What does it mean to grow up in an urban poor environment? See that world through the eyes of a youth who comes from and wants to make a difference in it.

I’m Amunathan from Desa Mentari. Desa Mentari is located along Jalan Kelang Lama. Most of the people staying in Desa Mentari are from Kampung Lindungan, Sri Sentosa, Kampung Gandhi, and so on. All of these places are mainly seen as “black” areas. I am not sure if these areas are called “black” because of the type of community who used to live there or because of the history of social problems in these places.

In Desa Mentari, we have a multicultural environment. But I would say a majority of the community are urban poor Indian families. Most families here, like mine, earn a basic income of RM500 to RM800 a month. And to make things worse, most families have a huge number of children. In our little low-cost-flat units, some families have as many as 10 persons living in them.

I think as I was growing up, my biggest struggle has always been my education. Residents in my neighborhood are mainly illiterate. Education is not looked at as something important. For some reason, this indifferent attitude makes the environment here a little challenging for me. Every time I come back from school, the boys who do not go to school give me funny stares. They think that I am trying to be different from them. And I think that, for some, being different offends them.

This is a major struggle for me because I have always wanted to make a difference in my community. But the challenges in my neighborhood give me little confidence. How do you encourage those who are a lot more interested in grouping themselves in every corner of Desa Mentari, acting tough, and being someone to be feared? They join gangs and find easy ways to earn money by pushing drugs, ice, pills and so on. Many of them are not bothered that they cannot complete their form three, and that is very sad.

So, in my neighborhood, gang fights happen every other day. I do not understand why some of these parents do not take any initiative to get their children off the street and back into school. Why can’t they stop them from being involved in these unwanted activities? I am glad that, despite my dad only being a lorry driver, he has never failed to remind me to take my education seriously.

I have completed my form five and I am currently studying in a polytechnic college. Just like some of the youth in my neighborhood, I plan to be someone as well. Not someone to be feared, but rather someone who has worked hard in making a difference in his own life and is able to change the environment he lives in. I plan to be that someone.

Amunathan was speaking with SUKA Society

Convention on the Rights of the Child – Article 28

States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular:

  1. Make primary education compulsory and available free to all;
  2. Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need;
  3. Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means;
  4. Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children;
  5. Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.