Students of the current day are a generation that is impacting the world we live in. We yearn to feel empowered and we treasure the core value of freedom. We wish to explore opportunities, the lesser known, and overcome obstacles by making our voices heard.
While many believe that our voices tend to fall on deaf ears, others are optimistic and even confident that they are heard and appreciated.
Recently, when chatting with a few friends who are final year university students, the topic of our readiness to fully embrace student empowerment came up. We all agreed that students nowadays are ready to be trailblazers in spreading and practising innovative ideas that can improve our quality of life.
Our conversations led us to mapping out two forms of student empowerment. The first is the autonomy granted to students that enable us to implement activities and events of our own. The second is the opportunity to sharpen our skills that simultaneously motivates us to be more proactive in achieving our goals.
My friends and I are happy to see that there are various instances in which there are signs of student empowerment on campus. They range from big ideas that impact the society to smaller ones that allows students to put their theoretical knowledge to practice.
For example, students’ ideas have been taken seriously at the Malaysia National Student Representative Council (MPPK) meetings. At the 21st edition of the MPPK meeting, student representatives from various higher education institutions (HEIs) raised 11 issues to be considered for implementation by the government.
Four out of the eleven have been implemented thus far. They are the establishment of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) Special Committee with students, improvement in the quality of internet access to facilitate effective implementation of online teaching and learning activities, PENJANA Career Development Programme (PENJANA-KPT-CAP) and the housing rental for students programme. The other seven initiatives are making steady progress and will be launched in the near future.
This shows that the government in general and the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) in particular are supportive in shaping a heritage of leadership among students.
The second example of student empowerment is the presence of student representatives at management meetings at some universities. They are allowed to share their thoughts and ideas. To an extent, they actively participate in decision-making processes. This encourages them to take ownership of activities relating to education and lead other students towards a better change.
Another example of activities that utilise student organisations is convocation and carnivals. By providing such opportunities to the students, we definitely can showcase our capabilities in leading, organising and executing plans.
This experience cultivates strong leadership characteristics and skills development that aids in fostering effective communication skills and a sense of responsibility. Although these are areas that do receive attention in some of our courses, nevertheless, applying them to real-life instances offers first-hand exposure to students.
It is hoped that these skills will be useful for us, particularly during our job hunt process upon graduation.
My discussion with friends has made me realise that we students are ready to play our role as useful members of our university community and the society at large. It is time for us to walk the talk.
Mohammad Saifullah Mazlan is a final-year student at Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) in Terengganu.