The Government should not resort to panic or ill-considered proposals to address the social problems affecting youths, as suggestions from the Ministry of Youth and Sports like the the annual RM500 million national social service programme for the 400,000 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) school-leavers during the three months they are waiting for their SPM results, and to make the national social service a prerequisite for getting the SPM certificate and to bar those who refuse to take part in the programme from proceeding to Form Six.
The Education Ministry should state whether it has given its blessings to these shocking and retrograde proposals to deny the SPM certificate, even those who score nine or ten distinctions, unless the students join the three-month national social service programme - which would involve amending the Education Act 1996 and which would have the ultimate negative result of penalising students who are not delinquents rather than really helping students with social problems.
While the problem of escalating social problems affecting youths should rightly be regarded as a national problem warranting the highest national priority, it is important that all quarters should not go overboard as to undermine and destroy the self-confidence and self-esteem of the youths by painting a picture that they are the worst generation since Malaysia achieved nationhood.
If the Minister for Youth and Sports, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin is to convince Malaysians that the country should spend RM500 million every year on a three-month national social service for 400,000 school-leavers, he should make public the full details of this “miraculous cure” for social problems affecting youths, explaining why the Rakan Muda programme had failed so miserably although some RM100 million had been spent involving about one million youths.
According to the Seventh Malaysia Plan, the ultimate goal of Rakan Muda programme is to “imbue youths with the right attitudes and positive values necessary to meet new challenges and expectations brought about by rapid development, while at the same time countering negative influences arising from changing lifestyles, as well as increasing exposure to the global environment through the mass media”.
If Rakan Muda is a success, then the country would not be confronted with the escalating social problems affecting youths today!
It is shocking that the Ministry of Youth and Sports has shown no remorse or awareness of the failure of Rakan Muda or the need for a post-mortem and public accounting, but has instead embarked on a planning spree to demand another RM500 million a year for a three-month national social service programme!
With the failure of Rakan Muda programme, how is the Ministry of Youth and Sports to convince Malaysians that it would succeed in providing the character education and building to the school-leavers in three months when the Education Ministry had failed after 11 years of schooling?
Furthermore, before proposing a national social service for the estimated 400,000 SPM school-leavers every year, is the Ministry of Youth and Sports able to estimate what is the percentage of the students in schools who could be classified as “juvenile delinquents” and who should be the focus of all the attention for remedial action?
If the Ministry is unable to give any such estimate, isn’t this the first thing it should be finding out before any grand strategy is proposed involving RM500 million of public funds a year?
The Cabinet Committee on Social Ills headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had decided at its first meeting last Monday to target its awareness campaign at parents and students.
This is the right and proper approach, which is not reflected by the proposal for a RM500 million national social service programme.
In line with the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Social Ills to focus on the awareness of parents and students, the Cabinet Committee should initiate a nation-wide discussion on what is the best way to utilise RM500 million to address the social problems affecting youths.
Such a nation-wide discussion would go a long way to achieve the Cabinet Committee’s decision to arouse awareness of parents and students to the problem of youth ills in the country - which would be half the problem solved!
The media discussions up to now have omitted the views and inputs of a very important group - the student themselves, particularly those who are not delinquents and could be role models for other students.
It is not only parents and teachers, but the students as well, who should be actively involved in the process to devise a strategy to combat the escalating social problems of youths.
Is the government and society prepared to listen to the students and hear their suggestions and ideas as to how to resolve the escalating social problems of youths?