Monday, February 14, 2011

The Maid - Those Who Aim For The Stars

Maids In Singapore (7)

"Ibu dah tidur, kamu belum lagi?" I asked Suri* as she walked Us to the door.
Although it was only after 8pm, My Youngest Sister had to turn herself early to sleep Her preschool Daughter. 

"Hampir jam 12 nanti. Ujian makin dekat." She replied.
Her final next month, then she will sit for her SMA (High School) examination in September.


Earlier, I was meddling with My Youngest Sister's netbook when she said,
"Ummie pakai laptop saya sajalah. Itu punya Ibu. Saya tak tau passwordnya."

"Kamu ada laptop?" I was surprise. 

"Ibu belikan untuk sekolah saya." She said with glow on her face.

"Ada FaceBook? Add saya."

"Teman saya semua punya FaceBook."

"Ramailah teman kamu diFaceBook?" She was not answering me.

"Saya tak punya dan tak mau. Buang masa dan berdosa."

"Huh?" I dare not ask further.


Suri is My Sister's third maid, but this time, I did the choosing for Her.

The first, Tanti*, a naive, no more than 17-year old girl, although stated her age was 23, was "adviced way too much" by My Sister's neighbour.

Police report, although reluctant, had to be made as she spent more time in the neighbour's house, than in her working place, resulting she was afraid to return home - The neighbour harboured her.

When she was returned, she reported back to her agency in Indonesia, of abuse and heavy workload, when in fact, her duty was to look after a newborn. 


Three months into her work, We followed Tanti home.
It gave her parents cold sweat and tears, as they thought their daughter was returned as she had never touched any housework back home.

After a year of rendering her service to the household of a close relative in Jakarta for no more than S$60 per month, Tanti opted for a change in working environment.
She was tempted by vast changes made to the household and lifestyle in her village neighbourhood by female workers working abroad.

When Tanti showed her parents of dressing transformation she went through, with handphone, watch and fine gold adorned her, they were in tears of thankfulness.


The girl should be in school, and not working abroad.
Since Tanti likes babies, My Sister was looking around for early childhood education course for her to take up.
She cannot end up a maid as her lifetime career.
But six-months into her job, after "learning of her right as a maid" from a concerned, mindful neighbour, it gave her parents not to be in the right mind to always give My Brother-In-Law many silent calls, more sobbing calls.

We had met, We had forged relationship, We promised to look after their daughter, but the naive girl, now having learn her right, forget that her parents had invested and borrowed much money to please their youngest daughter.


The second maid, in her late 20s or early 30s, coming from the same agency, had heard of the abuse that Tanti suffered and the heavy workload she was tasked to.

When she was asked to work in the household, of course, any right mind sure dread the coming fearful territory that they had to live with.

Three days into her work, looking after infant, which she had preset her mind not to like it, she was asked of her preference.
When it was made known to My Sister of what Tanti had said, and what fear the second maid was then facing, she was not obliged to continue her duty.

When she was asked to pack up to return to the local agency after a week in the household, she cried.
She refused to return.
There was no abuse, there was no heavy workload.
She should not let My Sister knew of her fear.
But it was too late.
I had already chosen Suri.


The first time Suri works in the household, she agreed not to use her handphone, not even SMS.
But she was able to call home fortnightly, using the home phone.
She was given a timetable, which she diligently followed.

A motivated girl, she went to the extra mile as I had blogged here, to spend her pay on My Mother, whom she visited weekly, out of being filial.

Seeing the self drive in her, she was advised to take up new skills.
She jumped at the opportunity and had since attended English class, computer literacy and dressmaking.

When the issue of her off day was mentioned, she did not want to have any, as her duty is not demanding nor backbreaking.
Instead, she asked to be release for classes.
So now, she's concentrating her hope to be able to enter the local university.

Suri's third two-year contract was extended last Wednesday.
She hoped into her seven year, government rules miraculously change.
She really hope to become a Singapore permanent resident.

