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The Tapak Expo Cinta Sayang, Sungai Petani, was a buzz. Buses were pulling out of the place towards many destinations in Kedah. Parents and children were hugging each other. It was the 27th of December, 2008. Karishma, Teoh Winny, Syazana, Ashley and Kirtana were also there, waiting to board their buses to the Damai Park Resort in Merbok, Kedah. These five girls from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Convent Father Barre, Sungai Petani, were among the first batch of trainees for the 2009 National Service Training Program which would end on 11 March 2009. Apprehensive as well as excited, the five friends were also grateful that they were going to the same camp and the camp was only 20 minutes' drive from their homes in Sungai Petani.

As soon as the bus left Sungai Petani, a fascilitator handed out RM5.00 to each trainee as allowance for their breakfast for the day. The trainees will be paid RM450.00 at the end of the three months, with six meals a day prepared at the camp and activities from 7.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. They also have a rest period in the evening.

There was registration and division of the trainees into groups or 'companies' when they arrived at the camp nestled in the Bujang Valley amidst lush jungles. The boys and girls were housed at different dormitories. Before they went to leave their things in the dormitories, they had to buy locks for their lockers. The trainees were given towels, uniforms, belts, shoes and T-shirts. Each dormitory housed 28 trainees. There were nine bathrooms and toilets at each dormitory.

Although homesickness was a common ailment among the trainees, the activities they had to carry out each day made the trainees become more and more involved in their day-to-day activities. There has been a lot of improvement in this area since the program was implemented. Parents of trainees could visit them for a few hours on Saturdays, handphones of trainees were returned on Thursdays and collected back on Saturdays. There were many public phones in the area and calls can be made on weekdays during their rest time. All these aspects have reduced a lot of tension, homesickness and tears among the youths. Moreover, there was a cooperative store which sold titbits and other necessities. Food was good at the Damai Park Resort, the trainees were not complaining, or suffering from food poisoning or diarrhea which occurred in some other camps. The fascilitators were understanding disciplinarians with compassion. Despite all the negative reports in the newspapers and by past trainees, Karishma and her friends found themselves enjoying the programme.

The National Service Program, which was implemented in 2003, with a three-month program, was aimed at bonding the youths of Malaysia together and create a Malaysian nation as the problem of racial polarization was found to pervade educational institutions in Malaysia. Besides developing racial unity and national integration, the program is designed to increase patriotism among the younger generation, produce positive attitude based on good values, boost the spirit of volunteerism and create a new generation who are energetic, vibrant and full of confidence.

All these objectives are to be achieved through modules on physical, nation building, community service and character building. The physical module aims to develop high endurance and strength in the area of mental, discipline, self-confidence, teamwork, leadership and friendship through activities like flying fox, abseiling, obstacle race, water sports, marching, unarmed combat and exposure to handling of firearms. To create and instill the spirit of sharing and serving the community is the objective of the community service program. While the nation building module aims to develop the spirit of love and care for the country, the character building module develops self-exploration, self-esteem, leadership values and challenge management skill.

The youths were randomly selected out of 450,000 youths in one particular year, through a computerized process. Conscripts are 18 years of age and picked from the national database that includes all citizens registered with a Malaysian identity card, whether born locally or overseas.

At the end of the 10-week stint, the trainees agreed unanimously that the program developed an individual's confidence, improved social skills and enhanced discipline. Most students agreed that they were glad to be selected and Syazana said, 'I would recommend it to all Malaysians youths.' Karishma summed it all, `Apart from making students realize the importance of our potential contributions to the nation, the experience I gained from this training has added value to my life.'

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1.

a) which state was the camp as mentioned in paragraph 1 ?

b) Why were the five friends grateful ? Give two reasons.

c) From paragraph 2, why were the trainees given RM5.00 ?

  2.

a) From paragraph 3, what happened when the trainees arrived at the camp ?

b) From paragraph 4, how did the trainees overcome the 'common ailment' ?

  3.

From paragraph 4, what positive changes had taken place since the implementation of the program ?

  4.

From paragraph 4, what problems were usually encountered by the trainees at National Service camps ?

  5. Why do you think Karishma and her friends were enjoying the program ? Give two reasons.
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Answers
 

1.

a) Kedah

b) (i) They were going to the same camp. (ii) The camp is only 20 minutes drive from their homes.

c) It was their allowance for breakfast for the day.

 

2.

a) There was registration and division of the trainees into groups or 'companies'.

b) The activities they had to carry out each day made the trainees become more and more involved in their day-to-day activities.

 

3.

Parents of trainees could visit them for a few hours on Saturdays, the trainees could also make calls with their handphones which are returned on Thursdays and collected on Saturdays. Many public phones are also available now.
 

4.

Food poisoning and diarrhea.
 

5.

They could see their parents on Saturdays as well as keep in touch with friends and family during weekends.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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