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Congratulations SPM Class Of 2020

Older people, often unfairly doubt whether the youth are resilient or can carry on the traditions of their societies.

The SPM results should put such fears to rest, at least at this juncture.

The Class of 2020 has proven that the indomitable Malaysian spirit of being able to not only persevere but prosper lives on and will continue to live on in them.

No doubt, scholars, academics, and educationists will be intensely studying how these young Malaysians managed to pull it off, despite the many disruptions and dislocations faced by them.

But no one should look askance at the achievement of the Class of 2020, of being able to complete their secondary education in the middle of a raging, worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and faced with tremendous adversity.

Because, make no mistake, the Class of 2020 was confronted with many obstacles—many of which did not have to be in their way in the first place.

This includes flip-flops on learning policy, a lack of substantial support for online learning (especially for the B40 students) and the current administration’s glaring shortcomings in managing the county’s pandemic response in general.

Indeed, it is heart breaking to think that some our ex-Form Fivers will never be able to show parents or other loved ones that succumbed to the coronavirus their good results. Even one case of this is too many.

The news should spur us all, but particularly the government, to action for and on behalf of the “Generation Covid”—the youths whose education and entry into adulthood have been impacted by the pandemic.

Yes, the Class of 2020 did well despite the odds. But these were challenges that no generation ought to face, not least without government assistance.

The Class of 2020 came out swinging. But I am confident that they will agree that they should be the last generation of Malaysian children to have to suffer like they did.

There is little certainty that Malaysia will be able to achieve herd immunity soon despite efforts to speed up the national vaccination campaign.

The government, in particular the Senior Minister and Minister of Education Radzi bin Md. Jidin should anticipate possible and further disruptions to the school system. Indeed, this has already happened with the latest “total lockdown”.

His colleagues and he have had more than a year on the job and yet fundamental issues persist, including a shortage of devices for students in need and a critical lack of support for teachers to make the most of online learning.

Does anyone really believe that online learning, or face-to-face-schooling with physical distancing for that matter, whether from a public health or financial standpoint, is any easier for B40 and M40 students as well as their families today than it was a year ago?

My friends in Pakatan Harapan (PH) and I, as well as countless civil society groups have in good faith outlined solutions on what should be done many a time—but our feedback has invariably fallen on deaf ears.

Moreover, I have also consistently argued that the Class of 2020 and indeed, the rest of the “Generation Covid” will need to be monitored and supported.

They successfully navigated the “storm” sitting of the SPM during a pandemic. But that was just the first of many squalls ahead: how will their experiences impact on their performance in higher education and indeed, when they start their careers?

That is why I have urged for the “Generation Covid” to be assisted when they further their studies or enter the job market.

For instance, higher education institutions may have to expand or strengthen their Foundation or Diploma offerings if “Generation Covid” enrolees need more preparation to be able to tackle tertiary-level work.

Employers may also need to ensure that proper training and HR engagement is given to their workers should they lack the relevant skills. That is what all good businesses do anyway.

And overall, we certainly need better job creation policies and initiatives than what the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has offered so far.

Such oversight may have to continue for years, long after the pandemic is over—although it is inevitable that some “Generation Covid” youths will do better than the others.

That is why this task must be comprehensive, granular and ought to have begun months ago, if not last year.

Fail on this, and Malaysia’s “Generation Covid” as well as its “Class of 2020” cohort risk becoming a “Lost Generation”. Our country will likewise suffer.

To the Class of 2020: I wish you all the very best. Your SPM results—whatever they were—do not define you.

What is decisive is the content of your character and good that you do in your families, peer group and society.

The future will be difficult, but it will still be YOUR future: to shape and build lives upon.

I pledge that I will do the best I can to ensure that it is one that not only sees Malaysia recover from the pandemic, but is also filled with hope and opportunities for you all.