Keeping poor urban kids safe from drug trap


Source: Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: A child rights NGO has urged the government to set up activity centres in poor urban areas for children to occupy their time safely after school.

According to Scott Wong, the executive director of Suriana Welfare Society, one of the main reasons children of the urban poor become drug abusers is that they are exposed to bad influences at the low-cost flats many of them live in.

“After school, they are unsupervised while their parents are away at work, and they meet up with older teens and others who are involved in drugs,” he told FMT.

“Because of the lack of positive influences, these drug users become the role models to these children.”

Wong was responding to a news report that said children as young as nine years old had been caught experimenting with drugs.

The Star quoted Kelantan police chief Hasanuddin Hassan as saying that 145 students in the state tested positive for drugs last year. They made up 14% of the 984 juvenile delinquents arrested by police.

Wong said similar cases in urban areas, especially among the poor, had motivated Suriana to set up a children’s centre in Desa Mentari called Kidzone Mentari.

“In Suriana, we recognise this as one of the major problems in poor urban areas,” he said. “We set up the centre in Desa Mentari as a pre-emptive measure.

“We give the children positive influences, role models and stimuli to encourage them to see beyond the hopeless situations that they live in.

“The kids play games and take up art therapy. We instil in them moral values in a loving environment.”

Wong acknowledged that the government provided playgrounds at low-cost flats, but he said these were usually in poor condition.

He also noted that children would play at these facilities without adult supervision and were thus exposed to “dangerous predators”.

“The government needs to set up more centres like Kidzone because outlets to provide positive influences are very important,” he said.

“If you have a centre where there are teachers who help them in their studies, love them, and provide an overall positive influence in their lives, then these kids can avoid the drug trap and they can go far.”