RAKAN Muda, a programme tailored for Malaysia’s youth, has been re-launched recently, which speaks volumes of the failure of the 1990s version. The government did everything, including design healthy lifestyle activities for youngsters to simply participate in. Over time, these declined to almost nothing meaningful, and buildings intended to support such activities came into disuse. Sum total, a waste of public money because no lasting outcome was achieved other than to amuse the young because momentum never took hold. This time around, it has been revived with an allocation of RM10 million, which is targeted at re-branding. An approach that puts the burden of substance on the beneficiaries themselves may have the potential of creating the momentum needed to allow for programmes that leave legacies and thus, is sustainable.

No longer will the old categories of activities, such as the Rakan Sukan, Rakan Wajadiri and the others apply. Instead, with a stress on creativity that would positively impact nation-building and working with already identified mentors — active in such areas as weaving, music, sports, literature and craftmanship — the new Rakan Muda will be open to all within the ages of 15 to 30. A dedicated website, to be launched at the upcoming Youth Festival, will facilitate access for those with ideas interested in looking for funding. The premise of this approach is that the young are full of ideas and the aim is to give them the opportunity to follow through with their proposed projects. Naturally, an assumption is that the competition will be intense, as such applications will be assessed by an evaluation committee.

To publicise the re-banded Rakan Muda programme, the mentors will travel nationwide in roadshows to share their experience and, at the same time, identify talented youth throughout the country. According to Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the old programme had lost its focus and the new one will, presumably, stay focused on its objective: to help the younger generation develop talents and, consequently, be free of social ills. The need then, is for a platform where the talent realised is given an outlet. The Rakan Muda mentors have started a platform on which the participating youth is invited to be part of. By so doing, in that the outcome of the project started has a specific direction, the new Rakan Muda will have a sense of achievement that should keep participants clued into a goal. In this respect, therefore, the difference between the old and the new programme is stark. In there is the hope that this time around, the programme grows and becomes sustainable and, given that generation after generation of Malaysian youth need a source of intellectual and creative stimulation, the new Rakan Muda might yet be the arena where youthful exuberance is harnessed towards nation-building. Monies well spent is what the country needs to create the critical mass for a quantum leap that can qualitatively take the country into new frontiers of possibilities. Only then can a Malaysian civilisation take hold, one that will create the much needed common denominator of integration, which defines the inimitable, unique Malaysia.