The children need to run to keep their future

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

JUNE 1 — The prime minister favours productivity or wealth solutions which do not burden the national coffers.

Here’s one. Make the kids run, often.

One of the pictures from the — politically-induced — 2018 Port Dickson by-election which was floated around was one candidate running. For the 71-year-old — then — wanted to distinguish his virility compared to the 93-year-old prime minister.

The PKR candidate Anwar Ibrahim was aiming for more than just the coastal town.

Not quite David Hasselhoff but he did look neat in his T-shirt and track-bottom.

He also collected some trash — not sure it was a dig that elections do not have to be reduced to trash-talking.

Anyhow since the ex-PD MP is PM and champions health and sports, perhaps he should get the rest of his administration on-board beginning with the schools.

An active sports culture in schools can be literally the panacea to prevent the overwhelming of our health system. — AFP pic
An active sports culture in schools can be literally the panacea to prevent the overwhelming of our health system. — AFP pic

An active sports culture in schools can be literally the panacea to prevent the overwhelming of our health system. — AFP pic

A nation in stasis

Take a walk around the mall or streets and there will be pudgy children trudging along at a snail’s pace. If a child is found in a park, chances are he is indeed lost since he would not be there otherwise. The young ones are only guilty of running to the ice-cream vendor. They are rolling on the ground if they do not get the latest videogame their friends have.

The government itself has consistently confirmed this phenomenon, the rise of larger than usual — I see you Woke people — children. Report after report

The general increase in girth is the only thing keeping up with our inflation.

How is school the culprit?

It’s not.

Individuals are responsible for themselves and when they are children that responsibility is passed to their primary caregivers and custodians, their parents.

So yes, blame parents for their overweight kids. It’s them stocking the fridge, accepting life is around a game console.

However, the malaise eventually harms the country. Sick and unproductive children due to lifestyle carry the trait to adulthood, and the damage only intensify with age. Some of the children look like they never had a chance to be fit, primed for a hospital bed.

Malaysia always tops the charts when it comes to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and kidney problems. Our neighbours cannot kick us around in these categories like they did at the SEA Games. Lethargy is a national obsession.

The mortality rate is however kept low by our excellent public healthcare. But how long before the dam breaks if the numbers of potential patients increase exponentially due to sedentary lifestyles?

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is at a breaking point with waiting queues of over a year for certain treatments. If the social media shares of outbursts at Malaysia’s National Heart Centre in Serdang are any indicator, the water is starting to get neck-high now at home — compounded by a shrinking birth rate and an ageing population living longer.

Malaysia is indeed not alone here, of course.

The way forward now being championed in this new environment is preventive healthcare — for example find ways to diagnose people early and treat them sooner, and yes exercise is right up there in that action list.

So yes, if the parents fail to keep the kids moderately fit, then the buck is passed to the state.

This means, the state must act. Normalise a culture of sports. As an urgent agenda to protect Malaysia’s future.

A ministry of inaction

Government dictates on average 11 years of our children’s lives — Standard One to Form Five — in the public schools.

Schools use the time to pass basic skills, to read, write and count, and encourages a reading culture.

Those learning years can be utilised to seed health through sports. Implement systematic exercise modules diligently and hope the habit stays in them. This includes the proposition to increase the number of class hours to accommodate more PE classes.

It is a much better plan than to hope they wander into a gym in later life.

Detractors may point that sports in the syllabus is already mandated.

It is but it is a stretch to accuse it of being strictly observed and conducted rigidly. The teachers are generally not thrilled with the outdoors. If there was a module to ditch due to the haze, or hot weather or rains or study week, or examination week, or the time before end of term, or a minister’s visit, PE classes pay the price.

Unlikely to expect teachers to repurpose halls and classrooms to run drills if outdoor activities are inadvisable.

It is not misogynistic to express that this is related to the high ratio of female teachers in our public schools. There has been a low level of sports immersion in our society for the last 40 years at least, and the impact more pronounced among women. They are the victims here. School and social dynamics barred them from sports opportunities and unexposed them to encouragement to play sports consistently in their adolescence. As a result, fewer young women do sports regularly, to their own detriment.

Those who then become teachers are less likely to drive sports themselves.

What was artificially enforced requires an equal effort to reverse. It can be altered in a generation and by then the rate of sports participation cannot be distinguished by gender, and all teachers can be involved in raising cardio rates in their institutions.

An active sports culture in schools can be literally the panacea to prevent the overwhelming of our health system. In extension a clear and present danger to our financial health.

And government is the only one capable to bring this change and there can be no better cheerleader than the prime minister.

Time to bring the tracksuit out, Datuk Seri.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.