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The Role of Youth in Nation Building


The term ‘nation building’ is usually used to refer to the constructive process of engaging all citizens in building social unity, economic prosperity and political stability in an inclusive and democratic way.

A nation is built out of the human intellect. This means that a nation cannot be built without the recognition and the collective efforts of all citizens, skilled and unskilled, young and old. Young people are a crucial segment of a nation’s development. Their contributions, therefore, are highly needed.

Youth is that period when a man is full of energy, ambitions and zest for life. The power possessed by youth is a recognised force today. The power or the energy can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes. Whenever there is unrest in a country, political forces use youth for their further selfish interests.

On a personal level, youth experiences gain insight into themselves. This helps them analyze their strengths and weaknesses and set personal and vocational goals. On a group level, youth develop the ability to work with others to create a shared vision and to draw on the talents, skills, and energy of others.

The task of nation building is very challenging and can be divided into phases. Everyone can contribute towards it according to his or her capabilities. The young people should be made to understand a specific project and its importance to the society. They should be given a suitable direction so that they can work hard for its fulfilment. This will make them satisfied by the realisation that they have been assigned roles in the nation building. They would be prepared to work sincerely for the welfare of the society and the country.

Every citizen, including the youth, should always have it at the back of their mind that nation building is a collective effort of all citizens in constructing a desired country. No contribution is too small or too big. It must also be noted that nation building starts from the community level up to the national level.

Nation building is a collective effort of all citizens. As an old saying goes: ‘The youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow but also the partners of today’. The youth, as the energetic ambitious and highly capable people, have the responsibility, passion and power of being at the fore-front in developing the nation in a democratic and constructive way.

Government will not deliver change on its own and the only miracle that will save this nation is hard work by the citizens.One key imperative for the new administration is to identify key demographic of the population - that is the youth - which will be critical to drive nation-building agenda. In Malaysia, the youth constitute the majority of the population.

Young people need to rise and claim their rightful place in social, economic and political spaces of Malaysia.The overwhelming demand for youth participation in nation building mainly lies in their ability and agility to execute top notch ideas. The world today is now a connected global village, bringing people closer together, thanks to young people like Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

This was an unimaginable thing 20 years ago. With exposure to global trends and innovative skillsets being discovered on a day-to-day basis, it is clear that the future of any economy in this globalised world lies in their hands. Today, world wide, youths are at the core of making the global economy function through using the power they possess of dictating what happens next. Government must then play a supportive role and create an environment conducive for the empowerment and prosperity of the Malaysian youth.

As constitutionally enshrined, the Government has responsibility to afford youth employment opportunities and other avenues to economic empowerment. The private sector too has a role to play in facilitating youth potential to succeed. Local firms can also follow suit and adopt similar measures. On the other hand, as youth seek to empower themselves economically, they must avoid cutting corners, bearing in mind that quick riches do not last long. They must endeavour to do everything by the book, always staying within the ambit of the law in all their quest.

Youth play a very important role to demonstrate their potential, motivation and passions of making a different in our community. The young generation, as tomorrow’s leaders; have to think together as one. The opportunity of improving our leadership skills is being given to us by taking part in civic and community activities.

Youth leadership programmes will give emphasis on the role of youth in society and fostering national unity with a sense of common and shared destiny to develop the mutual trust and respect among different races in Malaysia at the young age and promote the well-being of the country. Moreover, youth organisations are important and contribute to Malaysian nation-building and development because youth organisations have served as a training ground for many national leaders in Malaysian history. As empowerment emphasizes development of collective rather than individual goals, it will henceforth lead to capacity building and setting the agenda for changes for Malaysia.

In an effort to attain developed nation status by the year 2020, the Malaysian government has made strategic thrusts for the development of youth by improving the access to education and training, inculcating the spirit of competitiveness among youth, strengthening the legal framework of youth development programmes; increasing participation of youth in youth organisations, and promoting national unity and social integration.

In fact, youth leaders, as the powerful pressure groups and guardians of transparency, will enable themselves to query government policies and performance for corrective action to be taken for the development of the country. This is essential for youth organisations and their leaders to champion these new challenges - to check and balance in all major issues, government policies and implementation, because youth comprises a significant proportion of the Malaysian population.

