By Shajeedth Suresh Naidu
SMK Subang Utama, Subang Jaya
Second prize winner, Category A
Asli-Star Merdeka Essay Writing Competition 2017.
The year is 2017, and Malaysia has just celebrated its 60th Independence Day. 6 decades have passed since the Union Jack was last raised. 6 decades have passed since the colonizers last walked on our soils. 6 decades have passed since our forefathers last bowed to foreigners. These last 6 decades has since seen the successful rise of a country from humble beginnings. Our leaders have been relentlessly striving to push Malaysia forward in every way. Undoubtedly, these efforts would have been fruitless if it were not for the unity and moderation of the Malaysian people. In light of Malaysia’s 60th Independence Day, this essay will discuss the use of a timeless symbol to promote national unity in schools.
Qualities such as respect, tolerance, moderation and cooperation are essential building blocks of unity that should be nurtured from a young age. In relation, sports is no stranger to any Malaysian household. Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Nicole Ann David, Pandelela Rinong and Azizulhasni Awang are some of our homegrown legends. Indeed, one has to put aside colour, religion and even social standing to succeed in a game. Sports therefore provides the perfect platform to cultivate values of unity in the young.
While sports is undoubtedly the perfect symbol of national unity, the question remains; how can we utilise sports to promote national unity in schools? The simple answer is to incorporate sports as much as possible into school schedules. Children already have at least an hour of physical education scheduled every week aside from being in a sports club as part of their extra-curricular activities. Let us now take the effort further by giving importance to team based activities such as football, volleyball, netball, basketball and hockey. Teachers can segregate students into teams with a mix of children from various ethnicities and backgrounds. Initially, they might not see eye to eye. But as their attention shifts to the game, their differences will long be forgotten. Also, maintaining the same team for the entire year as well as having frequent practices will solidify their bond and build strong friendships. Persistent and consistent effort is therefore vital in establishing sports as a mean to promote national unity in schools.
Furthermore, children must participate in sports activities outside of school. This is because playing against teams outside of school will build loyalty to their own. The urge to defend and bring glory to their teams will grow and engulf their spirits, so much that they will not be aware of their differences, nor will they allow it to interfere with victory. As the saying goes, ‘teamwork makes dreams work’. At present, schools are actively sending participants to inter-school, inter-district, inter-state and even to international tournaments. However, the aim is to involve a larger number of students. Hence, more students should be trained professionally in order to qualify for higher level competitions. Merely sending a handful of students or the same students for tournaments each year will not suffice and it defeats our purpose.
Besides that, school teachers should expose students to local sports heroes that have glorified Malaysia. Our heroes paved their way through hardship, relentlessly working around the clock to achieve their goals. Most importantly, they did not let skin colour, ethnicity and social background inhibit their potential. Stories of our national football team that consists of multi-racial players are the perfect example to be shared with students - only recently did the Malaysian football team reach beyond expectations at the 2017 SEA Games. An ancient African proverb accurately describes this – ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together’.
As a developing country, it is important to not overlook any community in efforts of promoting national unity. Children with special abilities should thus be given equal attention and the chance to be a part of this wonderful effort. Lesser known sports activities that are tailored to these students should be introduced to schools and facilities to train them must be provided. Once again, these children can be trained to compete at a higher level where they will build a strong sense of unity and loyalty to the country, in addition to gaining worldwide recognition.
Ultimately, the objective of using sports as a symbol of national unity is to emphasize that unity defines us as a nation. At the end of the day, they should see that we stand by each other not in spite of our differences, but because we let our differences thread us together. In words of an old writer, ‘individually we are a drop, but together we are an ocean’. Indeed, the timeless truth is that unity has made us stronger in the wake of adversity. We should therefore strive to maintain this unity to preserve our independence for generations to come.
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