12-year-old boy is parent to 4 siblings

12-year-old boy is parent to 4 siblings
PHOTO: The New Paper

He cooks, dresses the kids up, takes them to school and stays up till 3am to finish his job.

The 12-year-old is known simply as "Abang" (or big brother in Malay) to his siblings. We are not using his real name.

He is a remarkable boy thrown into an unfortunate crisis. His biological father was allegedly abusive, his mother is unwell and his stepfather absent.

To his younger siblings, including a 30-month-old brother, Abang is father, brother and when he feeds, mother too.

His sad story begins with his parents' divorce, five years after his birth.

Abang's mother, who wants to be known only as Madam Nora, 35, remarried in 2008.

But Abang has not seen his stepfather since January after a slew of letters proclaiming outstanding credit card debts landed at Madam Nora's mother's flat in Woodlands.

The couple moved to the current rental flat last August.

Madam Nora, who has five children (three from her previous marriage and two with her current husband), says her husband owes $40,000.

To make matters worse, doctors at Tan Tock Seng Hospital have deemed Madam Nora unfit for work until the end of this year because of her health.

Before her injury, Madam Nora worked at the Woodlands Checkpoint as a Land Transport Authority customer service officer.

With his mother visiting hospitals and clinics almost three times a week for diabetes and chronic shoulder injury, Abang has no choice but to hold the fort at home.

"I need to help mama," the soft-spoken boy tells The New Paper on Sunday during a visit to their two-room rental flat in Woodlands.

He is set to take his Primary School Leaving Examination this year.

"She is already sick and if I don't help her, she will be alone," he says.

Every day after school, he prepares lunch - it is usually fried rice or instant noodles - for his four younger siblings.

While his three siblings, aged 11, nine and seven, eat their lunch, Abang sits patiently feeding his 30-month-old brother.

"I used to make lunch in the rice cooker. But now we have new pans, so it is easier to make makan (Malay for food) for my adik (Malay for younger siblings)".

The family is under the North West Home Fix Scheme, a collaborative effort between North West Community Development Council and Grassroots Organisations. The initiative aims to provide essential household items or repairs to upkeep basic living conditions.

The family recently received donations comprising cookware, slow cooker, gas stove, kitchen cabinet and a mattress.

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