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Fewer Boy Scouts Not Only A PFS Dilemma

It's good to know that the Penang Free School scouts are not the only ones facing dwindling numbers in membership as portrayed by Bulbir Singh in a letter to The Star recently. In response, Jonathan Cheah has suggested reviving teachers' interest in scouting.

Revive teachers’ interest in scouting

IT was with great interest and pride that I read the articles by Bulbir Singh and Omar on the Boy Scouts (Star Education), not so long ago.

I must agree that while the scouting movement is still in existence, it is not as active as it used to be.

I was a scout for five years in school and came back to assist my schoolteacher as an assistant scoutmaster. I was promoted to scoutmaster to assist the district commissioner.

It was through scouting and the activities organised by the movement that I learnt some life lessons.

Simples chores that ranged from making a bed to cooking and making handicrafts, were basic skills I acquired from my scouting years.

There were also the numerous character-builidng elements which proved invaluable to me in my tertiary studies and early aduthood.

Leading a patrol or even the troop humbled me for I had to deal with situations that required the wisdom of people whom I would have otherwise dismissed as being “dull and incapable”.

I realise now that in most situations, one need not have academic intelligence, but be street-smart, with a good dose of grit and determination.

I was awarded the King Scout's award years ago, together with some of my peers.

If not for the support and dedication of my parents and scoutmasters, my fellow scouts and I wouldn’t be what we are today.

Scouting membership has increased over the years. However, there seems to be a lack of passion and dedication from the top.

I am sure there are many school teachers who are willing to put in the extra effort to boost the movement and all that it stands for. But I do not forsee this happening soon, because they are bogged with schoolwork and co-curricular activities.

There seems to be a mismatch between teachers and the various uniformed bodies they are supposed to be in charge of.

Many fresh graduate teachers who have undergone scouting woodbadge (leadership courses) in teacher training colleges, shy away from taking on any role in the movement.

Are they afraid to make a committment because of their already heavy workload?

Schools have no choice then, but to appoint inexperienced or uninterested teachers to take up the position of scout masters.

I have noted that many an enthusiastic student quickly loses interest in the movement because of “unqualified” scout masters who cannot guide or train them.

Then, there are volunteers – old scouts like me – who go back to schools as scout masters and trainers, just for the love of it.

We spend time and money, not expecting any remuneration. Our only mission is to see that the scouts are active and achieve their badges.

However, the lack of cooperation between the volunteers and the schools is sometimes a setback.

Many schools have their co-curricular activities on school days while the volunteers, being working adults, are only availabe on weekends.

In a nutshell, the Education Ministry should work together with the Scouts Association of Malaysia to revive the interest of teachers in scouting.

It should also allow volunteers from outside to work together with current school teachers.

The input and knowledge of these volunteers are an asset and should be tapped to the fullest. After all, it is the students who will fully benefit from the scouting experience.

Will this be enough to reverse the trend? Although it will help in a small way, I seriously doubt it will have a major impact. I still believe that it all still rests on the students themselves and their interest in scouting. If we're able to capture their imagination, then it's a done deal. However parents or teachers try to put up obstacles in front of us, we will still be able to find a way around them because of our passion for scouting. For me, that's what we have to do to tackle the dwindling numbers in the scouting movement.

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