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Free From Child Poverty

Malaysia’s children are 30% of our population but 100% of our future. Their growth and development are key indicators of how a country is performing. After scoring 7.73 over 10 on the Realization of Children’s Rights Index, there is hope for the next generation, despite noticeable problems1. Malaysia is constantly increasing efforts and resources into improving the lives of children in the nation. Its national budget allocation for education is one of the largest annually. In 2019, enrolment rates were 98.1%, 95.8% and 88.8% for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools respectively2. However, education is just one facet adding to the development of a child.

The Khazanah Research Institute report in 2021 estimated that that 8.7% of households with children live below the poverty line (PLI) in Malaysia3. The poverty they face includes challenges in all areas of life – health, education, housing conditions and employment opportunities.

Key Issues Affecting Children In Klang Valley

Plump But Malnourished

Children from urban poor families in Malaysia are faced with both sides of the malnutrition spectrum, stunting and wasting on one end, and overweight and obesity on the other. In urban poor households in Klang Valley, 22% of children under five struggle with stunted growth (reduced growth rate in human development) and 20% from wasting (a weight falling significantly below the weight expected)⁴. Yet the same demographic revealed that 23% of children were either overweight or obese⁴.

  1. Both sides of the malnourished spectrum are caused by a poor quality diet. Many of these households are under the impression that healthy food was too expensive5. The average urban poor household consumes more eggs, rice, and instant noodles whilst eating fewer snacks, sweets and fruits6. Many rely on street food due to longer working hours and further distances from home, with high fat and salt content6. Even if the impacts of poor diet cannot be seen immediately, these children are faced with increased risks of nutrition-related diseases and are vulnerable to non-communicable diseases as well6
  2. Another more recent issue as a result of the pandemic is that many urban poor households had difficulty affording regular food. Hungry children are not able to learn properly and are at risk of dropping out from school or performing worse than their peers from different financial demographics6
  3. UNICEF stated in an article, “Coupled with the rising instances of child poverty and general malnutrition in Malaysia, Covid-19 will further exacerbate these disparities between lower-income households and their higher-income counterparts despite the efforts of the government to close these disparities”7

Limits To Poor Urban Education

In urban poor scenarios challenges to education are very different from their rural counterparts. A report released by UNICEF (during the pandemic) found that 8 out of 10 students from urban poor families do not have access to computers and had to rely on mobile phones owned by their parents or other adults within the family⁸. These children found it hard to keep up with their studies as they were required to attend classes, complete homework and take exams on mobile devices. The most used platforms were WhatsApp and Google Classroom. Some do not even have stable internet connectivity because every member of the house was online at the same time.

  1. Eventually, when the children went back to schools, a large percentage of upper secondary school students were missing8. Nearly 1 in 5 parents reported their children had lost interest in school8. 3 in 5 households said this was because of either lack of internet access or no digital device (eg. computer, laptop or tablet)8.
  2. Local children are not the only ones faced with issues of education. Refugees, a community dominantly inhabiting Klang Valley, are not entitled to any education provided by the government. Oftentimes, refugees have to take matters into their own hands in order to provide quality education for the new generation. Most of these children will receive education via an informal system of more than 130 community-based learning centres9. These centres are established by the community themselves, local NGOs, or both9. As of today, there are only 7,154 out of 23,823 refugee children enrolled in community learning centres10. These centres are underfunded, lack proper teaching necessities,  are usually overcrowded, and often operate without a syllabus9.

Threats To The Children Well Being

There are four types of child abuse: physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. Lower-income families are at a greater risk of domestic abuse¹¹. In the first nine months of 2020, there were 1,120 reported cases of physical abuse, 1,373 cases of sexual abuse, 131 cases of emotional abuse, and 1,251 cases of neglect¹¹. Poor parenting, alcohol or drug abuse, family crises, divorce and financial problems are also common reasons behind such cases¹².

Child survivors of domestic abuse are mostly out of school for long periods, due to the violence at home, others face long term13. This results in lowered school performance and eventual withdrawal from education altogether. Without the correct qualifications, they too will be faced 

with the same struggle to obtain a stable job, and find themselves stuck in the same income disparity as their parents. Whenever a child’s educational experience is in jeopardy, their future work prospects are also put at risk.


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Free From Child Poverty

Malaysia’s children are 30% of our population but 100% of our future. Their growth and development are key indicators of how a country is performing. Malaysia is constantly increasing...


Significant data points to clue you in on the

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Providing Hopes For The Refugees

Understanding Urban Poverty

Free From Child Poverty

Combating Youth Unemployment

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