When the Government first launched Khidmat Negara or National Service (thank God it's not called Servis Nasional), I must tell you that I was a critic. Harsh but honest.
I liked the whole idea, basically but I felt the Government's readiness did not match it's commitment. The programme itself was deficient in its design and content. Implementation left much to be desired.
Worse, facilites for recruits, in most instances, were so bad, due to, as we all found out, sub-standard contractors.
In short, it was generally poorly-run and administered. Some horror camp stories did not help better our perception of NS.
But we are all clever critics, aren't we?
It dawned on us all that National Service was here to stay. Deal with it.
Some people, of course, could not. Read HERE.
However, it was also clear that efforts were being made to improve the programme, including the facilities provided in the camps nationwide.
Over time, I believe, things improved.
My eldest, Adel Hakim was not selected for National Service after he finished school in 2007. He was pretty nonchalant about it.
Like "okay if I'm selected, okay if I'm not".
As for my youngest, Shaira who is in Form Five, the horror camp stories about abuse and death scared her no end.
I knew that there was always a chance that she would be selected, just as other students. So, I tried to mentally prepare her for that eventuality, telling her that things have improved and that it is a good programme where she'd meet lots of people. In short, that she would love it.
Yesterday, she called me to say that she had been selected. (No mention of where the camp will be, though).
She was not ecstatic. But not overly downcast.
"Tahniah. Anda di pilih......" -- said the message.
Why was she being congratulated for being selected to three months of physical training, she wondered?
Well, I said....because it would be just too bad if you weren't selected to join this damn good summer camp.
I know I will be in deep trouble if everything turns out otherwise.
Shaira is a little reticent and not prone to making friends. So, she'd have no choice but to make friends.
Besides, she'd come home, fit and trim. This seems to cheer her up a little.
I'm hoping that she'll really come to terms with the whole NS thing.
Meanwhile, Shaira is hoping, wishing, praying......that at least the camp toilets are clean.