Tak kenal maka tak cinta. Jom Kenali Universiti Awam (UA) Malaysia.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Deadly National Service?

Posted by CLF

Have you read the latest news?

KUALA LUMPUR: A National Service trainee who complained of an upset stomach after having lunch, died nine hours later at a hospital.

National Service Training Department director-general Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang Kechil said Too Hui Min, 18, died on Wednesday at 10.45pm at the Slim River Hospital in Perak. [link]

Another unfortunate event for National Service Programme, the 16th casualty related to the programme since it is introduced in 2004. Based on this statistic, do you think National Service (NS) is safe?

Every year, Jabatan Latihan Khidmat Negara (JLKN) promised to improve the quality of the programme to reduce the number of casualty, but to everyone's disappointment, the plan didn't go that well as they planned.

Welcome to the camp!

Why there is anymore people getting themselves sacrificed for the programme? What is actually about JLKN's plan? Until now they haven't make it clear to the public how they handled trainee's injuries and sickness, and how do they compensate the trainee's family should the worst happened.

From the previous records, we can see that medical issues (sickness and diseases) is the main cause of fatality in National Service, which "contributed" more than half of the figures.

Everyone is concern what can they do in order to prevent such disaster to happen in the future. JLKN is trying to clear up all these messes in order to maintain the pride of MoD; parents are concern whether want to send their kids to the camp in the future; and potential-trainees are questioning how they're going to embrace NS when their time is up.

M-16 rifle training.

One of the mandatory requirement to join NS is the trainee will have to do medical checkup at government clinics nationwide. This however, has been overlooked by the parents and the trainees.

A person can felt absolutely healthy and no problem, but that doesn't mean he or she is perfectly medical-fit to join the camp unless he/she do the medical checkup. There is a potential unknown disease, symptoms or sickness which the trainee didn't realised during their entire life. Well, you can only know what's the problem in yourself if you went for a checkup, that's kinda logical isn't it?

Another thing is that, the NS camp officers (based on my NS experience) doesn't really bother much if the trainee did not hand over a complete medical checkup report. They just treat it as if there's nothing happened.

Of course, they do have "special care" for those asthmatic, minor-disability, or mild cardiovascular problem etc trainees. What I mean by "special care" is that, the trainees will be given a nametag specific their problems which they're required to put on them everytime in or out of the camp. They can be exempted in physical activities (the major fun events). That's it.
The easiest way to prevent anything from happening is disallow them to carry out those potential-hazardous activities.

I can't say that their action is wrong, because sensitive trainees might get "attacked" even if they do the slightest activity, like jogging around.

Trainees at the initial stage of NS (boys haven't shaved yet). Photo by Anan Amri.

The trainees have to be responsible for themselves too. They know themselves the best, what can be possible dangerous for them, and they should not fake any evidence if they're medically-unfit to join the programme. I heard a trainee faked their medical checkup in order to join the programme but eventually something happened, luckily it's not life-threatening but he was brought out from the camp soon after that.

To add up the misery, is the hygiene and cleanness of the camp itself. Most camps are located in rural areas, surrounded by vast jungle, or situated next to a river or lake. This may contribute to more possibilities of contracting unusual diseases that rarely found in urban areas.

To rub more salt on the wound, the medical supplies and services in the camp is not satisfactory. I've heard this year they added few medical assistants in every camp, but I dunno whether that really worked out or not. It'll be good to have those professionally-train personnels around, should the trainee needs any sort of treatment, whether it's a physical injury from the trainings, or fatigue.

Sometimes, there's overwhelming response from the trainees which could keep those personnels really busy to deal with so many patients. In this case, sending the sick to the clinic or hospital would be the best choice. But.... many camps chose to deal with it internally rather than sending the trainees out to clinics or hospitals.

Trainees on holiday break. Photo by Anan Amri.

There is something to do with the attitude of the offers in the camp too. Many times I've seen trainees complaining to their teachers/trainers in the camp they're feeling ill and so on, but eventually they're all turn down by the officers. I know some of them are feinting, well some of them are really ill. It's just that the officers thought that the trainees are acting and therefore they turn down the request for inspection or treatment.

Such attitude of the officers.... is questionable. Sometimes there should be no delay to send the trainees to the hospital, because you know, time decides whether the trainee will be able to make it or not. Any dragging and delay, is possible to make the matter worse. Upon checking the records, some of the victims' family claimed that the camp officers do not send the deceased to the hospital in time, which may be the reason for the tragedy turning from bad to worst. It's sad to say this but it's all human error.

Let us pray that there will be no more such depressing news anymore in this year. It's hard to totally eliminate all the errors, because even if humans tried the best to prevent such thing to happen, it's all up to the person up there to decide one's fate.

Hope this is what every trainees will experience....

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  1. Murphy's Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. No matter what safety measures are taken, no matter how careful everyone is, something is bound to go wrong. Forgive me for being pessimistic but that's how it is.

