Malaysian Indian group helps community excel in education

November 8th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

HindrafKuala Lumpur, Nov 8 (IANS) A second generation Malaysian Indian entrepreneur has established a network to help ethnic Indians in the country achieve excellence and success through education.Academician Siva Kumar Balasundram and his colleagues have set up the network - TheMind - for ethnic Indians, who are estimated to number 2.6 million and form eight percent of Malaysia’s multi-ethnic population of 28 million.

TheMind (Malaysian Indian Educational Development) Association, is an organisation of high academic achievers.

Indians often complain of lack of adequate job and education opportunities. One of the consequences has been the emergence of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), which has been banned and its five leaders jailed after they staged a protest rally to demand more opportunities.

Balasundram and his colleagues had to struggle to achieve high academic status and believe that other Indians too can achieve similar success in education with the right help, encouragement and motivation.

“We believe educational attainment is the one sure path for Malaysian Indians to advancement in life and success,” Balasundaram, 37, a senior lecturer at UPM and a specialist on precision agriculture, was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Saturday.

The core group of 20 high achievers, headed by Vinod Sekhar, organises opportunity seminars, motivation forums and courses for Indians.

They also organise sessions with rural Indian youth to place them in training institutes after they have completed their schooling.

TheMind has also set up an e-mail network of over 50,000 individuals who act as initiators or helpers, offering advice, job vacancies and other pointers to needy individuals - for instance, where to get loans, scholarships and jobs.

“It is like a help-line and it’s growing in size,” said association vice-president Ganesan Vadamalai, 36, an agricultural scientist, referring to TheMind Bulletin Board.

In 2005, the group organised the 9th Malaysia Plan - Voices of the Grassroots, a joint programme with ERA Consumer that was supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the European Union.

In 2007, they organised the National Indian Youth Convention, which attracted widespread attention from Indian youths, teachers, professionals and business people hungry to develop themselves, network and succeed in life.

Among the speakers at this convention was Petra Group founder president and CEO Vinod Sekhar, whose late father B.C. Sekhar was a renowned rubber specialist.

A one-day seminar in Kulim in April this year saw TheMind enthusiasts like Ganesan Vadamalai coming face-to-face with the myriad problems Indian youths face - poverty, low skills, low academic achievements, lack of scholarships and being sidelined from mainstream development.

“They were in the low information group, and did not have adequate information on how to seize the opportunities and advance themselves,” Vadamalai said, adding that 15 youths who had completed their schooling and were about to enter the job market as low-skilled employees were persuaded to study new skills at vocational institutes.

“They can get much higher wages with higher skills,” he said, adding that TheMind intended to conduct more forums to place Indian youths in skills training centres.

“We want to make this a permanent feature of our activities because Indian enrolment in skills institutes is low.”

TheMind is a registered organisation and entirely voluntary.

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