EDUCATION: Sugar babies - willing buyer, willing seller?

POSTS about the country’s alleged top 10 “sugar baby” universities have gone viral.

I’m neither going to question the rigour of the “survey”, nor am I going to discuss issues of morality and religion.

Instead, let’s talk about these sugar babies: young, educated women (in an academic sense as opposed to a holistic notion that encompasses values and character traits) looking to hook up with sugar daddies either because they can’t make ends meet or because they equate such “business relationships” with what it means to be an empowered woman in today’s world.

If there are students spending sleepless nights wondering about how they’re going to feed themselves, pay for a decent room, or make their semester fees, then it’s our problem.

Do these students know who to reach out to for financial management advice? Have we prioritised their welfare and well-being?

If the country’s education system and policies have failed to address these concerns effectively, then we as a nation must step up.

Similarly, if these sugar babies are simply looking for a quick way to “earn” the latest designer threads, limited edition handbags or smartphones, it is our education system and society that have let these young women down.

The sugar daddy business sells the idea of a modern, mutually-beneficial relationship that is commitment-free and lucrative.

And like any other business, the marketing of this dream is hot and heavy.

At 18, an age when you’re just starting to discover yourself and your place in the world, the neon lights of materialism can be blinding.

But there’s a fine line between empowerment and exploitation.

Someone who used to work at a company that hooks sugar daddies up with young women shared: “It’s really not what it seems. I’ve seen these girls sobbing at our office because this is not what they signed up for. The sugar daddies weren’t just out for companionship and these girls weren’t prepared to deal with that.”

Concepts like feminism and gender equality need to be taught in schools – to both boys and girls.

Self-worth and confidence must be instilled in our young so that they will grow up with a strong understanding of what it really means to be empowered. Education must go beyond academics.

Let’s be clear: sugar babies are not just the universities’ problem; this is a social issue which parents, the community and government must take ownership of.

Perhaps the Top 10 list featuring the country’s globally ranked public and private varsities is nothing more than a gimmick to entice aspiring sugar daddies. After all, who can resist a beauty with brains?

Sunway Education Group chief executive officer Prof Dr Elizabeth Lee said it best when she described the list as a “totally inaccurate reflection of our nation's students and respectable institutions of higher education” that “undermines our collective efforts in nurturing good citizens and developing a progressive nation”.

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