PETALING JAYA: Nine years after its inception, Malaysians are split over whether the National Service programme should stay or go.
While Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wants NS to be made compulsory for school-leavers, some public interest groups say that too much money is being spent on the “national summer camp”.
Over 750,000 school-leavers have undergone NS training at a cost of at least RM5.5bil. Making it compulsory will add substantially to the cost.
According to MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon, the RM500mil to RM600mil annual allocation for NS could be better used to set up skills training centres for youths.
He said the objective for setting up NS was noble, but believed that it had so far been ineffective.
Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs president Mohd Hasri Mohd Hadzir disagreed, saying that NS was priceless as it instilled patriotism.
“The Government must provide more funding if it wants to create a generation of patriotic youths. Now, some 100,000 out of 400,000 school-leavers nationwide get picked for NS annually. This means that about 300,000 youths are left out,” he said.
Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement secretary Gan Yu Lin said there was a need to re-examine the programme as there had been “too many casualties and too much waste”.
He urged the Government to prepare a detailed report on the NS expenditure breakdown and an inventory of camp facilities.
“We hear about poorly maintained camps yet media reports say millions had been spent,” he said, adding that a Parliamentary committee should be set up to scrutinise the effectiveness and expenditure.
“The Government must be transparent about how much has been spent on the programme,” he said.
Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said NS had been successful in uniting the races.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, schools were good mixing grounds but that changed in the 70s. Students of vernacular schools lack the opportunity to mix with those of different races.
The former secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession said the success of NS should be judged by the end result on youths, not by how much it cost.
Youth 4 Change, however, calls for NS to be scrapped.
Its coordinator Lian Chiew Yi said the money spent on NS should instead be used to improve the national education system.
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