Instilling leadership qualities among youths


A 10-day programme packed with indoor and outdoor activities to boost youths’ leadership skills in order to shape the future leaders of Malaysia. 

STAGE fright is not something to be taken lightly.

It exacts a huge toll on self-confidence and self-esteem and has the ability to cause even the bravest person to feel nauseated, light headed, break out in cold sweat and could even hinder one’s chance of career advancement.

Many, including seasoned professionals, suffer in silent terror from stage fright.

Sixteen year-old student Shavilah Susannia Tmmanuel from SMK Seri Bintang Selatan, Kuala Lumpur is no different.

“I get stage fright and anxiety when I’m in front of people, especially if there are a lot of them. My body would tremble and my hands will shake,” she says.

Building character, instilling good values

Shavilah Susannia bravely embraced her fear of speaking publicly with the help of supportive peers and coaches at the Malaysia Future Leaders School (MFLS). (see sidebar for more info on MFLS)

“I was very nervous to join the camp. When I heard that other school students were coming from all around Malaysia, I felt challenged. I got to the camp, looked at the crowd and felt so anxious!”

However, she brushed her fear aside and pounced at the chance to present her ideas (in front of the camp’s participants and coaches) during interactive group activities.

“On the first day when I spoke in front of everybody, I was shaking. But after only three days into the programme, I realised the shaking stopped when I’m speaking publicly. Even my friends whom I just met noticed that!” says the elated lass.

Shavilah Susannia is one of the 35,000 students across the nation who were eligible to take part in MFLS. These students are currently part of the programme’s second phase (Tier 2).

Taking part in the camp from July 6 to 15 held at the Meru, Klang camping site (there are 15 other camping sites across Malaysia) was an enjoyable and eye-opening experience for the Science stream student.

“MFLS is not only for building leaders, it also helps overcome fears. Being brave and confident are qualities that leaders have and it is good for participants to experience it,” she says, adding that leaders are able to “get the word out” by giving opinions, ideas and speaking their mind constructively.

Shafrul (right) speaking to (from left) Shavilah Susannia and Darren during an indoor activity at Camp Meru.

Although the camp was only 10 days, Shavilah Susannia says the well-planned activities managed to instil communication, leadership skills, willingness to cooperate, hand-eye-coordination, and alertness among participants.

Besides emphasising on leadership qualities, the programme also taught the youngsters a lot of general knowledge and protective skills that would be useful in case of emergencies.

“We were taught survival skills such as how to pitch a tent, tie knots, use a compass, read maps, and more during outdoor activities.

“At indoor events, the Love Your Body sharing session was one of the most informative talks I’ve attended. The topic of sexual harassment, its causes, effects, as well as prevention was discussed.

“It turns out that many of us don’t even know our bodies that well,” she says, adding that all coaches and trainers at the camp were experienced and professional.

Noting that the programme was “amazing, fun and interesting”, Shavilah Susannia says one of the most important takeaways from MFLS was the power of cooperation.

“Cooperation is a step forward to something bigger.

“Everyone has great ideas which could be combined to create one amazing idea that could make Malaysia and perhaps the world a better place.

“Cooperation also helps us discover our hidden potential or talent. You don’t know that you can lead until you realise that people follow you, listen to your ideas and execute them alongside with you,” she says.

She adds that she learnt not to underestimate “quiet people”.

“Some of the friends I have made here were shy and not outspoken at all, but as soon as I got to know them, I realised the different colours they had.

“Whenever they spoke up, I would be surprised because they have so many great ideas and qualities that would not have been discovered without joining in on the activities,” says Shavilah Susannia.

Fellow campmate Darren Hong Soon Chuan, 16, agrees.

Participants are able to practise their abseiling skills during the camp.

The Science stream student who is also from SMK Seri Bintang Selatan, Kuala Lumpur, says it was a privilege to be chosen to participate in MFLS.

“I had many opportunities to speak publicly. It provided a big boost for my leadership skills for my future as I picked up a little on how to deliver messages or ideas in a way that is impactful.

“I’ve become more confident and comfortable to let my ideas be heard and express myself freely,” says the bespectacled lad who admits to being shy.

Describing the programme as an insightful 10-days, Darren says it was a great platform to upgrade and develop oneself.

“Don’t be scared when you hear it is for 10 days, you will get to learn a lot and make many friends. The schedule and timing is planned perfectly, with enough time to play, rest and be serious,” he says, adding that the materials and information given by coaches were informative, useful and impactful.

