Chances are if you are reading this, then you may have never gone hungry or run out of money for food.
However, unlike us, three out of four Malaysian students in tertiary education have indeed gone hungry or ran out of money to feed themselves.
The survey on 25,632 students from six public universities by Muslim Volunteer Malaysia Association (MVM) found 57 percent of them saying that they allocate RM5 a day for food, 44 percent survive on instant noodles while 41 percent eat only rice with fried egg and sauce.
The study also found that 96 percent of those surveyed said they are under economic strain while 97 percent said they could use financial assistance from MVM.
The survey was conducted on students of Universiti Tekonologi Mara, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Utara Malaysia and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia.
Fortunately, some good have come out of this news as more people are starting various initiatives to feed these students in need
Fellow students are taking matters into their own hands by starting a suspended meals programme, which encourages those better off to help, in advance, to pay for the meals of the others in need.
This help system is currently being practiced in Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), and Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP).
At UPM, the university has given out more than 100 packs of food under its 'Free meals for students' progamme.
The programme is a joint efforts by students and the university administration, using public donations.
Yayasan Darul Hijrah also announced that it is collaborating with Universiti Malaya's Muslim students association (PMIUM) to provide food coupons for those in need.malaysiakini.com
The news came as a surprise but could it be that our students are forced to starve to pay their tuition fees?
Well, not really — apparently, tuition fees in Malaysia's public universities are "amongst the lowest in the world".
Fees for Malaysian students in public universities are amongst the lowest in the world with the government subsidizing at least RM16,000 per student for the duration of their studies.
Higher Education Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Seri Zaini Ujang said Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia students for example will pay around RM2,000 in tuition fees per year for engineering degree courses and RM1,500 per year for business degree courses.
Aside from low tuition fees, students in public universities usually have the advantage of being able to stay on-campus, which allows them to save more money
It is reasonable to suggest this because on-campus students probably have fewer financial responsibilities and liabilities than students living off-campus.
For example, the costs associated with on-campus living (rent and utilities) are typically deducted from students’ educational loans or scholarships whereas students living off-campus pay rent and utilities each month.
Moreover, the Higher Education Ministry Secretary-General added that the PTPTN loans should be sufficient to aid students in paying their tuition fees and living expenses
"In addition, the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) provides generous study loans, with further upside for high performers. In 2013 and 2014, 75 percent of Malaysian students in public universities benefitted from PTPTN loans to cover their fees, as well as living expenses," he said.
Zaini said, Malaysian students also benefit from a wide range of scholarships from foundations and government agencies, as well as eligibility for MyBrain15 scholarships for all post-graduate students.
So, if tuition fees and living expenses are taken on behalf of the students, then what's the reason behind them to be so broke that they do not even have enough money to feed themselves?
There are three possible reasons:
1. Bad spending habits
University students may be spending unnecessarily without proper financial planning, thus leaving them with little to no savings to the point were they cannot even afford to fork out some money to eat.
Even if the students have relatively low income, they would rely on scholarship and student loans such as PTPTN to fund their travelling activities, according to a study on young Malaysians.
Besides that, a survey by the Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) revealed that some 40 percent of Malaysians aged between 20 and 33 are spending more than they can afford.
"This includes seamless online purchasing, which encourages the ‘buy-now-pay-later’ behaviour amongst this generation of consumers. Reliance on credit cards for online purchasing has further encouraged this behavioural trait," the report, targeted at banking, financial and learning institutions, said.themalaysianinsider.com
2. Low financial literacy
It is possible that Malaysian students, both in public and private universities, have low financial literacy. As a result, they are not able to make good decisions when it comes to managing their own finances, which may lead to them not having enough money because they overspent and have no savings.
Financial literacy clearly had the most positive influence for financial management because it had the desired effects for both savings and financial problems. Financial literacy may also have an indirect effect on financial problems because it is associated with more savings while savings decreases financial problems.researchgate.net
3. Malaysia's strained economy
The cost of living has risen dramatically due to GST and consumers are reeling under the weight of the additional financial burden.themalaymailonline.com
Besides the GST, Malaysian consumers and businesses have had to contend with the hike in public transportation fares, natural gas tariff hike for commercial and industrial users as well as higher toll rates for certain major highways.thestar.com.my
Students would usually rely on their parents for financial support. With the rising inflation and also depreciating currency, students whose parents are with limited income will be tried if they do not spend their money wisely.
The Ministry of Higher Education should take proactive measures to tackle this issue as it is really more than just starving students.
The issue could even alleviate the chances of bankruptcy in the future and more people relying on government assistance.
Also, recent reports have pointed out the failures of Malaysia's education system but our Education Minister has retorted and said that our education system is "world class":