    Occam's Razor states that the simplest explanation is always the best. What is the simplest explanation for the high mortality rate in NS? Nothing other than human mortality. People die every day. Does it make a difference that they died in NS or somewhere else? There will be people dying no matter how we try to avoid it. You can try to lower the mortality rate, but you can never eliminate it.

    I have never participated in National Service, and I am not sorry about it. There are many ways to die, and dying with my head stuck in a toilet bowl or drowning or dying of allergies while participating in a (pointless, at least to me) government-operated summer camp is not high on my list of ways to go.

    Besides that, I don't think that 3 months of said summer camp can do any good to instill any patriotism or national integration. If eleven years of education is not enough to teach our young about moral values, patriotism and tolerance, then what is three months?

    What's worse is, they are also making what could be a great summer camp thing into another thing you use to get co-curricular marks. Some participants join NS just in the hopes that it could boost their co-curricular marks, taking away the whole meaning of why NS was started in the first place.

    I'm sorry if you feel differently about the matter, but I am not sorry for my opinions.

  2. Zachary Wu,

    Thanks for your valuable input here.

    Yes, it's not uncommon to have NS programme bashed and criticize by people. People argue that NS is not safe, inappropriate training ground facilities, and worse medical services record.

    Some still think NS is a waste of time after coming out from the camp.

    I reckon there's lots of flaws in NS, but I'm optimistic that the plan to keep going on, albeit the death toll will likely to increase. whether it's sooner or later (I hope the later).

    It's a failure in the education part if the youngsters couldn't learn patriotism and nationalism in school.
    NS camp provide a totally different perspective to learn all those things, first-hand experience instead of go-by-book theories and concepts in building up patriotism and nationalism in school. 3 months staying together with different races people, is definitely more worthwhile comparing to 11 years of education, without get to know any other people from different races.

    NS as an advantage for co-curricular marks, only a handful of them join NS just for this purpose.

    I still see good things they've taught in NS, and with respect to your view, I take that NS is a good training for young Malaysians. :)

  3. Supposed to be banned. I mean really, they are responsible for the deaths totol 20 something. NS is the place where in a stiuation of life and death(for students of course). Improvement ? what for ? I mean do they check their ficility or people. They want something to rise Malaysia's face just like us want face,we want the rights(correct) in the end we kept silence like nothing is happend. This is the truth, we can change like Obama..... but WHEN ? When we can change ? Just like what John Mayer says Waiting For The World To Change. This Reality can't fight to rights just live that's all

  4. I'm an ex-National-Service-participant and I would like to share my views on the "deadliness" of NS.

    Going through the three-month, bitter-sweet camp, I would say that it really (well, kind of) gave me an insight of the world which I will be facing. It gives me a taste on how people of different upbringings behave, their culture, the do's and don't's, etc. It tells me that the world is not as how it is portrayed in the media (interracial wars, etc.).

    The camps (or mine, at least) was quite safe and the food were not only good, but they were DELICIOUS! So much so that I still can't stop thinking of the food there even after months of returning home. Back to the safe part: I think my trainers did a really good job in ensuring maximum safety of all the trainees, especially in giving us a two-hour long important (albeit a little boring) safety lecture. Sure, I did get a little cut and bruise here and there, but isn't that what life's all about? Making our own mistakes and learning from it? Although, some may never get to learn from them, because NS was, deemed by some, "deadly".

    As the first commenter said, accidents happen. But I don't agree with the "high mortality rate" part. Unless you have proof that the percentage of deaths of non-NS participants (same age, same semester) is lower than the percentage of NS participants (according to age and semester as well), then only will your arguments be credible. We don't know how many of the non-NS participants get murdered, died in accidents, get raped etc. within the same time period. Heck, NS may be a million times (exaggerated) safer than the outside world!

    On whether they would accomplish any of the objectives they set, I think that would be a very subjective question and is very debatable. Take our school syllabuses for example. The government sets monthly objectives on what and how much should a student achieve understanding on. Don't be surprised if only less than 10% of the student population achieve that.

    Stuff like patriotism for instance. I have never in my life agreed with forced patriotism, like forced recital of the Rukun Negara and singing of the Negaraku in schools. Still, I recited it and sang along during my school years. To others, I may seem like a very patriotic citizen. In reality, I could actually be a terrorist with a beard a foot long (except that I would never be able to grow a beard).

    Skills such as independence. To be honest, I don't even know how to hold a mop properly. And when I discovered I actually have to wash my own clothes in NS, I almost died in horror. And the lack of water-heater forced me to bear with ice-cold water everyday in the shower. I almost wanted to start a fire to boil water for baths but obviously it was unrealistic. I learnt that the environment will not change to suit my needs, but it is I who need to change to suit the environment - whether I like it or not. I think this is an extremely valuable life lesson, and if someone were to tell me this without me experiencing it first-hand, I wouldn't take 2 seconds to ponder that point before brushing it off.

    Do I think NS should be abolished? No.
    Why? Because I think the real-life, informal, intrinsic, subconsciously life-changing knowledge I have gain from this camp beats the Pendidikan Moral text book hands down.

