Where did our little heroes go?

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Source_Star: Where did our little heroes go? Why Not? By WONG SAI WAN

Instead of celebrating children, the Universal Children’s Day is turning out to be an occasion to protect them.

COME every Nov 20, the world celebrates the Universal Children’s Day, which according to the United Nations is to promote international togetherness and awareness among children.

Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 and five years later, the UN General Assembly adopted the “Declaration of the Rights of the Children”.

During the early days, Children’s Day was a public holiday for all kids in Malaysia and there would be a state level and later a national level celebration where brave children were honoured.

Of course, there was the customary free cinema shows and outings during that day.

We also looked forward to read in the newspapers the next day who had won the child bravery award which was then called the Pingat Hang Tuah.

Usually, the winner was a brave child who saved someone’s life in a dramatic fashion and the act of heroism was not that widely reported.

Many of the winners came from the East Coast because of the heroic acts of saving friends and siblings from surging flood waters.

The annual monsoon used to bring forth quite a number of heroes, as did fiery incidents where young ones would rush into a burning house to drag out a sibling or an ageing grandparent.

In those days, whenever a school mate did something very silly but brave, others would poke fun at him or her, saying “Why you want to win the Pingat Hang Tuah?”

The first recipient of the medal was 16-year-old Mohd Nor Osman from Terengganu.

He received the medal from the King and was acknowledged to be a national hero because he saved two children from drowning on two occasions.

Mohd Nor, now 66, still lives in Terengganu and is a father to 10 children.

Rusnah Aksah, from Pahang, became the third recipient of the Pingat Hang Tuah for diving into a river to save the life of a three-year-old girl at Sungai Semenyih on Feb 24, 1961.

Till today, Rusnah is the only female recipient of the award.

The Pingat Hang Tuah was started by the Malaysian Council for Child Welfare but the presenting of the award stopped in 1978.

Instead, the new recognition came to be called Tokoh Kanak-Kanak which recognised academic achievements.

Then in 2006, the Pingat Hang Tuah was revived with the winner being 13-year-old Muhammad Firdaus Haris who saved a four-year-old child from drowning in a swimming pool in a holiday resort in Port Dickson.

The following year, 11-year-old Muhammad Zulfahmi Zuraidi won the 2007 award for saving his two younger siblings from their burning house.

But sadly, the awarding of the Pingat Hang Tuah was stopped again in 2008.

Word has it that there were many criticisms levelled at the reviving of the award which was seen as “against the principle of protection of the young” as it encouraged the young to be reckless.

This is sad because the award was never meant to encourage children to take unnecessary risks but rather to acknowledge those who did.

I am sure the world is big enough for us to celebrate heroic children and at the same time create awareness about children’s welfare.

Has the world become so dark that we no longer want to have heroes and heroines?

Yes, in 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the “Convention of the Rights of the Child” which was said to be an important tool for promoting the rights of children all over the world.

But isn’t it a right to be recognised for one’s achievement?

We seem to be more obsessed these days with advocating the need to protect our children from all the fiends and monsters lurking out there.

This year, we in Malaysia celebrated the Universal Children’s Day by launching a dedicated telephone line 15999 to hear out troubled children.

Called the Childline, Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said it would give children an opportunity to have their problems heard by trained counsellors.

This is a laudable effort as we all know that our young ones go through all sort of pressures from within and outside the family these days.

It is good to know that they have an outlet to voice their problems and heartaches.

However, for many from my generation, the Universal Children’s Day must also be about fun and celebration where kids are treated like kids.

This is even more important in this modern age where they start their paper chase much earlier.

The kids need their own heroes and should not be reduced to celebrity worshipping of pop stars and athletes.

Having heroes of their own age can only be healthy because they can associate with them.

Maybe it is time to revive the Pingat Hang Tuah for a second time as this country needs heroes.

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