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By Aimy Mohamed Yusoff
(This article is part one of two series and is released in conjunction with the National Youth Day which falls on May 15)
KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 (Bernama) -- At age 13, Harish Nickholas Nixson enrolled in a cake and pastry baking course under the GENIUS Remaja programme overseen by the Teen Empowerment Centre (PERKASA).
Now 17, the only child of a widowed mother after the loss of his father five years ago, said he joined to avoid being ensnared by social vices.
Via this Ministry of Education programme run by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Harish has also been able to earn pocket money to pay for the Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) exam fees himself.
“This programme has been very helpful to me -- not only to develop my hobby, but also to do something for my mother. The teachers also pay me for helping them,” he told Bernama.
Harish, who dreams of becoming an astronomer one day, said his mother taught him to be independent at a young age, and with guidance from teachers now sells baked goods via social media.
“I want to step up my marketing efforts. My mother has a certificate in baking so I plan to help her by running a business while studying.
“It will also help fund my university education because I don’t want to depend on anyone (for money),” he said, while adding that he attends weekend baking classes at the Desa Rejang public housing project (PPA) GENIUS Remaja community centre.
Harish is among the teenagers who have been given the chance to participate in the GENIUS Remaja programme aimed at developing the skills of B40 youth while protecting them from dangerous activities.
TERTIARY LEVEL SKILLS
Naili Najati Johari, 22, said she went from knowing nothing about photography to becoming a freelance photographer and videographer after joining the GENIUS Remaja programme at age 17.
“I thought photography was as easy as snapping a picture with a phone camera, but it’s not. The knowledge I got is on par with a university course and as a result, I can take quality pictures for weddings,” she said, while adding that she had been hired to shoot wedding pictures and a video for a European couple.
Naili, who now works as a sales and marketing executive at a local company, said her photography has helped her earn extra cash to support her family and herself.
POLISHING UP TALENT
The courses in the GENIUS Remaja programme aren’t just about providing activities for the youth, but also instilling respect and discipline, as well as building self-esteem and communication skills.
Syaidatul Kamra Syahira Kamaruddin -- who prefers to be called Dayang -- loves to sing so she didn’t need much convincing to join the music and vocal classes when she was 16.
Now 19, Dayang is more inclined towards a career in law than show business. However, she found the training to teach skills that have helped her get a few steps closer to her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Aside from being taught proper singing techniques, her teacher was also strict about discipline so “punctuality was important, as well as staying focused in class”.
“So I practiced this in school and it changed me. I used to fail quite frequently, but now I’m an A-student,” she said.
Faizatul Husna Nasarudin, 17, feels shy being in front of a lot of people but it didn’t stop her from enrolling in a beauty and make-up course when she was 15.
“I feel inspired to further my education in cosmetology because I have an interest in it. Whatever I learnt in the course I want to continue in my future,” said the youngest child in a family of five children.
BEING A TEACHER AND FRIEND
The professionals involved in the different courses by PERKASA have helped bring about change in the teens.
Music and vocal teacher, Shahrol Bahri Shaarani, believes in cultivating a good teacher-student relationship “because being a friend makes them more understanding”.
“We also try to protect them from negative influences and point them in the right direction,” said the educator who has been with PERKASA for seven years.
Cake and pastry teacher, Nur Aliya Md Zin, said students are more willing to open up and not be absent from class because of the good relationship.
“We’re like friends sharing stories. When we meet at the weekend I ask: ‘How has your week been? Are you all OK? What did you do in school? Have you got any problems at school?’
“So while we’re baking, we chat. Sometimes they will start opening up and we understand what’s going on with them,” said the GENIUS Remaja programme graduate.
The GENIUS Remaja programme is among seven initiatives -- GENIUS Negara, GENIUS@Pintar, GENIUS Insan, GENIUS Seni, GENIUS Kurnia and GENIUS Talent -- being coordinated by MOE’s GENIUS division.
Translated by Sonja Mustaffa
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