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Promoting a More Civic-minded Malaysia

Last update: 09/08/2019
Ravindran Raman Kutty believes that the roads are the best places to test our patience and upbringing. [File picture] --fotoBERNAMA (2019) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
By Ravindran Raman Kutty

The writer is an award-winning communications practitioner and a fellow of the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- One afternoon I reprimanded my daughter, who is a fresh graduate and has been driving for about three years, after she missed the 'Stop-Look-Go' sign on the road and did not have the courtesy to make a gesture of apology to the other drivers.

I then took the opportunity to talk to her about how badly we Malaysians usually behave on the road and that roads are the best places to test our patience and upbringing.

A few unsightly scenes that are not uncommon in Malaysia also sprung to my mind -- the nauseating and sorry state of our public toilets and playgrounds. Our apathetic waste management behaviour. Our cigarette-smoking citizens who think that everything from a drinking cup to dining plate is their ashtray. Those overzealous advertisers of properties, adult toys, loans or plumbing services who make use of every public utility pole or wall space to put forth their illicit and unsolicited advertisements.

How many of us put our food waste into the recycling bin after eating at a fast food joint or hawker centre? How many of us stand on the left side of the elevator, allowing others who are in a hurry to walk past us first?

How often do we wash the colourful waste bins provided to every home by the local authorities? How many of us offer our seat to an elderly person or pregnant lady in a bus, LRT or MRT?

How many men would care to lift the toilet seat before urinating in a toilet? Why do we double park when we can park in a shopping complex, especially in a busy commercial area? How many of us return an item to its original place after we are done with it? How many of us will ensure that the shopping trolley is returned to the shopping cart receptacle after use?

The list can go on and on since we Malaysians are notorious in the common courtesy department.

As a young nation that enjoys an almost 95 percent literacy rate, we are taught several subjects in school. Civics education, sadly, is diluted by other subjects deemed more critical to the nation such as mathematics and science.

Parents these days are busy earning money, not realising that they are losing their lifelong assets -- their children. Children today are growing up with either an iPhone or iPad in their hand from as early as age one or two. If the mother finds it difficult to feed her pride and joy, she switches on the electronic device to keep the child visually engaged.

Gradually, this panacea becomes a ritual, which eventually becomes a lifestyle. The electronic devices are now reducing the hours spent between a child and his or her parents. There is a void in communication and the cultivation of the right values.

In contrast, before the mobile phone era parents were spending more time monitoring, tutoring, teaching and consistently preaching the right values to their children. There is a marked difference in the mannerisms of children who were brought up in the 70s and 80s and children these days. Where did we go wrong?

Civics education must be brought back as a subject to inculcate universal moral values into our future leaders. The students must be taught religiously on the importance of civic-mindedness.

This must also be made an exam subject that is not confined to multiple-choice questions. We want them to ponder and write. We want to challenge the intellect of our future leaders with appropriate case studies and enable them to think as a level-headed Malaysian.

More civic-minded themed murals must be encouraged during art classes to promote civic-mindedness among students. These murals must be featured in public places and strategic spots in the city, where we can portray an inclusive, beaming Malaysia through an organised visual display.

More posters, pictures and murals must also be placed on buses, trains and even Grab taxis to instil the importance of civic-mindedness among Malaysians.

You can see product promotions everywhere but do we see murals promoting civic-mindedness anywhere in our country?

A national cleanliness campaign for school toilets can also be organised nationwide, where we award schools with the cleanest toilets with cash and rewards.

This will inspire schools, teachers, students and headmasters to take the "clean toilet campaign" seriously. Not many schools pay attention to their toilets and this is why the Ministry of Education and schools must work with the Parent-Teacher Associations to ensure that every toilet is kept in pristine condition.

The media must also play a bigger role. RTM, TV3, Astro and the print media must organise regular campaigns and online programmes on civic-mindedness for every sector of society. These programmes must be short yet powerful to create a society which will be reminded of its plural nature.

We must touch on the people’s lifestyle to gain attention and retention. Once the media programmes are established, they must be evaluated for their effectiveness too. There must be a continuous variety of civic-minded media programmes like talk shows and documentaries that gather the comments of people on the street, non-governmental organisation volunteers, ministers and even the prime minister.

Both public-listed companies and government-linked companies must organise corporate social responsibility (CSR) citizenry programmes that promote civic-mindedness.

These programmes should be centred on our Rukun Negara and focus on how we can build a society which is more courteous, kind, inclusive and conscientious of our environment.

That said, we should not stop with school education, media campaigns and CSR programmes alone. The carrot-and-stick approach must be used to deter disapproving behaviour among Malaysians.

To promote civic-mindedness in a holistic manner, we must bring in the enforcement element to balance the equation. Stricter laws must be passed and executed to deal with irresponsible citizens.

(The views expressed in this commentary are the writer's own.)

Edited by Rema Nambiar


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