It is also important to involve young people in the consultative process of designing policies that affect youth. If young people are inexperienced at work, they will also be inexperienced about policies but there are some important lessons that we have learned. For example, youth in their upper teens and 20s have been consulted, if not in decision-making, at least in informing them about legislation that would affect their lives. As such, the government policies and constitutional provisions which safeguard the needy will continue to be implemented.

In this aspect, youth leadership is one of the very important elements to ensure that the concept would not deviate from what had been agreed to by our forefathers. In fact, the new Malaysia values and respects the ethnic identities of every community in Malaysia and regards them as assets to be proud of. Youth in order to make his/her country developed, has to sacrifice not only their lives by protecting their country at the borders but also has to protect from internal threats, and make the society a healthy place to live. It is possible only, if the youth realize to stay healthy by sacrificing selfishness, laziness, evilness etc., and by thinking dedicatedly for the growth of nation.

Ignorance, fear, prejudice and apathy, if left unchecked, are fertile ground for breeding hatred, extremism, fatalism and fanaticism, which are the root causes of the world’s ills. So, youths of today play very significant role to demonstrate strong leadership potential, personal drive, and a passion and energy for making a difference in our community and country. No obstacle is too high, too deep or too wide for us to overcome if all of us especially the young generation who will be the leaders of tomorrow willing to join hands, think and act together as 1World.

Advocating Youth Leadership

The central purpose of advocating youth leadership is to support youth in taking the initiative to engage in civic and community activities in order to build on their strengths and self-esteem and to work together as a team in building leadership skills. Youth leadership groups are similar to other youth development groups in that they are structured to offer youth educational, interesting material and resources that address current youth issues. Youth leadership groups are run by the youth themselves, but facilitated by a staff person in your program. Because the groups are self-directed by youth, the facilitator should serve as a support and guide for youth development.

The key for the new Malaysia concept is to practise mutual respect and trust among the different races in Malaysia. However, mutual respect is not just tolerance. That is just the bare minimum. Mutual respect means we have embraced unity in diversity. And secondly, we must trust one another. But trust is not something gained overnight. But if done consciously over time, it will eventually happen. Once trust is developed, Malaysia will be the sum total of all races. We will not be moving as separate communities but as one Malaysia and we will be stronger. It will be a new Malaysia because we’ll change our mindset because we trust and respect each other. We hope all will join us to bring Malaysia to greater heights.

According to the National Centre on Secondary Education and Transition, youth leadership activities can help contributing to and being involved in promoting the well being of the community, developing and using a positive attitude within leadership activities, developing strong, trustworthy relationships with responsible adults and peers, interacting and collaborating with individuals from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, participating in a wide array of career exploration activities, maintaining a commitment to academic and lifelong learning, maintaining and demonstrating a healthy lifestyle.

In a nutshell, the core elements of unity are, firstly, the attitude of acceptance among the races and the people, secondly, principles of nationhood based on the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara (National Ideology), and, thirdly, social justice. As such, the government policies and constitutional provisions which safeguard the needy will continue to be implemented.

Empowering youth towards leaderships enables all of us to get involved in nation building besides promoting national unity and social integration as well as becoming the role models in the society. Efforts to equip youth with the necessary skills and qualities to ensure them of a better future continue to take place in order to meet the accelerated pace of economic development and the changes in the environment.

The strategic thrusts for the development of youth are as follows:

1. Empowering youth for the future through improved access to education and training;

2. Increasing participation of youth in youth organisations;

3. Inculcating the spirit of competitiveness among youth;

4. Strengthening the legal framework of youth development programmes;

5. Promoting national unity and social integration.

To encourage youth to participate actively in nation building, their accessibility to education and training will be further enhanced while leadership and skills training, entrepreneurial development and healthy lifestyles programme can be carried out more extensively. In addition, self-confidence and discipline are positive elements which should be incorporated in the character building programme. Aggressive measures shall be undertaken to increase the accessibility of the youth into life-long learning programme through distance education and non-formal education as an effort to ensure balanced development. With the healthy mental and physical attributes, excellence results in nation growth could be achieved.

According to the Ninth Malaysian Plan, a National Youth Research Institute will be established to undertake research in six areas, namely socialisation of youth, culture and religion, youth potentials and integrity, youth organisations, leadership and volunteerism, education as well as political awareness. Besides, the national youth act - Youth Societies and Youth Development 2007 has been introduced to ensure the youth programmes are implemented in an integrated, coordinated and synergistic manner.

