At this time of the year when Hari Raya is around the corner, the roads in Kota Kinabalu are almost impossible to pass through. Having spent an hour on the road from the office to my children's school (which, in normal driving time would only be 25 minutes) to pick them up today, (besides I needed to get the kuih rayas I ordered from the school canteen. In the spirit of the festive season, I feel like celebrating too), I decided to detour and took the children for lunch somewhere quiet, near Jalan Lintas.
I didn't realize it at first, but very soon I noticed that the restaurant was full of little servers, ranging from about 8 to 14 years of age. They look- sorry to say this- but they do look like illegal immigrants, which are abundant in Sabah. The boss of the restaurant had to shout orders to them a few times; obviously their mastery of Malay is still quite limited.
They scurried around together from table to table whenever one of them had to serve customers, looking scared and confused. Once I heard the boss say "mau ambil satu order pun mau beikut-ikut kah" (Even taking an order you have to go in group?). And they just stared at the boss blankly, perhaps not understanding what he said.
It occured to me that they might have been forced to look for employment in the name of survival. And I remember a newspaper article in a local daily early in this year about how children (teenagers) of illegal immigrants in the particular area are marrying and breeding like rabbits. I looked at them and felt so bad. Why oh why this phenomenon must exist in this world? People have to live in a place as illegal immigrants, make do with surviving day to day, deprived from education and the basic comforts of life.
It is generally believed that child labour is a form of opression, but in this case, is it really? It seems to me that there is an element of being humane in it...at least giving the hungry kids some food to eat, if not letting them earn some money, no matter how meagre for their family.
I wish the world doesn't have to be like this...
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