Inter-School Sports Day Held For Refugee Children
20 October 2010 – KUALA LUMPUR: 17 October marked a happy day for many refugee students around Kuala Lumpur. The children woke up as early as 3.30am and gathered at their respective school at 5.00am, waited to be picked up to the inter-schools sports day held in a Cheras Township, Kuala Lumpur.
The local non-government organizations provided them with new T-shirt, a pair of sport pants, a pair of white socks and a pair of white shoes. The socks and the shoes were the same as those worn by local children to school every morning.
The children were indeed happy with their new outfits. For the first time, they could wear a ‘school uniform’, just as the local children always did.
One problem, however, seems to trouble the children. For many of them, this was the first time they owned a shoe. The children loved the new white shiny shoes at first sight but they soon grumbled about it.
Some small children faced the difficulty wearing a pair of shoes as it was hard for them to differentiate the left shoe with the right one. They needed help from their parents and teachers to accomplish this challenging task.
The story, however, did not end here. The grumbles grew louder as soon as they wore their shoes, some even cannot walk properly with the new ‘burden’ on their foot.
The situation became more complicated as the students reached the sport complex, the venue for the sport day. On the running track, dozens of shoes were ‘dumped’ besides the track. More and more students complained about their shoes as they blamed the shoes for causing them to lose the race.
“Panaq Mekaunbu, Panaq Mekaunbu (The shoes is no good, the shoes is no good),” said Sui Pe Thang, a 10-year-old Zotung tribe Chin student.
The event organizer at first insisted that all children wore shoes to protect their soles from the burning running track but soon they received more `protest’.
“Mahouqbu, Eiqde Eiqde (No, it is very cold),” protested another Chin student, Mia Lin Maung,10.
The event organizers gave a brief talk that most students never worn any shoes before the sports day. Children were then allowed to race without shoes. Many students chose to run in barefoot, and they smiled and ran towards the finish line.
This was a happy ending for all the children as they could run without their burdensome shoes. The happy ending, however, revealed another sad story, the story on the poverty of refugee children, who could never afford to buy a pair of shoes.
By Thomas Chong