Handouts temporary, govt must come up with long-term measures to help B40 escape poverty

Handouts, similar to the additional Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) announced yesterday, will help the underserved, but these are merely short-term solutions.

Consultant paediatrician and researcher, Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS, said it was more important to invest in efforts to help children from lower-income families escape poverty.

The government will give out an additional RM100 to households, and RM50 to singles, who fall under the B40 category. Disbursements will begin on June 27.

The handout is an extension of phase two of BKM, which was announced earlier, and would now see recipients getting up to RM500 each.

“What little money is given is only for the here and now,” said Dr Amar, who is advisor to the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC).

“What happens after that? How else are we going to help these communities? Sadly, Malaysia has not adequately invested in poverty reduction.”

He said reducing poverty means providing a structural change in lives, improving employment opportunities, and ensuring good quality education.

When told that a private university in Subang Jaya had embarked on a reading project, Dr Amar said it was a good initiative.

“It is a good initiative that the government should emulate. However, such initiatives take time to bear fruit. We need to be patient,” said Dr Amar.

“Once children are better educated, they can make better choices in life, and find better jobs.

“If they can comprehend what they are reading, it will help when they sit for their examinations. That, hopefully, will help them get good grades, and they can perhaps climb out of poverty.”

He also said technical and vocational education and training (TVET) was a good idea as it would benefit many families.

The government had introduced various TVET programmes, with the latest being ‘Program Dermasiswa B40 TVET’ launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on June 20.

Under the programme, the government will sponsor 1,000 students from the B40 group to pursue TVET courses.

Dr Amar and several others had earlier voiced out their fears about Malaysia’s education poverty after the World Bank identified Malaysia as having one of the highest learning losses among developing Asian nations, as schools were closed for more than 40 weeks due to Covid-19.

Suggestions were provided on how to improve the situation.

Yesterday, Dr Amar and Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) president, Dr Tee E Siong, warned that children from poor families would be the hardest hit by inflation and the rising cost of living.

Dr Tee said, while inflation was an economic problem, it should not stop families from having balanced meals. This is where education comes into play.

He said NSM had worked with the Education Ministry to conduct talks with schoolchildren about nutrition and hoped that it could be a part of the school curriculum.

“Usually, we give a talk that lasts a school period or two, at the most. It will be good if this can be part of their lessons,” said Dr Tee.

He suggested that lessons on nutrition be a part of the syllabus in kindergartens.

“It could be simple lessons, or meal suggestions, and the alternatives,” said Dr Tee.

“Sometimes, people assume it is expensive to eat a balanced meal. That is not true. It is all about making the right choices.

“If we educate them from a young age, it will be easier for them to make healthier choices when they grow up,” he added. – Twentytwo13

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