‘Parents, sec schools should get involved in racial harmony programme’

While some youths are sceptical over the government’s plans to introduce ‘racial harmony’ student ambassadors in all polytechnics and universities, others said parents and secondary schools also need to get involved.

On Wednesday, chairman of national racial harmony body OnePeople.sg Zainudin Nordin announced the racial harmony ‘diplomat’ programme will be rolled out in junior colleges this year. There are plans to expand it to varsities and universities, the Straits Times reported.

Under the programme, volunteers and students who have been selected as ambassadors will attend sessions where participants discuss biases and work towards understanding other cultures, reported ST.

The announcement comes in the wake of a spate of racist online postings, one by a China scholar and the other by a Nanyang Polytechnic student.

Some students Yahoo! spoke to were sceptical over how effective the programme would be.

Third year Nanyang Technological University student Ang Yi Cheng, 24, said, “Although it [ambassadors programme] is an avenue to encourage students to promote racial and religious harmony, I don’t think student ambassadors can have so much influence over us.”

Ang added that the programme should be started in secondary school as it is difficult to change a person’s perception once he gets older.

“If we start at a younger age, maybe it will be instilled in us. Secondary school is when we start to grow and mature to be young adults. It is also a phase when you tend to absorb a lot of things,” he said.

Singapore Polytechnic student Lin Liping echoed Ang’s view, saying: “Honestly, I don’t think it [ambassador programme] will really work. I’m sure everyone already knows about racial harmony, so what do we need our friends to teach us?”

The 17-year-old added that the progamme should be expanded to include parents.

“Parents can set a good example for their kids by being a role model. Actually, they are the most logical ambassadors, because how we act sometimes depends on what our parents teach us,” the first year student said.

However, others like 19-year-old Wayne Ma feels the programme will work as student ambassadors are able to relate to their fellow peers more easily.

Said the third year Singapore Polytechnic student: “I think this [ambassador programme] will work because they’re student-led. Students understand their peers better and might be better able to communicate those messages to them.”