Sep 3, 2007

The Colour of the Skin of Dysfunctional Families

ST Sep 3, 2007
PM: Malay- Muslims now much better off
But problems such as dysfunctional families need to be tackled
By Li Xueying

THE past 25 years have seen a dramatic transformation in Singapore's Malay-Muslim community, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

It is now a community 'confident that it is progressing with the others, and succeeding through its own efforts'.

But some pressing and spiky issues need to be urgently tackled, he said. Chief among these: dysfunctional families.

....... Sounding a sober note, Mr Lee observed that the problem of dysfunctional families manifests itself in many ways - divorce rates, single parents and the 'unacceptably high' number of teenage births.

Without a supportive home environment, youths drop out of school.

'This will permanently blight the child's life chances and risks perpetuating the problem into the next generation,' said Mr Lee.

In tackling this, self-help efforts are critical. So going forward, Mendaki needs to come up with new programmes and adjust existing ones.

...... Speaking to reporters later, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said a review of programmes on the dysfunctional family problem is under way to see where the gaps are.

'And if those gaps are critical and strategic to the community, we'll probably have to move our resources there,' he said.

One possible issue is the need to train people on the frontline. Malay organisations have told him they encounter such families when giving out aid, 'but they stop there'.

'Perhaps there is a lack of understanding and expertise in the Malay organisations to... deal with the families in a holistic manner,' said Dr Yaacob."

Personally I wonder whether a dysfunctional Malay family is so different from a dysfunctional Chinese or Indian family that social support and counselling etc needs to be divided along racial lines and administered by separate racial organisations (Mendaki, Sinda etc).

I imagine, for example, that a key part of the effort to reduce the number of teenage births would be sex education for teenagers. But I don't see how the content of the sex education programme would be very different for Malay, Chinese or Indian youths. They all make babies in approximately the same way.

But if different racial organisations all ran their own sex education programmes instead of pooling resources, well, counsellors' expertise in running such programmes can't be shared and there is less economy of scale.


BACTS said...

One point to note, with pooling of resources, problems for all races would be done together and be cross analyzed, there will be interaction between communities which would provide more universal solution. Isn't it possible that it also contribute indirectly to racial harmony.

veii said...

I know that such programmes should, ideally, be carried out in a non-racial context. But, given issues such as language and cultural barriers, the extension/outreach personnel must be able to relate effectively to the people being targeted. So, Malay officers trained in a specific way would need to be used to reach out to Malays in need of the services. There would be language and cultural specifics that these officers would need to be sensitive to. It's not enough that they speak Malay; it would have to be a particular form of Malay, and they would need a deep familiarity with everything from how polite it is to mention sexual terms to Muslim interpretations of marital obligations, for instance. True, it is possible for a Chinese or Indian Singaporean to be trained to do the job, but at the end they would have to overcome the 'discrimination' from their 'clients,' rightly or wrongly. It is also true that such services reaching out to all Singaporeans could be provided by a combined government body, but since the programmes administered would differ substantially in terms of staffing and content, I guess it does not matter as much whether it is jointly organised or provided by separate bodies.

TriplePeriod said...

My guess is that while the problems resulting in a "dysfunctional" families across races should pretty much be the similar, the approach in an offer to aid will be different due to the differing "values". For example, I guess a Malay family will always feel more at ease if a Malay counselor turns up at the door, rather than say Indian or Chinese.

Priscilla Palmer said...

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Mr Wang Says So said...

Curious George's comment.

ho say liao said...

I would say divide these problems up along racial lines for solutions only. These issues pop up for all races, it's wrong to finger just one race for them.

But the solution part, it has to be divided along racial lines. Some things/words offend the Chinese but are ok to the Malays. Some words should never uttered in Muslim context, or ideas like abortion is unthinkable to Catholics, while Buddhists will not like being refered to in certain ways.

For Malays, since 99% (100%?) are Malays by definition, it will be more suitable to counsel them in the Muslim context, healing and guidance from the book. Also, it will not be made to seem like the Chinese are trying to control their population, since we are not.

There are many little sensitivities which must be carefully taken care of. Least some neighbour thinks themselves slighted through their SG brothers, who does not want to be related to them, and comes with some propaganda.

I opt for the dividing along racial/religious line for this matter.

peasantsgetowned said...

If i am not wrong, in the muslim context, use of condoms is disallowed. So there you go.

Mr Wang Says So said...

If mendaki is fully confident of handling the issues on its own, that would be fine. Unfortunately, yaacob's comments suggest that mendaki isn't doing much more than handing out money. Specifically, yaacob has referred to malay organisations' lack of expertise and understanding, and inability to handle the dysfunctional families in a holistic manner.

I don't know how severe the problem is, but I think that if you really need help, you should take help from wherever you can, never mind the colour of the helper's skin.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, here we have a difficult situation of people(of any race) need helps, but they(who need the helps) want to choose how to be helped. They want to be helped according to their religious, ethnic and traditional beliefs. One(the helper) has to be sensitive to lots of make believed superstitions and sensitivities. Imposing that aids and helps must be subjected to the acceptability of those needing helps necessitate that it has to be done on racial lines. Only monetary aids(cash, cheque, voucher) are free from racial/religious encumberances, unfortunately what's needed is more than just money. My one cent worth of opinion from scb.

sandy said...

PM referred to "divorce rates, single parents and the 'unacceptably high' number of teenage births". From personal experience, there are some unique contributing factors for these. It's very simple for a Muslim to divorce his wife, just repeat the key words 3 times. Arranged marriages are still common, even among cousins. A former colleague of mine had to resign from her clerical post to marry a relative in Malaysia whom she hadn't met. Poor girl cried for days. Teenage births result from some of these young brides.

Denzuko1 said...

I think the problem is that a dysfunctional family from Malay back ground has higher ratio than Chinese, which is why it is looked into.

I feel that the problem lies in the beliefs of Malays to get married at a very young age or 18-21. I have asked some of my Malay friends about this and they feedback that it is to curb premarital sex.

It would be a good solution if not for the maturity of both sexes at this age. I believe that the couples are mostly not ready psychologically to create a family of their own, let alone a stable career path. It may be the main cause of the breakdown of family structure.

If the Garment want to look into the cause of dysfunctional family in the Malay society, they should start here.

Anonymous said...

As usual, you're behaving like an ostrich. We could be very politically correct about it, and say that we don't want to pin point certain social problems to certain racial groups. But that doesn't solve the problem. For instance Chinese as a group have a very serious gambling problem, it wouldn't make sense to preach to all target audiences the equal amount when the Chinese in particular are susceptible to gambling. How often do you see loan sharks splashing paint on a non-chinese hdb flat door? Then again, the upper class neighbourhood you live in probably has none of these problems.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Actually the National Council on Problem Gambling does not draw any racial distinction. They focus on the problem, not the colour of the skin of the person having the problem.

By the way, I live in a HDB flat, quite heartlander.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but then there would racism/discrimincation go? Cannot point to 1 race/religion and say, Wah, these people so stupid/lazy/immoral and how much better we are (as the other race).

So we will put them under our thumbs, tell them how to do things, make them conform to our standards, expectations, etc.

ha ha ha...

Anonymous said...

hi, i was reading a comment aout muslims not being allowed to use condoms. i am a muslim. and condoms are allowed. what is not allowed are contraceptive methods which are irreversible. just wanted to clear a misconception. :)