By Shahfizal Musa
Pix by Saliman Leman
BANGI, 9 May, 2011 – Universities can help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the nation especially among women and children, UKM’s Pro Chancellor Tunku Panglima Besar Kedah Dato’ Seri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz Ibni Sultan Haji Abdul Halim Mu’adzam said at a regional inter University Forum in UKM today.
Quoting statistics from the Ministry of Health, she said, if not checked there will be about 300,000 cases of HIV infection in Malaysia by 2015.
She was giving a Key Note address at the launching of the 2nd UKM- Asean University Network (AUN) Regional Forum On Social Responsibility “Knowledge for people, Research for Community” at Puri Pujangga in the UKM campus here today.
The 3 day forum which began today is a follow-up to a similar forum in Burapha University of Thailand last year.
Supported by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia and the Asia-Talloires Network of Engaged Universities (ATNEU) of which UKM is a member, the forum brought together NGOs, Researchers and other stake holders worldwide under one roof.
The forum was to enable participants to exchange ideas on social responsibility and community engagements by universities.
She said that if institutions of higher learning could work with agencies like UNICEF, charitable foundations, governments, students organisations and NGOs to address community issues, HIV/ AIDS infections can be contained.
She cited the example of the collaboration between UKM and AIESEC (the largest global student body that develops youth leadership capabilities) which had successfully championed “The Red Project” , a youth led community service project aimed at providing education and awareness on HIV/AIDS to young people from schools, colleges and universities in Malaysia.
Universities, she said, must move from their comfort zone and engage their communities directly. Their traditional role as provider of knowledge through teaching and research should not detach them from the community.
“Such traditional functions restrict them mainly to a close circle of professors and students from the upper strata of society and thus lived in relative isolation, by what is proverbially termed as living in the ivory tower.”
Society around the globe demand accountability and wanted to see returns of how higher education can help them develop socially and economically, she said.
Universities must do more than just churning out graduates and research findings as they must also help to solve real problems faced by society, Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz said.
UKM Vice Chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dato’ Wira Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin in a similar vein said that knowledge in Universities to be meaningful must benefit society and the people.
Prof Sharifah Hapsah spoke extensively on UKM’s fruitful effort of transforming its role to also contribute towards solving problems faced by the community.
One such project was Perkasa Remaja (youth empowerment) where all the 62 youth mostly ‘mat rempits’ (those involved in illegal motorcycle racing) who took part in a youth empowerment camp organised by UKM had brought them employment.
Previously they had been mere statistics as those involved in illegal racing but were now useful members of society.
Prof Dr Saran Kaur Gill Deputy Vice Chancellor (Industry and Community Partnership), Sherine El Traboulsi, Representative of the Ma’an Alliance of Arab Universities for Civic Engagement and speakers from various countries attended the forum.