SUCH AN INVESTMENT: Keeping a child safe today requires superhuman efforts
CHILDREN are too expensive these days, or rather it is becoming too costly to raise them. Experts told the New Sunday Times last week that the increasing cost of childcare, education and health has contributed to lower birth rates in the country, with the fertility rate plummeting in the last four decades.
The outlook appears grim as couples choose to have fewer children or none at all.
But what looks worse is the estimated amount of money needed to raise a child from crib to college -- about half a million ringgit, and that too if the child is schooled completely in Malaysia.
Those planning to send their children abroad for tertiary education would need to be millionaires, as the figure would then spike upwards to about RM1.1 million.
It's all enough to make newlyweds with babies on their mind break out in cold sweat. Even the cloyingly sweet official photos of Prince George and his picture-perfect parents will not be able to help them stave off that churning in the gut.
Indeed, the prospect of raising a child these days is becoming increasingly daunting. And it's not just all about the money, or lack of it.
Raising children nowadays is a complicated affair. Ask any parent and they will tell you that bringing up children in these modern times is more difficult than scaling an ash- and lava-spewing mountain with a struggling yak strapped onto their backs.
Being a parent is definitely not for the feeble-spirited and faint-hearted.
For one, how do you keep your children safe, both in the real and virtual world?
It's not safe in schools, in the neighbourhood grocery store, the playground, even at home.
In moving towards zero indiscipline, school and education
authorities need to come down harder on indiscipline
Children have been abducted, viciously assaulted and murdered in the most barbarous ways imaginable. William Yau Zhen Zhong, Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, Nurul Nadirah Abdullah, Tin Song Sheng and Ang May Hong can easily be our own sons and daughters. All it takes is an opportunity, a momentary distraction, or a lapse in judgment on our parts.
In schools, student indiscipline is rife. Students have to face bullies, extortionists, gangsters and even rapists. Not too long ago, a 7-year-old girl was allegedly raped and sodomised in Kulim, Kedah, by four boys -- all just 10 and 11 years old.
One had even bragged in class that he and some friends had lured the girl into a hut and sexually assaulted her.
Students have attacked teachers and their family members and been found liable for setting fire to their schools, murder and other crimes.
Cases of mischief are experienced even in high performance schools. In one such school in Kuala Lumpur recently, a 12-year-old pupil dropped a hefty bag full of books onto the head of a classmate one floor below on purpose.
It is fortunate the victim did not die, or suffer permanent head injuries, or paralysis. The case was reported to the Federal Territory Education Department, but no action was taken against the perpetrator even though several witnesses came forward to verify details of the incident.
In moving towards zero indiscipline, school and education authorities need to come down harder on all such cases, and not try to keep them out of sight for fear of tarnishing reputations. Otherwise, how do we keep our children safe in schools?
Children are not safe even at home. How can parents keep their children safe from something they themselves do not comprehend -- the intricacies of the Internet? Social media and mobile apps available make it possible for children to be exposed to things they ought not to.
Children are sharing information and their photos online without being aware of the potentially grave impact of their actions.
Besides the threat from cyber-bullies, there is also that from paedophiles and others with ill intentions. And then, there is the possibility of children stumbling upon pornographic websites, violent or unsuitable videos and online articles while surfing.
At the same time, childcare in this country continues to be a game of chance. The prospect for a good and trained domestic helper remains dismal for now.
The outlook is similarly grim for those hoping to rely on childcare centres. Many are unregistered and a number of horrific incidents have occurred at such centres, especially in the past two years.
So yes, it is not just costly to have children, but a major challenge to raise them these days.
Thus, those who are not inclined or interested should not be pressured by well-meaning relatives to make babies in order that they conform to societal norms.
For choosing to have fewer children, or none at all, they should instead be lauded for playing their part towards easing the population explosion.
Chok Suat Ling firstname.lastname@example.org New Sunday Times editor. New Straits Times Online Columnist 22 Aug 2013