Recently, a news about a uni student that suffered punctured intestines due to starvation became viral.
And the student is from my alma mater.
That saddens me.
But somehow it rings some truth.
I was in the uni way back in 1997, when the global was facing the Asian Financial Crisisand raising fears of a worldwide economic meltdown due to financial contagion.
Being coming a middle-class income family and me being the eldest in the family, my father could not provide much to me financially. My mother was a housewife as my siblings were still schooling. Among my friends that received financial aids, I received the least amount of financial aid. I received a scholarship from a Malaysian government agency and PTPTN was yet to be around during those years. After the deduction for my tuition fees and housing fee, I have only RM500++ for the whole semester.
As it was my first time away from my family and to go out of Sibu, Sarawak, it almost seemed normal for me to be wanting to do everything - going to KL, lepaking with friends in the Starbucks (it was a really major deal back then) and also staying out late with friends.
I also wanted to look like the other kids - with hand phone (it was a very big deal back then and certainly lift you up in the social hierarchy), cool outfit and study accessories (bag, pencil case etc) so I almost ran out of my scholarship money when I reached the mid-semester in my first semester. The food was not an issue to me as I ate very little back then and the 'Semenanjung" food certainly does not sit well with me. So I opted for bread and sardine for my daily meals until the end of the semester.
Due to malnutrition, I fainted after sitting for my very last paper of the first semester.
Syukur for great friends that helped me with my condition and gave me some cash to get complete meals. The memories of us taking turns in buying and sharing meals with others are still fresh in my mind.
Why do we take turns? Because we will receive the scholarship money on different months so we share until the other get theirs. Then it is their turn to share.
I did not go back to Sibu throughout my three years of study because the lack of cash. Instead, I stayed in my Uni and did my short semester in my first year, did my industrial training in my second year and took up a part-time waiter job in Shakey's Kajang after I concluded my final year while waiting for my convocation.
After the faint scene, I made up my mind not to spend my cash as I wish. Instead, I joined a uni Malay Dance Club (ARTISUKMA) and performed traditional Malay dance in the malls, wedding etc every other weekend. The pay that I get from the show helped me to get by monthly.
Jobs are everywhere
I also took up jobs translating and typing out paperwork, thesis, and assignments to get by. Just to let you know, I did all the typing in cyber cafes well after 11 pm daily as owning a laptop was a luxury then.
I also learned that being involved in the college and university's events does have it perks. You get the experience, you get to know people and you get FREE MEALS too.
Recently, when I took the tour around the campus, I realized that there is lots more aid for the needy in the campus. The mosque has put up a fridge where people could leave food for the needy. Several faculties have also set up the similar act. A few canteens have also introduced a minimally priced meal for the needy and it is a complete healthy meal - not luxurious.
And students, do not be afraid to look for assistance from your counselors.
The counselors are there to assist everyone in any situation and not for the mentally disturbed students only.