It has come to light recently that Malaysian youths feel split when it comes to the country’s future. According to the Merdeka Center’s “National Youth Survey 2021”, 46% of youths opined that the country is heading in the “right” direction, while another 42% believe in the total opposite. 

For some background information regarding the survey, the sample size consisted of 2,520 respondents aged between 18 to 22 years old and it was taken between 19th February 2021 and 20th March 2021. The survey demonstrates a difference of 4% which translates into approximately 100 youths, a difference which in reality is hardly significant.

As someone who is involved in youth advocacy for quite some time, namely through the Undi 18 and the Benar Betul Initiative, the following results gathered from the survey are particularly interesting. Those that believe the country is heading in the right direction shared positive sentiments on aspects such as the country’s administration (17.6%), leadership (11.6%) and economic concerns (9.1%). Those that feel the country is going sideways however, cited politics (24.7%), economic concerns (20.9%), administration (9.6%), health (8%) and leadership (5.6%) as key concerns.

For the last bit of data, 70% of youths polled said that they were uninterested in any information related to politics. In addition, 66% of the aforementioned percentage thought that politicians “do not care what people think”, while 78% shared a common sentiment that politics in this country is “complicated”. 

The immediate conclusion that can be drawn here is that if there’s an area that the youths of Malaysia feel requires an immediate room of improvement, it is our politics. Recently, we have witnessed dissatisfaction among youths directed towards the government, stemming from issues such as the government’s uncoordinated handling of the pandemic to their total silence on alleged police brutality.

The disconnect between the youths and the government can also be felt on several youth-related issues. The “Cerdik” program springs to mind which promised the provision of 150,000 laptops to students, but was later revealed to be merely on loan. Furthermore, the implementation of Undi 18 was subsequently delayed, which may not be realised in time when the next general election comes around.

Therefore, it is of no surprise to me that many Malaysian youths feel unheard in the current political climate with its increasingly unrepresentative politicians; be it age, gender or ethnicity. If I were to be surveyed, I would have responded by saying I am worried for the country’s future. Not only am I disappointed by the declining state of politics, but I am also equally concerned about a possible future where youths choose to be detached from the country’s affairs.

As a youth advocate, as well as a student of Sunway University, I would like to take this opportunity to share three suggestions on how we as youths can steer Malaysia in the right direction.

1. Never stop learning

In all honesty, our national education curriculum hardly fares well in civic education. Many youths I have previously encountered are unaware of the differences between the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara, or are totally unenlightened about the duties of a member in parliament (MP). As a citizen of the social media era, I would highly encourage my fellow youths to take advantage of the numerous advocacy pages available on various digital mediums and use them to equip yourself with the latest information., and @theloudasians are just some of the numerous advocacy pages available on Instagram shedding light on local issues through engaging infographics. It doesn’t take very long to read through a post either as they are written in bite-sized chunks. Use these pages as a source for learning, and support causes that are close to your heart. It takes knowledge about an issue to contribute effectively to it. 

2. Read the news

News is very similar to the pulse of the country. The news informs you firsthand about decisions and matters that may directly or indirectly impact you. However, it is worth acknowledging the decline of news reading as a habit. This is backed up by a study conducted by the Faculty of Education in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) as the study found that only 35% of the university’s students actually read the newspaper.

In the place of traditional newspapers, do consider alternatives like social media news websites such as The Vibes and World of Buzz. Having said that, do be wary of clickbaits and be mindful to always read the full report to get an accurate picture of events. The aforementioned social media pages stated in point 1 above offer commentary on news events too.

3. Support causes that resonate

The most prominent issue concerning youths right now, in my opinion, would be the Undi 18 movement. On 26th March 2021, the Election Commission announced that Undi 18 will be delayed until September 2022. Given the volatile position which the ruling coalition is in right now, the proposed date might be well past the next general election. 

This decision is significant primarily because it will likely undermine the role of 1.2 million Malaysian youths to vote. Voting is important as it is a chance to make yourself heard and be included as a stakeholder in policy making. Amplify your wish to be heard by supporting Undi 18’s campaigns and begin your preparation to be an educated voter.

In addition, there are many other causes that you can support, ranging from human rights, environmental conservation to ending sexual harassment. Choose a cause close to your heart and support it to make Malaysia a better place.

Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” No matter how tired you may be of the injustices or the dire state of our politics, Malaysia as a country has never wronged you. It is within our hands to create a future that is worth living for all of us.

By: Jonathan Lee 

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