PETALING JAYA: A child rights activist has called on the authorities to undertake initiatives to make the education system play a stronger role in motivating students to remain in school.
James Nayagam said he had found through his work as chairman of Suriana Welfare Society Malaysia that many of those who dropped out of school ended up on the wrong side of the law.
“One of the reasons some students drop out of school is because there is no father-figure around, so the eldest boy (in a family) ends up having to earn a supplementary income,” he said.
“For these boys, the fact that education is compulsory doesn’t mean anything because they’re only thinking about how they have to provide for their families,” he told FMT.
Nayagam was commenting on reports of four individuals, three of whom were school dropouts, arrested over the death of M Sathiwill, 20, whose body was found in his rented Rifle Range flat in Air Itam, Penang, on Wednesday.
He said some boys who drop out try to find legitimate work at first, but because they lack proper vocational training, end up feeling as though they have to do unlawful activities like stealing cars or trafficking in drugs in order to get their hands on money.
He said there were children who also dropped out of school as they considered their education to be meaningless. Others drop out because they cannot cope with the pace at which the lessons are being taught.
“In a class of about 40, there may be five who have learning disabilities,” Nayagam said.
“If I’m a slow learner, I can’t catch up with those who are faster than me and I get really frustrated unless and until I go at my own pace.
“It’s also hard for the students who are in the lower performing classes because they can’t see a link between education and their future. They feel this sense of hopelessness in going to school, as though it’s just an activity that doesn’t produce anything.”
Meanwhile, Klang MP Charles Santiago concurred that dropouts tend to lead a life of crime, but said opting out of schools was often related to their focus on criminal activities while still students.
“Most of the young boys who are involved in crime are dropouts and they engage in crime-related activities while in school. Dropping out of schools allows them to go into crime full-time,” he told FMT.
He added that most gang-related recruitments took place in schools.
He agreed, however, that if schools had taken stronger initiatives to ensure that students stayed on, they could have turned children’s lives around.
“It’s possible. The problem is that the school system does not know how to manage such students and there is no clear policy, guidelines or institutional infrastructure to help these children in distress.”
He said families also needed to play a role in solving the problem of dropouts.
“It’s a joint responsibility among all parties to help such students,” he said.