Can we manage these kids?

Monday March 31, 2008

Math prodigy now a £130 hooker claim

PETALING JAYA: Sufiah Yusof, the child Maths genius who won a place at Oxford University when she was just 13, has been found to be working as a prostitute, according to a report in London’s News of the World.Sufiah, now 23, whose father Farooq is a Pakistani and mother Halimathon is from Johor, was reported to have entertained an undercover reporter in her flat in Manchester.Claiming that she had posted her services for £130 (RM829) on the Internet, the newspaper said she had called herself Shilpa Lee on a hookers’ website. She is said to have advertised herself as “a sexy, smart student” who preferred “older gentlemen”.

Better times: File pic of Farooq with Sufiah when she was Oxford-bound.

The story in the newspaper comes just days after her father was jailed for sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls as he home-tutored them in Maths.

Sufiah passed the Maths A-Level she needed for entry into Oxford at the age of 12.

Three years into Oxford, she sparked a massive police hunt after running away.

At the time her father bizarrely claimed Sufiah had been kidnapped and brainwashed by an organisation seeking the key to her intelligence.

But Sufiah sent an e-mail to her family describing her life under her father as a “living hell”.

She was found in an Internet cafe in Bournemouth where she had been working as a hotel waitress.

She refused to go back to her parents and instead was taken into the care of social services.

By then Farooq was in jail for three years for his part in a £1.5mil (RM9.57mil) mortgage swindle.

Sufiah returned to Oxford to complete the final year of her Masters in Maths but failed to finish the course after meeting trainee lawyer Jonathan Marshall.

They were married in 2004 but her parents and siblings failed to turn up. They divorced a year later.

The report, which carried grainy photographs of a semi-nude woman it claimed was Sufiah, said the girl met the reporter who posed as a client wearing a tiny skirt, leather boots and a tight T-shirt. She was carrying three mobile phones.

She also told the reporter that she was studying for a Masters degree in Economics.

Sufiah gave no indication of any sadness at the jailing of her father the previous day. On Wednesday, Farooq, 50, was sentenced to 18 months at Coventry Crown Court for touching two 15-year-old girls when he was home tutoring them.

The report quoted her friend as saying: “Sufiah has suffered so many knocks in her life. I just hope she can drag herself out of this life she has got herself into.

“She deserves a much better life than this. Her gift has been a curse.”

In the news today (The Star’s feature is pasted above) is a story of the extracted from News of the World UK about the former child genius, Sufiah Yusoof, who was admitted to to Oxford at the age of 13. Since her mother is a Malaysian, I remember the then Minister of Education, managed to secure scholarships for her to study in Oxford. Unfortunately, she did not finish her study and ran off from her college to live with her friends in the England’s south coast.

The same not so happy ending story was the fate that followed one Shukeri Haddafi, who at the age of four can read the newspaper fluently. He was later adopted by the eminent Prof Ungku Aziz, but unfortunately news about his life after that was hazy and later, as a strapping young man, he was found to be selling roti canai in Baling.

What went wrong? Can’t our society managed these child geniuses? Even for an advanced society like the UK do not seemed to be able to provide proper guidance and firm helping hand. I believe these children are much misunderstood. Despite their advanced ability in certain areas like mathematics or language or music or anything for that matter, psychologically they are still children. Their cognitive ability maybe above the children of their age but their physical and emotional developments are lagging. It is difficult to put them up among children because they’ll quickly get bored and may turned arrogant to other ‘normal’ kids. To put them among older and more matured and intelligently on par, may render them being treated as freaks. I believe many studies have been conducted on these cases. We must tap findings of these studies to help ud to manage these kids. Parents or opportunists were sometime to be blamed as well in pushing this children as if they were circus animals. In the Sufiah’s case, she said her life under her parents was a living hell. What do we do if we were blessed with these kind of children? If we have specialists who can give advices to parents with autism, down syndroms, paraphlegic, etc, we must also find specialists advices on these special children. The country should have more specialists in this ‘children with super ability’ area.

The trouble is, as parents, we maybe at sea in finding what is the best thing to do. There would not be short of people claiming to help and to provide assistance. How do we know that they are really qualified?, they are really honest?, they are really intent on helping not out to  make a fast buck? How do we discern the real from the quacks?

We hope and pray, our latest prodigy, Adi Putra would be provided with the best of care and attention befitting his ability while at the same time allowing him to develop his emotional and spiritual quotients as a normal child. As it is there are familiar tell tale signs of the usual circus. He had already moved from one institutions to another, he was being experimented on by various groups (pardon the expression), and the parents are not in tune with the various groups that were supposed to help. May Allah bless him with the best, after all, only He knows whats best for him.

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