Being a graduate debtor gives me sleepless nightsI AM among the thousands who benefited from the government's National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans during my varsity years in the late 1990s.
Today, I am a journalist. Though my pay is not lucrative - I cannot afford a car, nor do I own a house, a BlackBerry, or a gym membership - I love my job.
I was an average student in school but I scored Grade 1 with four A's in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination. That did not get me a seat in a public university or a scholarship. But I got a place at a reputable private university in the country.
But when I saw the steep tuition fees, I wanted to throw the offer letter into the dustbin. I got ready to do Form Six and had even bought my uniform.
However, my family made a big deal of it as I was the first to be offered a seat in university.
I spoke to my seniors who were not offered a place in a public university and those who went to "affordable" universities to pursue a course that they were not passionate about. I heard tonnes of sad stories.
Then one day, my father rushed home with a newspaper article that said undergraduates would be eligible for loans from PTPTN.
And my life changed forever.
I took the loan and I am grateful to the government for providing me and my friends this assistance.
PTPTN loaned me RM49,500. Since I started working, I have been trying to repay my loan as much as I can every month.
I give a fair sum to my elderly parents who do not have any other form of income, pay for my rented place in the city, and rely solely on public transport.
Now I pay PTPTN more than the required sum a month. But I still owe RM49,839. I did not pay the required monthly sum from the beginning because I couldn't afford it.
I was among the many who were recently sent notices to pay up our overdue payments within 14 days or face the law. My overdue payments to date is more than RM4,000.
That gave me sleepless nights. Even while I was hospitalised for influenza A (H1N1), I was thinking about it.
It's exhausting, but I plan to repay what I owe with my bonus, plus all my little savings. I hope I do not get a lawyer's notice before that.
I believe PTPTN is the reason why many of my friends and I from middle- and low-income families could attend university.
I'm from a small town and so are many of my friends. We believe in repaying our loans. Please do not stereotype all of us.
Most of us are not in multi-level marketing businesses, do not have much in the bank or posh cars parked at our houses.
You might suggest that I should ask my parents to mortgage their only asset, their house, to finance my education. But most of us would rather not go to university if it came to that.
In fact, many people told me not to go to university but get a job because my parents might not be able to pay my tuition fees, and that bank loans came with very high interest rates.
PTPTN rewrote my fate. The fund gave people like me the opportunity to have a quality education.
Most of us found it hard to get part-time jobs while at university. Even when we did, it was tough balancing studies and coursework.
We all had bad hairdos and some guys rarely visited the barber. I remember waiting for the loan to be banked into my account just so that I could get a haircut.
I had friends who had several siblings studying in university at the same time. How could their parents afford their education without the help of PTPTN?
So I urge former students who took the loans to get their act together and repay what they owe.
You must repay your loan. You might be denying others their dreams by not repaying your study loan.
Parents, too, could be more farsighted and plan for their children's education.
Though education up to the secondary level in this country is virtually free, most parents are still in the dark as to how much higher education can cost.
I hold no grudge against my parents for not financing my education and making me a debtor the minute I graduated because they did everything they possibly could.
But I will plan ahead for my children's education and think of ways to settle my PTPTN loan now.
I saw this on PTPTN's website: "Elakkanlah dirimu dari berhutang kerana hutang itu akan menjadikan dirimu hina pada waktu siang dan gelisah pada waktu malam - Luqman Al-Hakim."
It means one should avoid having loans because one will be ostracised in the day and have sleepless nights.
I think PTPTN debtors are going through this now.
Every successful person now had been using loan money from PTPTN. The government had given the loan to help the students so that they can graduate with flying colours.
Pay the loan when you have a steady job. When you are facing trouble, just write to them to explain to them why you had postponed your payment. I am sure that PTPTN will not be that cruel if they understand the trouble that you are facing. The thing is that most students have not done that and are escaping their responsibility to pay the loan after they had graduated.
Don't be an ungrateful brat who simply forgets the government's help towards you. If you don't pay the loan, you are denying new students to get the loan since the government can't get back what they had invested in you.
I say :
How can you be sure that Pakatan Rakyat will be better since they had not even realised their empty general election promises to the people of Selangor? Even the 20 ml free water promised to the people cannot be fulfilled. What more the money promised to single mothers, old folks, students, Selangor born child etc.