PETALING JAYA: It is not fair to brand all students as spoilt or spendthrifts, Hasliza Mohd, a Universiti Sains Malaysia student activist said.
“People should not deny that there are starving students. I’ve seen students crying at the end of every semester because they are unable to support themselves,” said Hasliza, who is a member of USM-based students’ rights groups Serikat Mahasiswa and Ikatan Mahasiswa in an interview with FMT.
She was referring to the skepticism surrounding recent reports that cash-strapped public university students were starving.
On suggestions by some that students work part-time to earn their own pocket money, Hasliza argued that this would in turn present a whole load of other problems.
“It could help a student financially, but not in terms of his or her sustainability in class and their other responsibilities.”
Hasliza attributed the students’ financial stress to several factors, including that some come from families whose parents are supporting younger school-going children as well.
The end of each semester, she pointed out, coincided with the beginning of the school term.
“The students feel guilty and are reluctant to ask for money from their parents because their siblings are still in school.”
She added it was unfair to assume students were spending extravagantly just because a few were spotted eating at expensive restaurants and shopping at malls.
“I have a friend facing financial problems, a classmate of mine. She was forced to borrow RM5 because she had no money to (buy) petrol and to eat.”
She argued that the public should study the matter further and look for causes and solutions instead of simply flinging wild accusations instead.
A local daily recently reported that students in public universities could only afford to spend between RM1.50 and RM5 a day on food, and that some 26,000 students in six public universities did not have enough money to even grab a simple meal.
USM has since revealed that its students’ affairs unit were distributing food to poor students in hostels since Sunday night, although it noted that it had not received complaints from students that they could not afford to eat on campus.
Dr Rohana Yusof of Universiti Malaya meanwhile refuted such reports, pointing out that while poor students made up close to half of the institution’s population, none of them were struggling to eat as many were aided via student loans or scholarships.
Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh has since given his assurance that no student would starve under his watch.