Youths at risk


I have met many people over the past 2 months since entering politics. Many have interesting stories to share with me and issues to raise. None is as unforgettable as Miss C, a young lawyer-turned-civil-servant living in Joo Chiat SMC. This blog post is shared with her permission.

She first emailed me after reading my blog which I provided in my campaign materials before nomination day. She next emailed me after attending my first rally speech on 29 April at Serangoon Stadium. I eventually met with her in person after polling day.

Her story is amazing. She grew up in a broken home as a child, with her parents going through a divorce. She first attended court at age 10, again at age 12 just before PSLE and then once more at age 15. Her father had an affair. Her mother used her to fight for maintenance. Her mother had to also appear in court for battering the mistress.

At age 15, Miss C was chased out of her house by her father five times, who had by then brought his new wife into the house. She was reminded daily that she was an unwanted child. Sometimes, she slept in East Coast Park. She lived on the $150 per month maintenance ordered by the court, but often, her school expenses especially for textbooks were more than that. When she broke her glasses, she plastered them. She turned to music to get away from the misery and practiced hard with her school band and did well.

I am amazed that in spite of the environment, she turned out well. She entered a good junior college and then NUS, graduating to be a lawyer. She practiced martial art after graduation as a form of exercise and did well enough to represent Singapore in a world championship. She has not seen her father for years. Her mother lives apart from her and remained bitter over the divorce. She blamed the children for not helping her fight harder with her ex-husband over her rights during the divorce. Miss C has now set her heart on helping others to avoid or to cope with such the situation she had been in.

Her case is an exception. How many children from such broken environment can make it good in life? Last year we had several news-hogging brutal teenage gang fights, including a murder at Downtown East. My daughter was at Downtown East the evening when the murder of 19 year-old Darren Ng took place. It was gruesome, with blood splattered all over. The gang involved have been caught and are awaiting trial. All are in their teens. Many teens have wasted their lives on gangs and violence. Many led astray in their teens could end up in a life of drugs, crime and debt.

The case of Malaysian Mr Yong Vui Kong is another example of a teenager led astray through broken family and environment influence. Born to a family of 6 in Sabah, his parents divorced when he was very young. His mother brought the children up on her RM200 a month allowance as a dishwasher. Vui Kong went to Kuala Lumpur as a teenager and was introduced to gangs. He went from debt collector to drug runner. At 18 and a half years old, he was caught in Singapore with drugs and is now in death row awaiting the outcome of an appeal for clemency.

In our pursuit of economic progress, there’s a real danger that our social fabric will be torn if we do not consciously maintain the values that have held our family and society together. The family is the building block of the society and hence the nation. Strong families hold people together. The casinos have bankrupted many and destroyed families. Parents saddled with career pursuits have neglected their children.

There should be more proactive programmes targeted at youths and at families to prevent youths from being led astray and from family break-ups. Even simple reminders for parents to play more active roles at home with their children in the crucial growing up years could make a big difference. There should also be more programmes to engage youths meaningfully to move them away from gangs and to give them self confidence in the future.

Miss C is fortunate to escape the trap that snared children of broken homes. A recent news of 18-year old student Krystal Aki Mizoguchi who committed suicide is a sad reminder of what can happen in a broken home. According to her blog, the Yishun Junior College student grew up in a single-parent family and has been living with her 17-year-old brother. Her parents are believed to be separated. In the most recent blog post before her death leap, she wrote:

   “PSLE, I xxxx-ed up. Couldn’t get into dream secondary school.”

  “‘O’ Levels, I xxxx-ed up. Couldn’t get a place in dream polytechnic course.”

  “Ended up transferring to YJC.  I got my dreams crushed again, after seeing my ‘A’ Levels grades yesterday.”

  “Bye bye to NUS FASS and NTU Humanities”.

Let’s constantly remind ourselves that there are youths with needs that we can reach out to. Let’s work together to prevent the wasted lives like those who committed the murder of Darren Ng and that of Miss Krystal.

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13 comments on “Youths at risk

  1. I work as an academic in a tertiary institution. There was once I told a student, “oh, I’m going home for dinner with my family”. His reply stunned me, “how nice, I wish I could do the same with my family”. Another teacher also told me that many of her students don’t have dinner with their families. Perhaps I shall soon survey all the students in my classes.

    Also, in my job, I see a small minority of students who come to school just to pass the time, and put in token effort (or sometimes even not). While I try to motivate these students to do their best, I have many others to take care of. I can’t focus all my attention on these weak students as that means I neglect those who want to learn more.

    So when you say, “Even simple reminders for parents to play more active roles at home with their children in the crucial growing up years could make a big difference.”, I couldn’t agree more. Maybe we should work towards decent working hours, so that we can all spend more time with our families.

