It is commendable that Xinmin Secondary School student Aqil Nasran Shah Nizam Shah managed to do well for his O-level examinations despite the odds (Student who had to skip meals savours success, Jan 14). At the same time, I'm concerned whether he might have slipped through the cracks.
The Straits Times reported that he once collapsed during assembly, and it was attributed to the financial difficulties he and his family faced. His teacher helped by buying him bread, and his classmates offered to buy him meals.
I was touched by the kindness shown by his teacher and friends, but I wondered if the school management or social services were aware of his plight and provided him with more systemic solutions, such as financial aid.
Did Aqil's family miss the qualifying criteria marginally and hence not qualify for aid? Were they unaware of the aid available to them, or were they offered help but turned it down?
I commend the Government for having numerous schemes to assist needy households financially, but information must be clearly communicated to such households so that they are aware of the help available and can apply for it with dignity. It also behoves the authorities to assist if the needy have trouble doing the administrative paperwork.
Households must also do their part. The authorities can only do so much, and there is nothing the authorities can do if needy families are unable to help themselves, yet refuse to seek help from social services.
Sean Lim Wei Xin