WITH four days to go before Malaysia marks her 60th year of independence, schools are showing their patriotic spirit by celebrating the diversity and colours that unite us. StarEducate finds out what students in the Klang Valley are doing for the Merdeka season.
THE 60 Jalur Gemilang that greet those entering Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah (SAS) Putrajaya, are a clear indication that the school takes patriotism seriously. In fact, the school has had a carnival-like atmosphere over the last three weeks because of the activities being held to mark the country’s National Day on Aug 31.
It has been organising activities covering the arts, nationhood, sports, and traditional games which will go on until Sept 15.
The school never misses on celebrating the nation’s independence, says carnival coordinator Banchakorn Sombon. The theme this year is to celebrate our past achievements and look back at the things that have made us proud.
The students, he says, have been making kites, watching patriotic videos, decorating their classes with flags, and learning about musical instruments such as the gamelan, which are also part of the activities.
Ammar Hafiy, 13, who gave a speech on Merdeka, says that the peace and harmony in the country and the durian, are among the many things he loves about Malaysia.
Banchakorn adds that organising such a packed programme isn’t easy especially with budget constraints, but it’s a labour of love for students, parents and teachers.
The carnival will culminate in a concert, which includes choral speaking, dance and music, on Sept 15.
“From the sale of tickets, we’ll be able to fund our Merdeka and Malaysia Day activities for next year. “We make all the costumes and decorations ourselves,” adds Banchakorn.
The school, is also organising a national level traditional dance competition, says its dance club adviser Azie Nurul Akhtar Nabir.
The competition, to be held at SAS Putrajaya, on Sept 10, will showcase asli, zapin, inang, joget, folk, and other ethnic dances.
The students, she says, are excited. They have been training hard for the last five months.
“This is the first time we’re holding such an event. We wanted to inculcate a love for our heritage and culture especially at a time when our youngsters are more interested in K-pop.”
The school’s kuda kepang dancers Muhammad Hakimi Khairul Azuan, Khairil Mirza Shah Bazerin, Muhammad Adam Ariffhisham Azly, and Adam Harith Zainal Abidin, are proud to keep the traditional dance alive.
Describing it as the nation’s cultural heritage, the 16-year-olds have been performing at competitions regularly.
It’s a legacy from our ancestors so we should be proud, says Muhammad Hakimi.
“It’s part of being Malaysian. It’s our duty to pass the art on to the next generation,” shares Khairil Mirza.
For Muhammad Adam, who has been interested in traditional dances since he was 12, modern dances are all the same but the joget, inang, zapin and other folk arts, are unique.
Although Adam Harith was only exposed to traditional dances in school, the street dance enthusiast now calls it a passion.
It was an exciting day for 109 children all clad in traditional Malaysian costumes as they assembled long before 9am on Tuesday at the UCSI Child Development Centre in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.
It was the centre’s Merdeka celebration and while they were all eager to wave the Jalur Gemilang and shout out “Merdeka” to their parents and friends who had gathered at the centre to see them in their colourful attire, their eyes were on the array of local sweets and dishes, all placed before them.
It was great, shares Pang Yin Ling, the centre’s manager, to see the children so enthusiastic about the food, just as they were about the National Day.
“We made it a point to explain to them about the significance of the many mouth-watering dishes.”
The children, she says, were given fun lessons on what the flag symbolises, Malaysian culture and the many people of different backgrounds who live in the country.
Educating the children aged between two and six and imparting good values, is the centre’s main objective, adds Pang.
“Children are friendly by nature, they do not befriend anyone by looking at their colour or race. Instead, they look at a person’s heart.
“This is exactly what we want to teach our young students.
“Inculcating these principles is vital because with the right value and attitude, they will grow up to become people who are respectful of others,” she adds.
For Pang, Merdeka Day is about strengthening racial harmony. “We should be a nation with one heart,” she adds.
Jean Paul Villa and his wife Ivy who send their six-year-old to the centre have been happy with the centre’s effort in enlightening their daughter.
Hailing from the Philippines, the couple has been residing in Malaysia for six years.
Instantly animated at the mention of food, Ivy says that one of the couple’s favourites is nasi lemak while the teh tarik is something they can have any time of day.
“There is harmony in this country and people of different races interact easily with each other,” she adds.
“You can feel the love and patriotism that Malaysians have for their country. It is a wonderful experience to watch people raising their flags and fervently shouting out ‘Merdeka!’ at the previous celebrations I’ve been to,” she says.
Sharing similar sentiments are Maldive natives, Mohamed Yammai and Aishath Nasheeda.
It is melting pot of culture, says Mohamed Yammai describing Malaysia as “inspiring and unique”.
“Back home, it is not so multiracial, so it gives me an extraordinary feeling watching the locals. The way Malaysians unite and communicate is something that we can emulate,” he adds.
Malaysia has been home to the couple and their six-year-old daughter who also goes to the centre.
Aishath shares that it is fascinating to watch and experience the cultural mix in this multiracial country.
Igniting the Merdeka spark and spirit