The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic has put thousands of school bus drivers out of business.

Gayathiri Chellam is one of them. Free Malaysia Today (FMT) highlighted the plight of the 40-year-old and her family, who are surviving on the bare necessities after she lost her only means of livelihood due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) enforced to contain the pandemic.

For eight years, Gayathiri earned about RM4,000 a month, ferrying some 30 students to and from schools in Batu Uban and Georgetown in Penang. Besides being able to put food on the table, she was able to service the loan for her 600 square feet flat unit in Taman Utara, Batu Uban.

All that came to a half in March, when the MCO came into force, and many of the children dropped out.

Left with virtually no income, Gayatiri resorted to borrowing from money lenders, only to have her van vandalised when she could not pay the dues on time.

The van has also been since repossessed and auctioned off by the bank after she missed six months of hire purchase payment.

To make things worse, the money lenders also reportedly forced Gayatiri to "refinance" her flat unit and transfer its ownership to another person. She now pays rent to her own unit, to the said person.

According to the report, Gayatiri has been forced to sell the majority of the belongings in her house, including the refrigerator, air-conditioner, ceiling fans, and even pawning her mobile phone, for cash.

The house she lives in with her 40-year-old mentally ill husband, and 18-year-old daughter Divyashini is empty, save for a prayer altar and a small dining table. The family sleeps on comforters on the floor.

Diyvashini also had to stop studying in Form Six as books became expensive and she could not follow online lessons. Her three younger siblings, aged between 11 and 14, stay with their friends, where they catch up on online classes, and hardly come back home.

Gayatiri gets occassional help from her 75-year-old father, who survives on a RM1,500 monthly pension he gets after the death of his son - Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) major C Kayamboo, who was killed in an air crash in Butterworth, in 2016.

Her plight has earned the attention of Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, who has placed a caveat on her flat, so it would not be sold, and has engaged a lawyer for her.

Batu Uban assemblyman A Kumareasan and the Penang Hindu Association have also provided the family with some necessities last month, reported FMT.

Those who wish to ease Gayatiri's suffering can WhatsApp FMT’s Helpline at 0193899839.

Source: FMT
Photo source: FMT