ITE student who cannot afford textbooks and schoolbag determined to graduate

Throughout primary and secondary school, I didn’t have a school bag like other students. Most of the time, I didn’t have money for the bus either. So, I put my pencils and books in a plastic bag and walked to and from school every day. I walked fast, so I could reach in 30 to 40 minutes. My classmates made fun of me for bringing a plastic bag to school, but I didn’t care. I wanted to study.

I am studying in ITE now. This morning I didn’t have sufficient money to travel to school yet again. Our financial assistance has run out. We have re-applied, but in-between, it’s difficult. My mum tried asking some of our neighbours if we could borrow some money, but everyone is struggling. A friend from school transferred a few dollars to me so I could top-up my EZ-link card. I made it to school today, but it’s stressful not to have any money on me at all.

I have an exam tomorrow. I am not worried about it, I know I will pass. 100%. I don’t have any textbooks, because we don’t have the money for it. I just listen carefully in class and try to visualise what the teacher says. It’s all in my head. Sometimes, before an exam, I will call up a friend and ask them to read to me from their textbooks.

I am presently enrolled in an engineering programme. I fix all the electrical things in our house. I just need to be alone, and talk out loud to myself, then I can do it. It sounds weird, my family laughs when they see me talking to myself and fiddling with things, but it works! I also repair phones. I didn’t learn these things in school. I just open things up and study the parts for a while, till it starts to make sense to me.

My mother has had a very hard life. She raised us on her own. Maybe because of her own experiences, she gets very concerned when she sees people or animals get hurt. Therefore should any of her friends encounters problems, or she sees someone on the street harassing a cat, she always asks me to step in and help.

Last month, I was hospitalized because I was coughing up a lot of blood. I’ve had lung problems for many years now. The doctors wanted me to stay in the hospital for a while longer, but I ran away. I wanted to be home, looking after my family. My mum suffers from anxiety, so I don’t like to leave her alone for too long. Because of her anxiety, she can’t go to work. We have to rely on financial assistance until I finish school and get a job.

Sometimes, people give me trouble because of how I look, how I dress. They say, "why do you look like a boy?" A few years ago, I had to leave school because I tried fending for myself when a teacher taunted me about my appearance. People don’t always understand how hard it is to show up at school every day when you’re different, when you don’t have money. I used to go late to school sometimes because I didn’t have money to take the bus. People weren’t always kind or understanding about that. But anyways, I enrolled again, two years later. I am determined to graduate.

My life’s generally quite okay. Sometimes, I get worried about things, but mostly, I’m OK.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook page of Beyond Social Services on 7 June 2018. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.


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