So much has been debated or discussed about social inequality in Singapore in the past year.
Earlier this week, someone has asked me for my thoughts on the above subject.
This is what I have shared with him:
For the underprivileged kids and youths-at-risk, I think they lack of access to enrichment resources as well as lack of proper guidance within their social circles, due to disadvantaged backgrounds and financial constraints.
Their parents could be busy working very hard, day in night out to make ends meet everyday, thus neglecting their needs.
I think many of them are trying very hard to swim against the tough currents.
If without proper supervision, they could fall prey to negative influences such as gangs and gambling syndicates. They may need role models whom they can look up to, as well as someone whom they can seek out for advice without judging them too fast.
Firstly I think it is extremely important that we as older adults should not pass quick judgements on anyone out there especially these young ones because everyone is fighting his/her own kind of battle that we may know absolutely nothing about.
For older youths and adults, it would be good if we make constant efforts to reach out to them, to befriend them. Keep communication channels open so that help or advice is always available to them whenever they are in doubt of something.
Youths have boundless of energies so it is important that we can help to divert the energy from these groups to get them do something constructive for themselves or for the communities around them. Give them empowerment so that they will feel encouraged that “hey, I can actually do something good for others so it is not true that I am worthless”. Give them something interesting and engaging to do outside schoolwork.
We can have dialogue sessions, or initiating some heart-to-heart conversations with these youths behind closed doors (if necessary). Where we older youths or adults can share our stories, or past struggles with them. So as to let them know that they are not alone at all. Some of us may have similar growing-up pains but we managed to overcome them, so why not we share our experiences frankly with these underprivileged youths?
Afterall, they are at a growing-up phase where they are trying to make sense of the world they are living in. We should give them hope and optimism.
Communication is a two-way thing.
Not only it is an opportunity where we can help to instil some proper awareness or values in their outlook in life, it is also a good opportunity for us as well to get their feedback, to understand their pressing needs. This will allow us to know how we can help them better. This is possible only when we adults are non-judgemental, open-minded and consultative.
We can bring them out for more outings during school holidays. These are things which their parents may not be able to afford to provide them.
Have subsidised family outings for them? Or bring these kids to tour some cool happening workplaces so that they will have something or a career goal to pursue for in future when they grow up?
We should give them a chance to see more of the outside world.
In terms of education, we need like-minded selfless older volunteers who are willing to coach them in their school work. We can also listen to their woes in school. We can also make good use of our individual expertise, to teach them some additional skills. For example: An experienced barista can guide and teach a student how to make a good cup of coffee.
Just like anyone of us, they also need an outlet to air their frustrations.
That is where we can help them to sort out thoughts, to instill the right attitude towards studies, or offer good tips/advice to manage school challenges.
We can help them to set realistic but attainable goals so that they will keep progressing.
Lastly, on the sideline in terms of social assistance for their families, if they are willing to seek further help, our schools, public service agencies or welfare service organisations should step in to do more to help them to move upwards in social mobility.
This can be in the form of helping their parents to be more financially savvy in day-to-day living expenses or job skills re-training in order to earn a better take-home pay.