KUCHING: Eleven-year-old Philo-mena Entunan and her sisters Floren, nine, and Loretta, six, study nightly under a single candle light in their home at Taman Desa Wira about 10km from Kuching City.
Philomena and Floren want to be teachers while the youngest sister wants to be a doctor. All three girls are studying in SK Arang, which is half-an-hour’s walk from their home.
They study every night after dinner until 10pm under the watchful eye of their mother, Entunan Phillip Matthias, 40.
“They are very good in school although sometimes they can be naughty,” she said.
Entunan’s husband left the family just two days after the youngest daughter was born.
“He left one day, saying that he would be back. Now, we’re not sure where he is or whether he is even alive,” Entunan said.
They live in a wooden hut built by family friends four months ago. It has only one room and a kitchen.
There is no electricity and water is piped into the house from a nearby fire hydrant. Food is always scarce, and they depend on vegetables planted in the backyard or from neighbours and friends.
“We are always hungry,” Entunan said with teary eyes.
For a long time now, Entunan has been depending on handouts to feed and clothe her family.
She is currently receiving RM220 from the Welfare Department and RM120 from St Paul’s Church every month.
“The money we’re receiving is barely enough to survive on.”
Entunan spends her day looking after her three young daughters - leaving her no time to work. In the mornings and afternoons, she walks her children to school, and then spends her time doing housework and gardening.
The single mother from Saratok, who left school after Form Three, said she would not return to her parents’ longhouse: “They are old. They cannot help me.
“Also, the longhouse is more than an hour away from the nearest school, making it difficult for my girls to go to study.”
Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) chairman Tan Joo Phoi visited them yesterday. He said the council would take care of the family’s food requirements immediately.
“This would allow Entunan to spend the money she receives on other needs,” he told reporters.
Tan also said he would help register Entunan under the Urban Poverty Eradication Programme.
“Those under the programme are given skills training in the fields they choose, such as sewing and hairdressing.”
This is the sixth year since the programme was introduced. Ini-tially financial aid was offered, but from this year onwards the government has decided to provide skills training.
Tan said about 1,100 people living within the MPP’s jurisdiction are members of the programme.
“Training aside, the council can also approve a trading licence for Entunan. For example, she can sell cakes at the night market,” he said.
He added that the local Village Service and Development Commitee would also help Entunan improve her family’s living conditions.
The Star Online 23/03/10