Representing SMK Jalan Empat, Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, at Camp Meru was Wirdatul Huda Mohd Hanis, a Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya (PRS or guidance adviser) member.

This was the 16 year-old student’s first time away from home without parents for an extended duration.

“I’ve never mingled with a large crowd of people from other schools and places, but it is good that I stepped out of my comfort zone as it is the best way to learn and grow.

“New friends have been made here and I am quite surprised at my ability to do so because I’m a shy person,” she says.

Elated to be among optimistic and outspoken peers, Wirdatul Huda shares that she has become one herself - often sharing ideas and views during activities.

Building a fire from scratch to cook rice during camping was her favourite activity during the programme.

She shares that her team had fun and demonstrated great teamwork.

“It was hard building the fire. But we cooperated, supported and aided each other. Even though these seem like simple activities (cooking, building a fire), it is actually important to help us learn to cooperate for bigger occasions.

“For example, if anything goes wrong we are able to work together to find a solution and not give up on the things we want to achieve.”

Thorough MFLS, Wirdatul Huda believes that young people (herself included), would be able to discover the leader within.

She says that everyone is special with their own capabilities and personalities.

“All of us should recognise ourselves as leaders even though there are times we are being led by someone else. Each of us has positive qualities that can lead a group and find solutions,” she says.

She stresses that teenagers should be more empowered and believe that they too, can become a leader.

“Many teenagers do not involve themselves in spearheading something. They would rather push the task of being a leader to other people who are more outspoken. It is a mindset that needs to be changed,” says Wirdatul Huda who will be completing the programme with Darren, Wirdatul Huda and fellow campmates tomorrow.

From coaches’ eyes

Meru camp leader Shafrul Kadir, who has taken care of five cohorts (and counting) says he enjoyed witnessing the “before and after change” among participants.

“Most of them are so timid on the day they arrive. But after a few mingling sessions, their true colours start to show,” says the trainer who has 15 years of experience under his belt.

They can be quite a boisterous bunch once they come out from their shells, he adds with a chuckle.

“It is a good thing they are not allowed to use mobile phones. Only one phone is allowed in each team.

“This way, technology won’t get in the way of their daily activities. Then only can they focus on what they are doing instead of taking selfies or snapping photos to post on social media,” he shares.

Shafrul, who was previously a trainer for the National Service Training Programme (PLKN), notes that MFLS was “on point”.

He says despite the programme being carried out for only 10 days - as compared to the three months of National Service - MFLS’ module is effective and leaves a lasting effect.

“The module focuses on discipline and independence, besides other leadership qualities. Through the activities, students are allowed and encouraged to express and develop ideas - which is what leaders do.

“We, trainers, are their facilitators. During all indoor and outdoor activities, we give clear instructions. Then we observe them and step in to give pointers on solving a problem if they are stuck. We do not spoonfeed them on how to do it,” he explains.

While the youth learn about good values and valuable life skills, Shafrul says trainers pick up “a thing or two” from youngsters as well because “every cohort is different, every participant in each cohort is also distinct”.

“I’ve noticed that students from urban areas and fully residential schools are more manja, whereas students from the daily schools are not as manja but can be quite mischievous and naughty.

“The daily school students have higher confidence levels than those from religious schools, while those from high performing or cluster schools are more studious,” he says with a laugh.

Given that all students hail from differing backgrounds, races and religions, Shafrul notes that their mindsets and views also differ.

“Despite that, all of them still get along harmoniously,” he says proudly.

MFLS trainer Haslizar Razally, who is in charge of the leadership cluster, says youths in this era are fortunate to have “everything thought out for them”.

“Students get to learn about leadership, friendship, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills for free.

“During my time, programmes which develop character, leadership skills and others did not exist. We had to find ways ourselves to develop our communication and other soft skills,” says the trainer who is in his forties.

Haslizar, who has 18 years of training experience, shares that indoor activities are used to boost students’ intrapersonal skills while outdoor activities are for interpersonal skills.

“When the students come to the programme, they improve on soft skills including communication, networking and leadership skills, working as a team, friendship and more.

“That is not all. The programme also provides a boost in terms of patriotism and general knowledge that is useful in daily life. These include activities like camping, exploration, and more,” he says.

Haslizar also notes that MFLS, unlike PLKN, was able to hold participants’ interests.

“The duration is 10 days with a schedule that is planned to-a-tee, meaning it is easier to handle and lessons (as well as activities) are clear cut.

“It is easier for us to teach and guide participants with a clear goal,” Haslizar points out.

 

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