KAJANG: For retired government servant R. Maniam, a stint as a trainer for the national service (NS) is opening a new door for him. He plans to start a programme to fight illiteracy among teenagers.
Maniam met many 18-year-old trainees who could not write nor read during his stint as character-building trainer.
“I feel so miserable seeing illiterate trainees being marginalised because their language skill hampered their learning process and participation in the classroom module.
“Contrary to general perception, the illiterate trainees are not the trouble makers in the classroom. They are keen to learn but they have difficulty in following the lessons.
“I tried my best to converse in their mother tongue, such as Tamil, to coach them personally but I have problem if the illiterate trainee is a Chinese because I do not speak Chinese dialects,” he said in an interview at Universiti Kebangssan Malaysia in Bangi near here recently.
Not all those enlisted are Form Five school leavers. Some are already in the workforce after having dropped out from school and others have never received formal education.
Maniam, 58, who had served as the assistant director of protection division under the Social Welfare Department, said he hoped to initiate a programme to help illiterate teenagers and adults after completing his stint with NS.
“I appeal to like-minded individuals or non-governmental organisations to contact me to discuss how we can help to eradicate illiteracy among adults by providing free literacy classes,” he said. Maniam can be reached at 012- 213 7546.
The NS Council is aware of the problem after its inspectorate committee members went to the ground to gather feedback on the implementation of the programme at 41 camps and 22 public institutes of higher learning during the last few months.
MCA Youth secretary-general and NS inspectorate Loh Seng Kok said there were suggestions to put the illiterate trainees in a special class during the nation-building and character-building modules – both required reading and writing skills – to provide more personalised attention to help them cope with the lessons.
Some trainers have proposed that only Form Five school leavers be drafted for the NS programme in the future to avoid complications.
“Sometimes, illiterate trainees are a ‘threat’ in the classroom. When they could not follow the discussion, they tend to enter a defensive and retaliatory mode by refusing to co-operate or participate in the activities.
“They will then create an uneasy atmosphere in the classroom,” said a trainer who wanted to be known as R. Sran.
Another trainer G. Geetha said: “Once, there was a trainee in my class who did not even know how to hold a pen and he was not interested in the lessons at all. He just wanted to go back to work in his farm.”
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