PETALING JAYA - Young minds can be easily influenced, and local gangs are wise to the fact and attempt to recruit new members while they are still in school.
Fortunately, not all those approached succumbed to their overtures.
One student, Raj*, said he had been asked to join a gang numerous times since he was in Form 2 by young gang members, but he refused their offers every time.
"After school ended, there would be one or two former school students waiting outside the school compound, scouting for students who could be 'useful'," he said.
Raj said that because of his physical size, gang members told him he would be an asset to the gangs.
"I politely told them I had to concentrate in my studies and make my parents proud," he said.
However, he said some of his friends did join the gangs, and their studies suffered as a result.
Another student, Gerald*, who is now pursuing a college diploma, said that he was threatened by gangs who tried to force him to join them during his schooling days.
"They told that they would protect me from Malay and Chinese gangs if I paid them protection money, as well as help to recruit others to join," said Gerald.
When he rejected them, the gang members threatened the safety of his family.
What the gang did not know was that his father was a policeman.
"I wasn't afraid of them because of my father and felt protected all the time," he said.
One teacher from Ipoh was aware of the situation but said that school authorities could not do anything as these activities were carried outside of the school compound and after school hours.
"Some of these students are good at keeping a low profile in school so that they do not become the target of a disciplinary query," she said.
She also said there was no telling who would be target recruits of gangs.
"The main factor is home influence. Students who have a solid family foundation, a good religious background and are focused are able to reject the gangs," she said.
However, she claimed many students these days lacked parental supervision and influenced by peers, making them susceptible to gangs.
"They need to focus on parenting, not just their careers and making money," she said.
But sometimes, there can be no escaping the gangs.
The teacher also spoke of one student who was part of a gang and was happy to be in it as he could make money easily.
She said she had spoken to him and asked him to leave the gang for the sake of his own future.
"He told me his own father was part of the gang and that he could never leave it," she said.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities