THOUGH armed with an MBA (Masters in Business Administration), Mohamad Al-Khuzaini Mohamad, 29, is content with earning just RM1,200 a month out of love for his brother who has Down Syndrome.
Mohamad Al-Khuzaini is the supervisor of Penang’s Permatang Damar Laut Community-Based Rehabilitation Centre which helps about 50 children and adults cope with their physical and mental disabilities.
One of them is his brother Mohamad Al-Bokhari, 27.
“My heart is with this place. My brother has been coming here since the centre opened in 2003. I have watched my brother develop himself.
“So although I have a master’s degree and can find a good career elsewhere, I chose to commit here because the centre needs a full-time supervisor, ” said the Universiti Sains Malaysia graduate.
Mohamad Al-Khuzaini does not get a salary. The Federal Govern-ment provides him with an allowance of RM1,200 a month. After statutory deductions, his net pay is just RM1,059.95.
The four social workers at the centre get even less.
They receive a monthly allowance of RM800 which is whittled down to a take-home pay of RM706.75 after deductions.
The centre’s committee chairman Fatimah Kader Bacha said they previously had eight social workers but half left after finding better jobs.
“Many who remain are here out of love for the trainees, ” she said.
Fatimah said the centre was grateful to Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin, who had been sponsoring the trainees’ uniforms for many years.
“We spoke with private firms before but hardly got anything because they believe that since this centre was formed by the government, we are all right.”
But help might come soon from the state government after Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and wife Tan Lean Kee visited the centre.
On learning how little the social workers are getting, Chow said in his speech that he would raise the matter during the state exco meeting to find a solution.
“I see what an important role the social workers play.
“While waiting for the Federal Government to resolve the financial issues, we will look into topping up their allowances from state funds, ” he said.
This move may improve the income of social workers in all the 25 Community-Based Rehabilitation Centres in Penang, which are manned by 205 social workers and 25 supervisors. There are 562 such centres nationwide.
To help the centre in Permatang Damar Laut, Chow approved funds of RM50,000 out of his chief minister’s allocation for upgrading and maintenance.
During their visit, Chow and Tan were visibly moved on meeting some of the trainees.
Among them were five-year-old twin boys suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who scampered all around and needed a worker to keep a constant eye on them.
Another was a boy dealing with autism. The presence of so many adult strangers provided too much sensory stimulation. He cupped his ears and began to cry silently until a social worker led him to the reading room to focus on a book.
In a separate room were 20 youths assembling paper files.
Social worker Zuzana Mohd Jaini, who guides them, said they assemble about 1,000 files a day and earn RM10 for that.
“Each month, they collectively earn about RM300. The money is shared equally. This is not about helping them to earn a good income.
“We guide them to do this so they can stay mentally active and have a daily objective to accomplish, ” she said.
The trainees go to the centre from Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 2pm.
Also visiting the centre were Sim, exco member and Batu Maung assemblyman Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain and state Social Welfare Department director Shaballah Zainal Abidin.
Those wishing to contribute to the rehabilitation centres can call the state Social Welfare Department at 04-650 5259.
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