Youth need social agenda blueprint
Question: Can you elaborate on this proposed social agenda to be considered by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the 2018 Budget?
Answer: In past budget announcements, we have seen the government focus on ways to strengthen the economy and address the cost of living for Malaysians.
I feel that there is a pressing need for us to focus on addressing social ills, such as juvenile delinquency, bullying, truancy, drug abuse, broken families and Mat Rempit.
If we do not come up with a blueprint to address these problems, I fear that only a portion of our youth will succeed in realising the aspirations we have for Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50).
Disregarding this group of problematic youth will make it seem like we are leaving them behind on the road to success. These youth may come from broken homes, divorced parents, single parents or they may be illegitimate children.
We need to solve their problems today, or else we will pay the price in the future. If we fail to do so, it will not be seen as the children’s fault, but ours, as we did not do everything in our power to help them.
Q: Why is there a need to have this social agenda? Why is this issue raised now and not before?
A: Social problems in our society have always been looked at seasonally, especially when a big tragedy happens. For example, when the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school fire occurred and the suspects arrested were found to be young drug abusers from broken families, society started having conversations about these problems. A few days later, the talk died down and everything went back to normal.
There has been no concentrated effort to solve social ills. The government has organised programmes for youth under the Youth and Sports Ministry, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and others, but what we have been doing is not enough and we need to do more.
For this social agenda, there needs to be an ongoing timeline because social ills will never disappear. There will always be a new generation tempted by deviant activities. It cannot be seen only as an effort for 2018 because it sounds good for elections. It must be ongoing and tracked.
Why now? Because it is becoming easier for negative elements to reach our children via social media and the Internet.
The support system we used to have in society is diminished. We live in condominiums and return home late at night. We do not know who our neighbours are. We have less quality family time.
There is not enough infrastructure and amenities for our children to use. If they are stressed, they ride their motorcycles and let off steam on public roads because there is no cheap or accessible circuit for them to race. Others use drugs to relieve stress. This is the reality we are looking at.
Other than extremism and terrorism, social ills are the biggest risks facing our children.
Q: What are some programmes or initiatives that you feel should be included in the social agenda blueprint?
A: The two main topics in this social agenda are strengthening the family institution and addressing bad behaviour. Family institutions can be strengthened through parenting courses and campaigns on family planning, for example. Some Malaysians face difficulties when they have too many children because they do not think about raising and feeding the children. They need to be educated that children must be cared for properly and are not just an element of their rezeki.
Among my suggestions to address bad behaviour are increasing existing resources to the National Anti-Drugs Agency on its recovery programme. It now sees addicts as patients who need to be cured rather than before, when they were regarded as criminals.
Counselling is important to curb social ills. For this, we need more counsellors in hotspot schools working hand in hand with the police.
We need more childcare centres. Early childhood care and education are critical so that children are educated and cared for from a young age. Imagine the stress young families go through when both parents work but they do not have a suitable place to send their children to.
The government needs to create safer and cleaner childcare centres with certified employees. These measures can lead to a reduction of family problems that could lead to divorces.
Programmes and interventions must be held, but we also have to give our youth alternatives. It could be sports, arts, recreation or anything they like. For this, we need sufficient allocation and infrastructure. If they have activities to choose from, they will not think about riding in illegal street races or taking drugs.
Q: What are the repercussions of not having a blueprint to address the increasing number of social problems?
A: If we do not do something to address social ills, the loss will be ours in the end. We think that investing in the economy will give huge returns and investing in our human capital will not. The truth is, if we fail to invest in them, we will have to pay the price later on, by paying for spoilt infrastructure and public amenities, addict recovery, health recovery, psychological cost for broken families, and the social costs of bullying, truancy, smoking and Mat Rempit.
We cannot look at the issue in terms of ringgit and sen, but at the loss we will have to bear tomorrow. Failure to take action today will lead us to leave behind a “lost generation” of youth who have no skills and qualifications going into TN50.
Q: How will we carry out this effort to intervene, enforce and provide alternatives to youth involved in social ills? What ministries or agencies should be involved?
A: There should be a comprehensive approach involving the Home Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Education Ministry.
We can have a central agency that is devoted to social and socio-economic issues. We have the Economic Planning Unit and the Implementation Coordination Unit. Why can’t we have a central agency for social problems?
The cliched actions cannot go on forever. We talk about strengthening the education system and increasing religious knowledge. Yes, those are some of the ways but they are not enough. We have to tackle the problem in different ways. Religion is important, but we also need counsellors to speak to our children. We need multiple disciplines to solve the problems.
We can look at how other countries have done it and mould it according to our needs. This social agenda blueprint must have a task force and a clear action plan.
The task force should be led by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi because we need someone who can give orders across ministries. He is also the home minister in charge of the police, so it is a bonus. The prime minister can coordinate and set the direction of the agenda.
Q: What is your goal for the youth of Malaysia in the future?
A: My goal is that nobody gets left behind and everyone fulfils his or her potential. No one dreams of becoming a drug addict, no one dreams of skipping school. We have to create a system that enables young Malaysians to fulfil their potential. When they start bullying and taking drugs, that is when we know their full potential is not being fulfilled and we have to do something urgent. I hope the prime minister can look into this pressing need and give the social agenda the attention it deserves.
Source ; NST