Our Youth Need Opportunities to Display Their Talents

About three weeks ago, an 11-year-old girl called Maryam Muzamir put Malaysia on the map. The Late Late Show with James Corden, a famous US talk show, praised Maryam for her success. “You may have heard of this girl. She is absolutely amazing. Maryam Muzamir, an 11-year-old student in Malaysia, has found a use for common food waste. She turns fish shells into new feed sustainable livestock. She’s 11 years old! Yes, in Malaysia. She has already won three international awards for her groundbreaking idea!”

Maryam made world headlines after she won various awards at the ICAN in Canada. This standard five student from SK (P) Methodist in Kuantan, Pahang, had not only won the gold medal. She also clinched the Canadian Special Award and Best Young Inventor Award. Beating 600 contestants from 70 countries is not an easy thing to do. On top of that, she was the youngest winner of the competition!

Photo credit https://www.penerangan.gov.my/japenv2/index.php/2021/09/26/tahniah-maryam-muzamir-pingat-emas-pertandingan-inovasi-dan-reka-cipta-antarabangsa-kanada-ke-6/

Maryam is not the only young talent that we have. Many others excelled in either domestic or at the international stage. Wan Auni Umayrah Wan Mohd Asri, a 16-year-old student, won as the best student in a national competition. NowyouSEEme was a Thalassaemia awareness campaign organised by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and Repsol Malaysia. Wan Auni won the award as she impressed the judges on leading her school in the five months-long campaign. Her school SMK Paka, Terengganu, also won first place in the competition. At the campaign’s virtual award ceremony, the organiser gave Wan Auni’s the chance to say a few words. At the age of only 16, her confidence in giving an acceptance speech in a live virtual event is outstanding. Hence it is not surprising that she won the first runner-up of Bernama TV national news anchor challenge amongst secondary school students.

Photo credit https://nowyouseeme.com.my/?p=winners#penganugerahan_khas_murid_terbaik_gold

How did you feel when you heard about these achievements? Aren’t we proud of them? Of course, we do! We need more of these talents to shine regardless on the national or international stage. For us to identify these talents, opportunities must be abundant. Unfortunately, that is lacking.

There are many private companies wanted to provide opportunities for these young talents. These firms wanted to conduct CSR programs in these schools to give back to the community. They have the means to provide the platform for these talents to shine. Despite their interest, many programs could not materialise. There are two main reasons why these opportunities are over before they even start.

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

One of the reasons is that many teachers in our public schools are too focused on academic excellence. They are expecting that all students must do well only in their studies. Due to this mindset, CSR programs that could unleash the potential of these students are over. These teachers need to realise that not every kid is good at academics. If a student does not do well in academics, it does not mean that they are not good at others. Unfortunately, some parents are also on the same bandwagon.

Another reason is the unprofessionalism of some officers in the Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, these officers are paying too much attention to personal gains instead of planning the best interest of the students. So, when private organisations want to work with them to introduce CSR programs in schools, they will turn them down. Agreeing to do these programs will ‘increase’ their workload; hence they rather say no.

To unleash full youth potential, we need to see them in a holistic approach. Extra-curricular activities / CSR programs are as important as academics too. These activities can help students to learn about themselves. It helps develop and use their skills and knowledge in different contexts. When they take part in other activities, they get the chance to explore various interests. At the same time, they are unlocking passions they never knew they had. This is how Maryam gets her calling. According to her father, Professor Dr. Muzamir Hassan, his daughter always being observant. He realised her creativity since she was four as she loves playing with Lego. Thanks to her parents and her teachers for encouraging her to be innovative from day one.

One of the most significant advantages of extracurricular activities is they can help the youth to gain “real world” skills. These skills include:
• Goal setting
• Teamwork
• Time management
• Prioritisation
• Problem-solving
• Analytical thinking
• Leadership
• Public speaking

Just like how important academics are, obtaining soft skills are also crucial. Like it or not, the issue of lacking soft skills has been our problem for quite some time. How are we expecting graduates to be good in soft skills where there is a lack of opportunities to learn in public schools?

No doubt, we are proud of achievements made by youth like Maryam and Wan Auni. For us to continue nurturing young talents like them, we need a change of mindset. We need all the supports from government officers, teachers as well as parents. We should leverage the platforms offered by the private sectors so that we constantly groom more talents. Taking a quote from Marcus Buckingham, “Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. The time you spend with your best is, quite simply, your most productive time.”

Arif Dzulkifli is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Arif Dzulkifli
Author: Arif Dzulkifli

Full-time marketer and part-time creative writer based in PJ, Selangor