ALOR GAJAH: Urbanisation can be a double-edged sword for the people.
While it brings them closer to modern amenities and enables them to enjoy a better quality of life, it can also lead to the deterioration of community cohesion.
It is with this in mind that the Information Department has made fostering of unity an important component of the Young Leaders Programme and organised annually for students of institutions of higher learning.
Introduced in 2003, the programme was initially held at the state level before it was implemented nationwide since 2013.
It is aimed at nurturing and developing the capabilities of Malaysian youths and grooming them to become responsible and outstanding leaders.
The highlight of the programme was the placement of the participants with 37 host families at the Felda settlement for four days.
A total of 101 students participated in last year’s edition of the Young Leaders Programme at Felda Tun Ghafar in Hutan Percha here.
Among the participants was Surendra Louis, 23, who is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at Universiti Kuala Lumpur.Surendra, who stayed with a Chinese settler and his family, said the whole programme was a new and unforgettable experience for him and that he was impressed by how well all the settlers and their families bonded with each other.
“They knew each other well and behaved as if they belonged to ‘one big happy family’, ” he said.
Relating his experience, Surendra said the people in the town of Bukit Katil, Melaka, where he lived with his family, were not close and kept to themselves.“Here (Felda Tun Ghafar), the people are more community-centric. For example, if any of them want to hold a function or feast, the whole community gets together to organise it.
“More than anything, their spirit of unity and sense of camaraderie really touched my heart, ” he said, adding that city folks could learn a thing or two from the villagers about how to coexist harmoniously.
He said his stay with his Chinese hosts enabled him to learn about their culture, food and way of life.
Surendra, who is of Indian and French parentage, added that the government should organise more initiatives like the Young Leaders Programme to enable youths, especially those from urban areas, to interact with rural families and learn from them.
Mohd Karim Atan, 74, a first-generation settler at Felda Tun Ghafar who hosted two students, said the settlers were only too happy to host the university students under the programme and share their way of life with them.
“Regardless of their race and background, we treated them all like our children and grandchildren. It is our responsibility to do our part to help mould the character and identity of our nation’s future leaders.
“I think the students’ experience here in Felda Tun Ghafar will help them, ” said Mohd Karim, who joined the Felda settlement in 1962.
He said although the younger generation preferred to mingle with people their own age, the participants were excited to take part in rural activities such as fishing, farming and food processing, as well as traditional games.
Communications and Multimedia Ministry deputy secretary-general (Strategic) Shakib Ahmad Shakir said it was important for youths to develop a strong sense of identity so that they would always be proud to be Malaysian.
He said the government had implemented various initiatives to improve the quality of life of the people such as the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, a 10-year plan to ensure fair and equitable distribution of economic development at all levels.
“It is important for youths to be aware of and understand government policies, ” he said, adding that this was vital to preserving and sustaining the country’s leadership pattern and policies. — Bernama