Championing social problems through education

One for the album after launching Block G as Maszlee (middle) together with (from left) Dr Mohd Karim, Musa, Dr Abdul Rahman, Ng, Senior Prof Khalid and Dr Siti Hamisah. AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

MOTHER Teresa once said that while not everyone is destined to do great things, anyone can certainly “do small things with great love”.

Sometimes one small gesture from a single being is all it takes to create a big impact.

With that concept in mind, UCSI University instituted its inaugural Tan Sri Dr Omar Harmony Award which serves as a platform to inspire students to be agents of positive social change to promote cohesion and harmony.

The Award is aimed at promoting education as a force for good to address societal problems through the creation of social value in an effective and sustainable manner.

It was coined after UCSI’s council member Prof Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman, who was Malaysia’s first Science adviser to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first tenure as prime minister and has all this while been a strong proponent of sustainability and harmony.

Through this initiative, students propose their ideas to address current social problems that plague society.

While there is no limit to the number of participants or groups, the event essentially promotes ideas that encompass values of social impact and sustainability.

The proposal, among others, must address an existing societal problem and suggest means to address it. It may be based on a non-profit, for-profit or a hybrid model.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, who launched the positive initiative earlier this month, said UCSI University’s Tan Sri Dr Omar Harmony Award was a step in the right direction as it instils the values of unity and harmony among Malaysians.

“The award cajoles the younger generation to drive this nation to greater heights by proposing their ideas to empower the underprivileged, galvanise society, promote harmony and champion burning issues, ” he noted.

He added that UCSI is in line with the creation of a sustainable ecosystem that is both equitable and prosperous.

“Championing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and espousing likewise initiatives led UCSI to be recognised as a Regional Centre of Expertise by the United Nations University.”

Noting that the award is in line with the ministry’s call of making Malaysia a “wonderous place of opportunity and equality”, Maszlee said the ministry is advancing problem-based learning in schools.

“We will be dedicating more than RM450mil in problem solving research in universities. This is on top of the abolishment of provisions in the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) which stifles our students’ ability to organise and express themselves, ” he said.

UCSI University’ vice-chancellor and president Academician

Senior Prof Datuk Dr Khalid

Yusoff said students should use the award as a platform to provide input, ideas, plans and vision, to foster and inculcate harmony in the community.

“As how Tan Sri Dr Omar puts it, without harmony, there is no peace and security. “Without peace and security, forget about progress and prosperity, ” said Senior Prof Khalid during his opening address at the ceremony.

UCSI has has set aside RM1,000, RM600 and RM400 for the first, second and third prize winners, whose projects include reaching out to rural areas to aid in mental health disorder, curbing social problems among youths through sports, and creating sustainable education for the underserved community.

The initiative is in line with the UN SDGs, focusing on target 4 – quality education, and target 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions.

After the award ceremony, Maszlee proceeded to officiate UCSI’s newest addition to its campus - Block G.

The building, which adopts a sustainable rainwater harvesting system and runs on LED lights, incorporates a rooftop basketball court, offices, classrooms, lecture halls, eateries and six levels of carpark.

Higher Education Department director-general Datuk Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir, UCSI chancellor Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad, UCSI Group Founder and CEO Datuk Peter Ng, UCSI Group adviser Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, UCSI University Trust chairman Datuk Dr Mohd Karim Abdullah Omar, UCSI council member Prof Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman and Universiti Putra Malaysia vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Aini Ideris were present at both events.

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