Every month, Mdm Hairunnisa Amran sits down with her husband to make a list of how much they have to set aside for daily necessities. Paying the bills and essentials for their kids like milk and diapers are priority, with any balance going towards groceries.
It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s been part and parcel of life.
In order to support his family financially, her husband had to forsake his education in favour of work. Leaving secondary school meant that he only possesses a primary school certificate, which curtailed opportunities to secure a job that paid well.
Things took a turn for the worse in 2008, when her husband suffered a heart attack and had to go under the knife for a coronary bypass operation. At Mdm Hairunnisa’s urging, he recently switched to a less stressful job which came with a lower pay.
With a combined monthly income of $2,000 and two children aged 7 and 3, it has been challenging for the family, but Mdm Hairunnisa said they have been able to get by.
“We get our groceries from FairPrice, where it is more affordable than most other places. My husband is also a union member and the annual cash rebates we receive from FairPrice go a long way in helping us,” she shared.
Bright Horizons Fund
To help alleviate some of her financial burden, Mdm Hairunnisa enrols her children in NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool kindergarten, where the Bright Horizons Fund (BHF) helps to subsidise fees for childcare.
Currently, BHF offers childcare education subsidies on top of existing Government ones to families with a gross monthly income of $3,500 and below, or $875 per capita. To date, some $1 million have been disbursed through the BHF – almost double from $530,000 in 2008. The number of child support programmes has also tripled from three to nine within the same period.
This has resulted in more children of low-income families like Mdm Hairunnisa’s to have the chance for a fair start in life, with the number of children benefiting rising from 600 to 1,500 within the same period.
“The monthly fee at My First Skool is about $700. I’m not sure how I would be able to afford my children’s school fees, if not for the BHF. With their support, I’m only paying about $50 now. This has helped to lessen the financial burden for my family,” she shared.
Her first child, Naira Zafirah, will be graduating from My First Skool this year. Mdm Hairunnisa is also expecting a third child soon.
Not About the Money
Although she works as a store cook in a secondary school canteen taking home about $400 a month, Mdm Hairunnisa has a Higher Nitec certificate in accounting. She previously also held a position in sales in a bank.
“It was a better paying job, but the hours were long. This job, while not paying much, allows me the flexibility of time to send my kids to school and pick them up after,” she said.
It isn’t about the money, she explained, but instead about prioritising about what is more important to her, which is to be there for her children.
The principal of the school she is currently working in is also aware of her situation and has been very understanding, and has gone as far as to find which available financial assistance programmes the family can tap on.
“I am surrounded by nice people who have been helping my family and me. I may not be blessed money wise, but with all that I have, like my family, it makes me feel like a rich person,” she said.