Mohan Singh Rendhawa | Malaysia | Asia Samachar | 26 Mar 2015
Our Sikh youth who drop out from the school system after SPM need urgent help from our community leaders. They do not have any government jobs to go to. The doors of the police force are only half open and not many youth want to join the Armed Forces. Very few new Sikhs are recruited into the government service with SPM [Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, a national examination at year 11] qualifications
During the early 1950 and 1960’s there were lots of government jobs available to Sikhs. A young man on passing the Malaysian Certificate of Examinations (MCE) with grade 2 could join the government service, Police Force or the Armed Forces. All these opportunities are either not there or the quota for Sikhs in these organisations is so small that not many Sikhs can be absorbed into such occupations. Our Sikh youth have to be trained to be self employed. The only way to be self employed is to provide a service. To provide a service an individual needs skills. To do this there must be a place to learn.
The Sikh community does not have any skill training center to call their own. What we have to our advantage is that we have many Sikh Gurudwara’s located at strategic locations. These are not fully utilised for the whole week. There are some Gurdwara’s in small towns that are not being used at all due to out-migration. These facilities could be used as centers to introduce skill training to these youth so that they can get motivated to master a skill.
The Gurdwara does not have to train these youth to any high level of skill proficiency. What the Gurdwara need to do is work with other Sikh and non-Sikh non-government organisations (NGOs) to promote a few vital skill to the youth and sell them the potential of becoming their own boss in the future.
By giving a youth a taste of the skill and helping them to buy the concept we can motivate them to take up the skill as their future job. Once the youth get committed they could be channeled to government run community colleges that will provide the training at a very low fee. Currently the government has opened more than 20 community colleges in almost all states. Our youth should take advantage of such facilities provided by the government. We have to work together as 1 team to encourage them to use this facility and promote skill development.
When I was growing up in Penang, the Wadda Gurdwara was in a way a center of learning. We had a lady whom we called sister – Bhenji in Punjabi – so much so we all forgot her real name. This wonderful lady spent 25 years from 1950 to 1975 conducting sewing classes in the afternoon for Punjabi, Tamil and Muslim ladies who would come to the Wadda Gurdwara Penang to learn how to design, cut and sew Punjabi dresses. I remember they used to use recycled newspapers for their cutting exercises.
Some of the ladies who studied here were single mothers or had husbands who were either opium addicts or drunk most of the time. The training at the Wadda Gurdwara provided these ladies a means of earning an honest living and helped them to not only bring up their kids but also educate them. The credit should go to this Bhenji and the committee of the Gurdwara. The committee of that time was the late Mr Hari Singh, a court interpreter, and his visionary friends. They felt that this was the only way a house wife could earn a decent income to prevent her from stretching out her had to seek help form others.
Recently I had a chance to meet up with this wonderful lady and managed to find out her real name. She’s Achint Kaur d/o Bisan Singh, now living in Ipoh, Perak.
“I was paid RM 50 per month by the Gurdwara committee and I had between 7 to 15 students each time,” she said. “I was doing this as a job with full dedication and love as I knew many of these young ladies of that time would be able to use the skills to earn some money for their families.”
Today, if help does not reach our SPM drop out youth in time, we may loose this group to economic conversion to other religions. There are other religious groups who have skill development and job placement programs for such individuals but they also have a hidden agenda, you have to become a member of that community by converting before help is available.
This problem is visible at the Gurdwara and Sikh NGO level. Due to the lack of any formal strategic planning meeting among Gurdwara committees and our many NGOs, no coordinated action can be taken on a national level to help our youth who drop out of the school system.
There is a need to organise an annual Strategic Planning Samelan to discuss our community issues and threats facing the community and to develop goals to address these issues in a coordinated manner. We could all meet up at Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), Selangor, where we have facilities for such kind of activities . Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) and other senior Sikh leaders should help organise such a gathering on an annual basis, just like our annual Samelan for youth. We need to come together as a community to discuss and develop a 5-year plan of action and review the progress of this plan on an annual basis. I am ready to help as facilitator to start the first Strategic Planning Camp going.
Just like Madam Achint Kaur from my childhood days, we could start basic sewing classes, basic vegetarian cooking classes, basic photography and computer classes in our Gurdwaras and progress these kids to community colleges to master the skills.
Unlike the Malay community in Malaysia, we do not have MARA College to take on these young Sikhs. We have to think out of the box on how we can help them make a good start in life. We need a cooperative effort.
To start the ball rolling we first have to have a Strategic Planning meeting with all the Sikh NGOs and Gurdwara committees.. If we continue doing what we have been doing all these years, we will see more of our youth vulnerable to economic conversion. I am looking for likeminded individuals who like to help move this idea forward.
Lt-Kol (Rtd) Mohan Singh Rendhawa, a retired officer from the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), currently provides training in transformational leadership. He has also been active in Sikh activities in Malaysia. He can be contacted at +60178889512 , email: email@example.com. Do drop me a line if you like to join me to move this idea forward .
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
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