*Changes Made


Degree Programme For Indonesian Maids 
By Zul Othman  

SINGAPORE: Her maid's dream to pursue a degree was realised over a dinner conversation.

"My mother was talking to my maid one night, and found out she was well-educated," recounted Madam Samira Siddique, 32.

"After she found out, my mother came across a degree programme for Indonesian domestic workers, and signed up and paid for my maid's fees."

Just a year into the job with Mdm Samira's family, 29-year-old Ani Musripah is pursuing a bachelor's degree in public administration at the Indonesian School at Siglap Road.

Classes conducted in Bahasa Indonesia are held from 10am to 4pm every Sunday, when most domestic workers are given their day off from work.

The Indonesian Embassy started the initiative in March to help broaden the horizons of its 85,000 citizens working as domestic workers here.

Mdm Samira welcomed the idea, saying she had no problems with Ms Ani balancing her work life with her studies.

The four-and-a-half year degree course covers topics such as public administration, communications, management and accounting. It is held in partnership with the Indonesian Open University and is taught by Indonesian professionals working here.

Supporting the students are some 70 student mentors - Indonesian undergraduates studying at local universities - who lend their expertise in tutorials and study groups.

So far, 125 maids are pursuing the degrees, which are recognised by the civil service as well as many private companies in Indonesia, said Mr Fahmi Aris Innayah, the First Secretary of Citizen Service and Consular Affairs at the Indonesian Embassy.

Another 500 also attend a variety of courses ranging from sewing to English language and computer classes.

According to one lecturer, Ms Adinda Presanti, though enthusiasm among her undergraduates is high, the biggest hurdle for them is juggling the long hours at work with their studies.

"They are keeping positive because they are determined to succeed," said Ms Adinda, 23, a Singapore permanent resident.

To qualify, applicants must complete their senior high school. Prices are affordable: Those who wish to apply need only pay a one-time fee of $170 to register, while students need pay only $112 for each semester.

Said Mr Fahmi: "Even if they have to leave Singapore because of contractual reasons, the students can continue their studies at the nearest Indonesian Open University affiliate."

Education courses for domestic or transient workers are not uncommon here. For instance, every Sunday, nearly 2,000 domestic workers make their way to the Mujahidah Learning Centre at the Mujahin Mosque in Stirling Road for hairdressing, sewing and English classes.

Non-profit group Aidha, a spin-off of a United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Singapore project, also provides similar skills training courses for the migrant population here.

However, the Indonesian School degree programme is believed to be the first of its kind in this region. When contacted, the president of migrant worker advocacy group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), Mr John Gee, was impressed by the tie-up between the Indonesian Embassy and Indonesian Open University.

"A lot of people assume maids are not educated … but it is really good to give them a chance to make a difference in their lives," said Mr Gee.

But the biggest challenge is balancing work and attending study groups, said communications undergraduate Kuswati, 30. "Luckily, my employers are supportive. Not only do they help pay for my fees, they even let me use their computer so I can finish and submit my projects".  

Source: Channel News Asia - November 10, 2009


MushroomCute@Mariea said...

wah...Spore ada skim macam tu ek? bagusnya..Tapi risau juga kalau dapat maid yang problem ni. macam-macam hal jadinya. Alhamdulillah dapat maid macam Suri. Semoga semuanya baik-baik saja

Ummie said...

Initially after we left Tanti's village & knowing her parents, My Sister was determined to let Tanti continue her study, as she left for Jakarta when she was only 14 / 15.
But after being exposed to buzzing city life & its excitement, what's more with too updated neighbourhood with latest abused maids, Tanti could not settle for anything less, no compromising what so ever.

Never in my life had I spend 2 nights @ My Sis's place, if not for reasoning to her to return home.
But that's already history that caused me a tinge of guilt when reflecting the regret shown on the 2nd maid's face - She howled as she was returned to the agency.

But maybe fate plays its part too as Suri, who was self raised by her mother, insyaALLAH has all her prayers granted, because of her self-believe & respecting all elderly.

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