Thursday, December 2, 2021

Degree holder slogs through tough times for RM1,000 a month

The money is never enough, but as long as her family is healthy and safe, Jenny has no complaints.

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When Jenny graduated from university and received her diploma alongside the rest of her cohort, she didn’t think that she would end up earning less than the minimum wage.

But as the country passes its fourth week of what has come to be known as MCO 2.0, the government’s bid to curb further spikes in Covid-19 infections, she is grateful to be making even that much.

Now 27, the English graduate works as a tuition teacher in her hometown of Teluk Intan in Perak. While RM1,000 a month might seem a paltry amount compared to the average salary of RM2,500 for fresh graduates in other parts of the country, Jenny is realistic.

“My hometown is a small place and there aren’t many working opportunities here,” she told MalaysiaNow.

“So my bachelor’s degree doesn’t help me much in landing a good-paying job.”

Jenny had been a tutor even before the pandemic hit the country early last year.

“I had quite a number of students so the salary wasn’t too bad – below average, but still okay.”

It was after the outbreak that things took a nosedive.

“My hometown is a small place and there aren’t many working opportunities here.”

“A lot of students quit as their parents felt that their children couldn’t learn much from online classes,” she said.

In December last year, she earned a grand total of RM800.

As the sole breadwinner for a family of five, she works hard to stretch every sen she makes. Her parents, both stroke patients, are no longer able to support the family due to their reduced mobility.

She has two younger brothers who are still at school. One is 17 and the other is 10.

When her salary comes in each month, most of it goes towards household expenses.

“After giving RM800 to my family, I’m left with RM200 for phone bills and food,” she said. And she is frank about their situation. “The money isn’t enough to support the whole family.”

But she recalls how once, it was her mother who had worked to support the family. When Jenny was still studying, her mother ran a noodle stall which she kept going until business began to drop. She worked alone as Jenny’s father had already suffered a stroke at that point.

As fewer and fewer customers came, they had to cut down on labour in order to keep the business afloat.

“We had a worker but as our business worsened, we were forced to let her go and do things on her own.”

“The money isn’t enough to support the whole family.”

Some time later, Jenny’s mother suffered a stroke herself which left the right side of her body paralysed.

Jenny remembers the day she received a call from her brother, telling her that their mother had been admitted to hospital.

“I couldn’t go back to see her because it was exam week,” she said.

By 2018, Jenny had completed her internship at a PR agency in Penang. She planned to start a career there to support her family but everything changed again with a second phone call from home.

“This time, my mum called to tell me that my dad had had another stroke, and that he could no longer walk.”

This put paid to her plan to work in Penang. Instead, she returned home to take care of her parents.

“Although we may seem to struggle more than other people, I will be forever grateful as long as we are healthy and safe.”

As they are considered disabled, they receive financial aid from the welfare department each month. This helps put food on the family’s table and, together with Jenny’s income, sees them through to the next month.

It’s a hard life but Jenny is not complaining.

“Despite being in a not-so-cheerful situation, I’m still so grateful,” she said.

“At least my job wasn’t affected during the pandemic, and I can still support my family every month to put food on the table.”

Another bright spot is that her mother is slowly recovering from her stroke. Now, she can stand and walk slowly using a cane.

“Although we may seem to struggle more than other people, I will be forever grateful as long as we are healthy and safe.”

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