are picking so-called gifted children but abandoning the ones who desperately need our help.
It’s a pity. Really it is.