Saturday, July 16, 2005

Student Unity: Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

I must say, that I'm extremely pleased to hear the NST and Star reports this week which emphasised on some of the plans by our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad and his current administration to promote racial integration and student unity in our schools.

As repeatedly emphasised in my blog post "National vs Chinese School" Part I and Part II, as well as the International Herald Tribune report on unity in schools, national integration and racial unity is a key foundation stone which MUST be laid in our primary education system to ensure a successful, peaceful and harmonious Malaysian community for the future. At the individual students level, it'll promote better language communication, greater tolerance and understanding for the various ethnic practices as well as greater respect for each other - universal values which will make a better person.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi made the remarks in his speech to lauch the Racial Integration and Malaysian Unity Programme (RIMUP) in Seremban. RIMUP is a programme which encourages co-operation between students of national and vernacular schools in sports, co-curriculum activities and information communication technology. The activities are done outside school hours and schools will take turns organising them.

The key objectives of RIMUP are:

  • to encourage teachers and students from pre-school to pre-university to participate in these activities;

  • to instill a sense of co-operation, understanding and awareness among the students;

  • help create tolerance among the various races; and to learn how to share.

The objectives of the above programme are noble and should be supported by all parties - the education authorities, the government and opposition political parties, the teaching community and most importantly, the parents. The activities and scope of RIMUP are not overly ambitious (like Vision 2020), and appears to be less politically motivated compared to certain other previous programmes. This will provide the programme with the greatest chance of success and achieve measureable results and progress.

Quoted excerpts from the NST:

If Malaysia is to remain a peaceful and prosperous country, children of different races must eat, live and play together"

Teachers had to make sure that integration was the main thrust of the education system.

"If parents themselves keep their children from mingling with children f other races, this united, peaceful environment that we live in now will not last forever.

He said there should be more activities and programmes to enable children of different races to mix more freely.

Quoted excerpts from the Star:

"Unity should be the main thrust of Malaysian schools to ensure the nation’s continued peace and stability"

... the younger generation must be given early opportunities to understand the meaning of unity through ways and practices that would ensure the people were united and lived in harmony

.... unity must be imbued at an early stage, as today’s younger generation still had no prejudice against friends of different races and religions.

[Abdullah] ticked off parents who poisoned the minds of their children with unhealthy sentiments but said not all were responsible of such acts. He added that parents should support their children in activities that were aimed at promoting unity.

He said the older generation had long imbued the spirit of tolerance and avoided creating
uneasiness among races, and this approach was adopted by the Government in various programmes aimed at promoting racial unity.

Let's hope that this administration will have the necessary political will to be successful in the above programmes, which to be fair, will not be an easy process - facing challenges from parochial politicians, ultra-conservative religious leaders, over-protective misguided parents and not to mention, under qualified and equally misguided teachers.

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