Eight teenagers die, two are in critical condition, while six are injured when a car rammed into a group of some 30 to 40 cyclists out for a joyride in a Johor Baru road on Saturday. It was in the dead of night — no pun intended. These children were on their modified bicycles dubbed “basikal nyamuk”, a phenomenon, by their presence on Facebook, is judged to be more than a local happening. In fact, it may be a growing craze among the young, still of schoolgoing age. Today, a protest in Kuala Lumpur has been organised by cyclists who want the city to be made cyclist-friendly. Their grouse — nothing is being done to accommodate their interests, except for the car-free mornings that they view as totally inadequate. They allege, too, that Kuala Lumpur City Hall enforcers have been unnecessarily aggressive by destroying an illegally parked bicycle.

That young children are modifying bicycles is interesting not least because it speaks of thinking and creativity. Albeit it is narrowly confined, but that is an age-related constraint. Who would have the confidence to allow such young, inexperienced schoolchildren to tinker with more sophisticated machines? In this respect, it follows that if left to their own creativity without the guidance of a professional, an experienced mechanic, for instance, these modified bicycles could prove dangerous. The group protesting in KL today are then right; more should be done for them in schools. Integrating this interest into the school curriculum, especially in vocational education, would be good. It is, after all, the application of theoretical knowledge.

As to their “joyriding”, it is not too different from the Mat Rempit and their pursuit of cheap thrills. Nights are the choice for those who do not have the luxury of leisure during the day. Thankfully, these children are not playing truant. The depths of night, too, is when busy roads are usually empty. Indeed, the recent accident was unfortunate in that the children were not expecting a car on the road and the motorist was not expecting a band of young cyclists at 3am or so. It follows then that during weekend nights, some roads of their choice can be closed off so that these children may have the pleasure of enjoying their “creations”. To stifle their ingenuity and creativity is a sure way of killing their spirit or turn them into rebels because they have found a cause.

There has always been a Youth and Sports Ministry in this country. The portfolio remains important not least for its responsibility towards ensuring a generation of sound adults. The initiative should be that of the ministry’s to exploit the interests of the young by working with the Education Ministry. Talk of unmotivated children is, therefore, mistaken, as the basikal nyamuk proves. More likely, it is the indifference of the adults responsible to use the opportunities presented by the children’s own innate interests that kills motivation.

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