    • Home is where warmth is ….
      School too can be a HOME …

      Suggestion/comment/thought :

      Recently I saw in TV. About this Singaporean ( Music conductor ) who went through hell to get money to complete his final year. Thanks to those unknowns (Non Singaporean) who donated for his study. Now he is 1 of the few Top YOUNG music conductor in the world. Do we need a ministry or something for those “SPECIAL gems” where they can to ask for help. (Very very SPECIAL and EXPENSIVE courses)

      Those who are weak in Maths at primary level … Can we conduct Maths in Chinese, Malay or Tamil ??? Ex : If Final theory test only conduct in English. I think we might have less 10 – 20 % Bus captains.

      • It’s sad that instead of spending tax-payers’ money to nature our own hidden talented Singaporeans, our money have been used to sponsor ALL international students studying in our polytechnics and universities. This is a gross unfairness to all Singaporeans.

        I hope that this issue will be brought up in our parliament debates (uncensored) and all Singaporeans should be allowed to take part as well.

  2. Dear Jenn Jong,
    May I ask you permission to share your post ‘Youths at risk’ on Facebook?
    Regards,
    Patrick Goh

  3. For me all this is happening is due to both parents are busy working to support their family. As we have already the everyday is raising each day and with this more parents are entrusting the maids to assist them in their children daily affairs. With this current situation happening rampantly in every households more children will be looking ‘loves’ somewhere else. They will be treating their homes only for a place to sleep and collect allowances. I hope the current goverment will look into this matter seriously and tackle this problem as soon as possible. Staying in Singapore is not a joking matter nowadays no money no talk. Its no more like in the 70’s and 80’s to have a single breadwinner at home. If this problem is not being looked at we will be having a serious social problem. For me is search for money and at the same time check for the blind spots!!

  4. I can concur with some of the above comments.

    I was teaching part-time at some polytechnic and There are students who skip class. When I tried to contact the parents, I realised that they work late shifts, coming home at mid-night.

    Also, students use the internet to illegally download computer games and play them during class. Some of them don’t even feel any compunction or guilt.

    Some things need to be done at the societal / political level.

    • Suggestion/comment/thought …

      Let students choose whatever course they are interested to study.
      Should not limit the number of student per enrollment per year.
      Therefore many study just for the cert.
      (Maybe that is why the above happened)
      which I see waste of money and WORST wasting their time !!!

      • I fully agree with you on this. I have seen so many of our local students (poly & uni) who have graduated with cert that they will never use because the module/subjects of their interest were all taken up due to quota set. It’s really a waste of their time and their parents’ hard earned money.

  5. big problem is costs of living is causing households to have a double income, some people also want to have a more materialistic lifestyle, government also wants women to go out to work – therefore as compared to the past, kids nowadays have less time with their parents, materially they’re better, but they lose out heavily on the non materialistic part, suggest finding ways women can work flexible hours, facilitate women to work at home so that they can work and at the same time keep an eye on their kids, have to get the help of other social groups, religious groups in trying to reach out to youth, finding ways to channel youth energy to activities such as sports, probably allowing performance in sports to be counted as part of academic results, since sports are good for character building, help to foster team spirit

  6. I hear you on this … I have another concern with regards to Youths and had been in touch with MDA. We corresponded through emails and also spoke with the Asst Director on the phone. I brought up my concerns for myself as well as for other parents with regards to Pornography. They have spoken to the ISPs and there are filters ( softwares and education programmes) available now for the PCs as well as the mobile phones. MDA informed me that it is near impossible to completely eradicate pornography short of shutting down all the search engines just like in China (even then there are still those who are able to get around the system). However, I highlighted that our mindset needs to be challenged in that we cannot give up on this relentless pursuit to help families caught unaware with this onslaught of Pornography which is a multi-billion dollar industry. We agreed that it is as much to educate families (parents) on this and that parents have an important role to monitor and teach their children. In agreeing on this, I added that it is important also for our Goverment to be more involved in helping us especially since they have the resources to do so. I am also advocating that it is mandatory that all Youth Mobile Plans have a separate IP address so that this can be monitored more efficiently and effectively. I did not get a reply as yet.

    I am also in touch with ‘Coalition To End Sexual Exploitation 2015’ (unable to attend due to work) which will be held in Sept in Florida USA and they are very keen for us to start and to create an awareness in Asia region. I will also connect with http://www.emancipasia.org/filmschedule/
    I believe there is a correlation on this and pornography besides prostitution. Youths are very much at risk especially with regards to sexual behaviours (I have been attending courses and talks on our sexuality) and we need to embark on this very seriously if we want to help our Youths.

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