Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced recently that free bus rides to schools will be made available to children from families living in Projek Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) low-cost flats. This is one of the government’s moves to ease difficulties faced by the urban poor.
It is a start, but the government needs to look deeper into the problem and help the residents of low-cost flats solve their woes.
Faiz Zahari, 29, grew up in a PPR flat. He considers himself fortunate as the conditions at his PPR flat in Seri Perak, Sentul, are bearable.
“Things are getting worse. If I were to list down what are the improvements we need, I don’t think it will end. For starters, the elevators are not properly maintained,” he says.
“No one fixes it immediately when it breaks down. At times it could be non-functioning for several days. Can you imagine what happens to people on the 10th floor?
“If they are unable to take the stairs, they don’t come down at all for that few days. What if there was an emergency or if someone isn’t well, how are they supposed to down to get help?”
He adds that there is a big problem with rubbish collection and the problem is getting worse.
“The rubbish collection isn’t frequent enough. It is not like in landed housing areas where rubbish is collected two or three times a week.
“In my PPR flat area alone there are about 5,600 people. It feels as though the rubbish is never collected. The area is densely populated. The volume of rubbish discarded is much higher here,” he says.
Faiz recalls his visit to another PPR in Batu Muda, where he discovered the conditions were even worse.
“I teach English to some of the children there under a charity programme, and it is so hard for us to find a spot to sit down and have our lessons,” he says.
“From what I see, they have it far worse than where I live. Not only rubbish isn’t collected, they have a serious sewage problem where leakage is visible. It causes poor hygiene conditions. What a life to live.”
Faiz says such unliveable conditions affect a person’s life, and they would in the long run cause negative impacts.
“You always hear about youngsters and the social problems they face, this is one of the reasons. How do you expect them to grow up with a healthy mindset if this is the living environment they need to deal with?
“It doesn’t just stop at one person. Because we live as a community, one influences another. And that is how it starts as a festering ground for a poor society,” says Faiz.
Another PPR resident, Alina Razak, says growing up 20 years ago in a flat that only has two rooms had negative impacts on her.
“Imagine having no privacy, brothers and sisters changing in one room,” she says. “We are always outside because we want to avoid running into uncomfortable situations with our parents.
“That is not the life an urban poor deserves. And sadly, that is how it is. That is why society is faced with all sorts of problems. If you can’t be yourself at home, how else are you expected to behave outside?”
Soo Wern Jun