The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Academics go on the ground to help needy youths, senior citizens
KUALA LUMPUR: They have cushy jobs and can afford to lead a comfortable life but the academic staff of a university here are coming out of their comfort zone by reaching out to the underprivileged communities in rural areas.
Several lecturers from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Razak School of Engineering and Advanced Technology (UTM Razak School) have teamed up with the relevant Rural Transformation Centres (RTC) to conduct skills enhancement courses for youths to improve their employability, and open a physiotherapy centre at a transit home for abandoned senior citizens and disabled persons.
(The government has created RTCs, under its National Blue Ocean Strategy’s Rural Transformation Programme, all over the country to serve as catalysts for economic growth in rural areas.)
On Feb 25, the lecturers conducted a one-day workshop on electrical wiring for youths at Kampung Pasir Putih in Kalumpang, Selangor, which was attended by more than 20 youths.
On March 4, a one-day workshop on network system wiring was held at Kampung Serting Ulu in Simpang Pertang, Negeri Sembilan, where about 20 youths participated. Both workshops were conducted free of charge for the participants.
Project head Dr Hazilah Mad Kaidi told Bernama the training programme, based on the concept of transfer of knowledge, was aimed at youths who could not afford or did not have the opportunity to pursue higher studies.
Their participation in such skills enhancement courses would help them to secure jobs or start their own business.
“Most of the participants hold SPM certificates but there are some who have had to drop out of school and find jobs due to their families’ financial constraints.
“They have the capability actually but need more exposure. Perhaps, they were not able to go for similar courses elsewhere because they could not afford the fees,” said the UTM Razak School lecturer.
She said the free workshops were a good way to attract underprivileged youths who, hopefully, would benefit from the skills they had learnt.
According to Hazilah, the university has been monitoring the impact of the workshops and found that the participants had not only put their new skills to use but also showed an interest to learn more.
Some of them managed to find jobs after attending the workshops while others who were already employed added value to their existing skills.
“After our session in Kalumpang ended, the participants took the initiative to repair a damaged switch at the community hall where we were conducting the workshop. This showed that they had gained from the knowledge that we had shared with them,” said Hazilah.
1Malaysia Internet Centre manager Azizan Talib, 24, who attended the workshop on network wiring system in Simpang Pertang, said the knowledge he had gained on wiring came in handy for him as he himself was a graduate in computer science.
“Although I’m well versed in programming, I did not know anything about wiring or the physical aspect of network wiring until I attended this workshop,” he said, adding that the participants were also taught how to generate an income from their own business.
Hazilah, meanwhile, said it was good for university academic staff to go on the ground and share their expertise with the people, especially the rural communities.
“We shouldn’t just remain on our campus. Once in a while, we should go see the situation on the ground as only then will we be able to understand what’s going on outside the campus.
“It’s a fact that many of our youths are not getting enough opportunities (for self-development) and some of them feel they are being marginalised,” she added.
The UTM Razak School lecturers have also succeeded in setting up a physiotherapy centre at Pusat Jagaan Nur Hasanah in Beranang, Selangor, with financial contributions from UTM’s University Community Transformation Centre.
Head of this project Mohamad Zaki Hassan, who is also a senior lecturer at UTM Razak School, said besides purchasing the necessary equipment, the project also entailed the construction of a single-storey building beside the home to serve as the physiotherapy centre.
The centre, which was completed early this year, is also equipped with a treadmill and exercise bicycle, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar monitors.
Pusat Jagaan Nur Hasanah, a transit centre for abandoned senior citizens and disabled persons who are referred there by government hospitals, currently has 20 residents, all males aged between 50 and 80.
“The physiotherapy centre has helped to improve their quality of life and overall health, and even reduce their emotional stress,” said Mohamad Zaki.
Mat Tajudin Mat Hussin, 64, is among the inmates who have benefited tremendously from the physiotherapy sessions. He used to be immobile but now he can walk, thanks to his daily exercise regimen on the recumbent bicycle.
“My blood pressure is under control now and I don’t have to take any medicine for it. I’ve also managed to reduce my weight from 78kg to 70kg,” said Mat Tajudin, who has been staying at the home since 2013.