In the aspect of leadership training, a concerted effort has been put to build a new breed of young leaders as prime movers of development. In this regard, the curriculum of leadership training programme could be strengthened to make it more proactive and relevant to future needs. It is estimated that about 100,000 youths, including NGO leaders, will be trained under this programme.

The government will continue to develop and instil leadership qualities among youths by conducting courses and training on good values and positive attitudes. Special courses on values will also be conducted to mould youth as responsible citizens and role models in society. Greater awareness on the important role of youth in forging and promoting unity towards building a united Malaysian nation has been given priority in the leadership training programmes.

A quality youth leader should equip themselves with soft skills in order to outperform as a nation builder. As Malaysia is a multi racial country, interaction and communication among each other should be further enhanced in order to bring our nation to leap on a larger step of improvement with all of us working together on it. Hence, to check racial polarization among youths, more multi racial youth organisations could be established to allow for greater interaction among them. In addition, good moral values such as understanding, harmony, respect for the culture and tradition of other races, goodwill and trust will also be inculcated among the youths to enhance nation building efforts. The private sector will also be encouraged to contribute to youth training as part of their social responsibility. More active participation of youths at the international level could be promoted through intergovernmental and non-governmental institutions.

The implementation of Rakan Muda Programmes have been strengthened to focus on specific target groups, particularly youth who are out of the education system and the unemployed youth as they are more vulnerable and easily influenced to be involved in negative and unhealthy activities. In this regard, Rakan Muda Programmes will focus on efforts to create role models among youth who are caring, skilled and dynamic such as Program Memperkasakan Tenaga Muda. In addition, all these programmes will also focus on enhancing cooperation amongst agencies involved in the social agenda.

The various skills and leadership training programmes aimed at empowering youths have been implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development and Ministry of Human Resources. Apart from producing a productive and disciplined young generation, youth development programmes will continue to focus on skills training and entrepreneurial development to encourage self-employment among youth. They will also be trained to be resilient and to withstand challenges in a competitive environment through on-the-job training and exposure to real work situations.

Global Recognition

Malaysia has come a long way since its independence. Malaysia craves for global recognition as a developed nation as well as a place on the world map. Who then is to lead Malaysia into achieving this particular dream? The answer is definitely not the current leaders - instead, the great bulk of work that must be carried out to ensure Malaysia as a fully developed nation will obviously have to be done by the present generation’s youth. However, the current leaders should not neglect their role in guiding them (the youth) as well as lay the secure foundations that the youth will build upon.

The ultimate aim of Vision 2020 is to make Malaysia a fully developed country, hoping that Malaysians born today and in the years to come will be the last generation of citizens to live in a country that is called ‘developing’. A developed country should not only be developed in the economic sense but also be fully developed along with all other dimensions namely politics, social, spiritual, psychology and culture.

The aforementioned criteria carry a significant amount of truth in them. In terms of politics, if the ruling government is corrupted and insensitive towards the community he or she serves, the country will not be able to progress. An unstable political system often results in chaos as it results in public demonstrations whereby in some cases, violent clashes between citizens and the nation’s defense body may occur. Violent situations like this creates an image of fear and insecurity and often these are the major factors that influences the decision of foreign investors on whether to invest, continue investing or to pull out.

The current governing body will need replacement someday and this replacement will ultimately be succeeded by the current generation - the youth. How are they contributing towards the nation’s growth? Youth bodies or communities such as Rakan Muda, B.R.A.T.S., YouthSays, and the likes are led by youth and for youth. Its activities comprise of culture, social, sports, and etcetera. So how is it this a contributing factor towards the country’s development?

The development of the country should be developed along with other dimensions such as, social, spiritual, psychology and culture. Youth bodies such as the aforementioned promote social bonding activities via forums, sports, support groups, and so forth. Furthermore, Malaysian culture can be promoted too via its cultural activities in the form of dance, drama, music, and so on. These bodies are led by youth for youth and it is only through successful leadership that will permit all these activities to be executed successfully. In other words, the present youths too contribute towards the developing of our nation.

In this regard, youth play a major role in contributing towards the success of Vision 2020 and future development of the country. It is the youth that will eventually succeed their predecessors to lead the country towards its goals and vision. The capability of youth is powerful as displayed in their current activities and they are inevitably going to be the nation’s upcoming successful leaders. This is why they are the main players in succeeding the country’s Vision 2020.