  5. for me, ns is just a reason hor our so called 'pemimpin' to steal our money via tender of food, uniform, etc.... all money go to their pocket n 'kroni's' pocket... its juz a waste of taxpayer money... juz like yayasan 1 malaysia...

  6. Angelina, I don't know what NS camp you have actually been to, but let me tell you the experience in most other camps are NOTHING like what you have described. To those who have the same experience as I had, they would say all of your words are complete lies, even though there might be such camp.

    The food in the camp I've been to, is almost like crap. The only people who can stand the food are the Malays who come from the kampung. Even Malays who live in the city couldn't eat the food, and it's not that they do not want to eat. For me, or most Chinese and Indians, these kind of food is considered horrible food. The fish is fried rock solid, same with the chicken. Vegetables are half-cooked and most of the time the fishes are stale, even the eggs.

    And do you all know why Too Hui Min died? Colon infection. Why is there colon infection? It's the food you take. It has nothing to do with medical check-up or physical health beforehand. Sure it's a small matter, stomach upset, gastritis, you'll get used to it. If so, why does she die? Does the NS camp, the government, or any NS officials want the trainees to be half-dead, only they could declare them TIDAK LAYAK?

    So don't bullshit me about how children will get used to the food, don't bullshit me about inevitable deaths and the small little chances of people dying will be there. DO NOT treat humans as STATISTICS. Every single death counts and to me, one death is enough to abolish National Service. You people are saying so easily, but how do you feel when your own child is suffering, and your own child died because he/she was said to have a SMALL problem and was not sent for treatment? How would you feel if your child could just return home and go to your own private hospital and still be alive? How would you feel is you yourself suffered the stomach pain EVERY SINGLE DAY and they tell you ITS A SMALL MATTER and they don't care about you? That pain is worse than death itself.

    On classes, character building and morality, it doesn't make any difference. Mat rempit will still be mat rempit. Smokers will still be smokers. Idiots will still be idiots. And there is no big actual difference between moral classes in school and the classes in NS.

    Independant skills, yes. Washing your own clothes, sweeping/mopping the floor, polishing your shoes, heck this is all simple stuff that your mother can just tell you and you can do it yourself. You can even find it in the Internet. Everyone would still bathe with cold water and suit themselves to the environment if they really have to. This is not a survival camp, not a camp of life and death. There is no need to avoid using washing machines, or to avoid using water heaters to take a bath. And most importantly, there is no need to take the life threatening risk to send your child here to learn these SIMPLE independant skills.

    So please, as a parent, as a child or anybody, please be aware of the risk of this service. There are still children dying. NS should be abolished permanently, and no such camp or law should ever be made to take the lives of young children.

  7. National Service is good and all SPM leavers should attend, like one of them commented Murphys Law says if people were to die, they will die anyway, death has no time and place, if you are called, you will be called.

    Everything started with an idea and so is NS, do you think the Wright Brothers stopped working on building the first Aircraft even after so many mistakes, crashers and fatality case. They went on to dream and to make sure they achieve it that is for Men to Fly.

    Similiar to that NS is also an idea, that goes through the same experience as building the Aircraft, there will be mistakes and lessons to be learned. But through the mistakes we will evolve to be better humans. Give this program a chance, u will see the positive difference in 20-30 years from now. If we cannot integrate amongst the races, we will never learn to genuinely live as True Malaysians, there will always be prejudice among us and prejudice will only split us further. Only in this country we have Chinese, Tamil schools, this vernacular schools though are good but not the best of choice for a Multiracial country, the best will be SK schools but have Peoples Own Laguage classes to safeguard your mother tounge. As it is we Indians, Chinese and Malays do not mingle around much easily and there is always subtle thoughts of prejudice in us thats breeds the distance between races. So the only way for you to learn to mix, understand and accept other races as your Good and Best friends is to mingle and respect each other, at this present moment this can be only be done in NS camps, otherwise we will never achieve this.

    More Indians and More Chinese and More Malays are sending thier children to SJk(T), SJK(C) or SK schools only, why are we distancing ourselves. If America is moving forward by forgoing Racism, Malaysia is moving backwards by breeding Racism through Racial Disintegration.

  8. I totally agree with what anonymous had said.
    and Angelina,everything you said really pissed me off.You can say all things easy and act as though you can think rationally on all these matters, and even analyse the situation that you think it may be right. but come to think twice, like anonymous said, put yourself in the situation of those that had been sacrificed, or if you are the parent of them, would you still be the same, being rational and stand up saying, everyone dies, as if there's nothing happen at all even those that you love, your son or your daughter died in an NS camp?

  9. PLKN should be abolished. Have it done with here and now. We should entreat our youth with real military training. Askar Watan as a simple replacement. Having them go through 1 month of actual hardship will instill the Esprit de corps among recruits. Trust me it works. Unity through adversity.

    1 month of basic recruit teaches these kids more then they'll ever learn in 3 months in PLKN.


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