Friday, March 23, 2007

Welcome Back From The "War Front", Sakinah

My eldest child Nur Sakinah was drafted in for "national service" for three months beginning January of this year. Yup, I'm referring to the Program Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN).

For the uninitiated, PLKN is a form of national service as to be found in a few other countries such as France, and more closely to our shores, Singapore. The aim is to instill national spirit and a sense of discipline in our future generations.

But unlike the ones in those countries, the people who gets conscripted into PLKN are 17-year olds, fresh out of secondary school. They only train for two and a half months. And even then, only 10% of 17-year olds get called up.

This really begs the question of who really benefits from the program? If we are talking about moulding the future generations, then why a great chunk of the them ( 90% ) are left out?

And for those who answer the call for national service, well, we have heard so much news concerning the poor management of the program. Some lives have been lost, accidents have happened, cases of sexual harassment have been reported. It has made many parents wonder if their children - after going through all the hardships of camp life, have really benefited from it at all.

The people in charge of the camp my daughter attended in Tok Bali, Pasir Putih, did not bother to get certificate of fitness for training equipments. As a result, many training exercises were cancelled. The dinning hall was so filthy that it was sealed by the State Health Department.

When Sakinah finished her stint and returned home recently, I was just relieved and thankful that nothing untoward had befallen her.

Parents are taking a big risk when they agree to send their young children away for camp life. It is only because they trust the government with their children's life and limbs that they are willing to cooperate.

The least the authorities could do is not to betray their trust.

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