Rose, not her real name is 16 and doing reasonably well in school. She is looking forward to her O level examinations this year as passing well will give her a chance to continue pursuing her studies in Singapore. As a foreign student there is the issue of higher fees, but she cannot imagine returning to Indonesia alone if she does not get her student pass renewed. Rose lives with her mother, 2 half-brothers, their grandmother and her step-father in a modest 2-room rental flat. Her mother is in Singapore on a dependent pass, but she certainly would not want mom returning to Indonesia with her because she cannot live with the thought of taking mom away from 4 others who need her love and care. The possibility of being separated from her family frightens her but for now she has been able to transform the fear into a steely determination to succeed.
Last week, we spoke to 3 other youths aged 19, 21 and 23. Two siblings who were born in Indonesia have been in the country since they were 5 and the other born in Malaysia has been here since he was 2. Unlike Rose, their families could not keep up with the school fees and they dropped out in primary school. After which, they spent their days as care-givers for their younger siblings who have Singapore citizenship. These youths spoke English reasonably well and they told us that not being in school meant that they had to find other ways of picking up the language. They often looked out for opportunities to learn the language or other skills offered by volunteers and welfare organisations. They were more than aware that making a living would be challenging but remained optimistic. However, what moved us was the pride they had in being responsible care-givers for their sibling and ailing relatives. To have cared well for a family member was a duty and purpose that made life worth living.
More than a third of citizen marriages in 2017 involved transnational couples and we frequently encounter challenges arising from them. Population in Brief 2017. For the past 2 years, the sole purpose of a 30-year-old mother from Bangladesh was saving enough for a return flight to Singapore so that she gets to be with her child for a few hours a day. She was awarded joint custody following her divorce but as she no longer has a dependent pass, the child can only live with her ex-husband. Thankfully when she is visiting, a woman from the Philippines who was once in a similar situation puts her up. Perhaps, we should say props her up as this friend is now living with her children and making ends meet as a housekeeper and a seamstress; a reality that encourages her to no end.
Stephen Hawking, passed away on Wednesday aged 76. This quote from him seems apt here, “Here are the most important pieces of advice that I’ve passed on to my children. One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet, Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is rare and don’t throw it away.”
Enjoy your week.