Let’s Improve Civic-Consciousness Together


This morning, it was business as usual as my family did our usual rounds of dropping off my son at his Taska, and then making a turn to drop off my other half at his workplace. However, as I was exiting the passenger side of the car to walk around to the driver’s side, we heard a sound – a plasticky thunk on the ground at the next shop lot behind our car.

“What the…” my husband stared at the shop lot as I made my way to the driver’s door.

“What? What happened?” I asked.

“That woman! She just threw that thing and just went into the office,” he pointed at a plastic cup on the ground, with the cover still intact and a straw poking out of it.

One of the disposable takeaway cups that street vendors often sell their drinks in. He then marched over to the shop lot to, what I assume, give a glare at whoever it was that did the filthy deed.

The fact that it is a woman, who obviously holds a job and is not an undocumented immigrant like those poor people we often point our fingers at for all the wrongs happening in KK, is also the culprit of indiscriminate littering, kind of begs this question.

Is this a thing that only happens occasionally and committed by a handful of people?

However, recent events say that this is not the case.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the bookworms of KK were overjoyed by the opening of the long-awaited beautiful library in Tanjung Aru.

Scores of people attended, I didn’t even know we had that many book-lovers in our city. Not wishing to miss out on the fun, I decided to make a visit on the evening of the 2nd day of the opening. I adore libraries.

What I witnessed when I stepped foot into the library, left much to be desired. It looked like there were fingerprints at every available surface. There was even dirty fingerprints close to the top of the silver doors of the brand-new elevator, inside and outside.

I went to see the much-talked-about children’s area. It was mayhem, with books were strewn across the floor, children spinning on the swings, and children climbing up the net. Above, older children were jumping up and down on the net, or running in circles and screaming.

I looked to my left and saw to my dismay, a discarded bottle on the shelf with red liquid in it. Not only that, I saw a parent sitting on the floor next to the net, busy with the phone, with a canned drink on the floor. A drink that can possibly be knocked over at any moment by a running child.

My conclusion upon this visit is simple. KK, as much as I love my city, is not ready to have nice things. We can’t have nice toilets, we can’t have nice buildings, we can’t have anything that is characteristic of a civilized city.

I found out later on that this new library was the victim of vandalism. Older children who have the opportunity to be at school, judging by their ability to write their names on the wall, are perpetrators of this horrific misdemeanor.

Some of the suggestions that came out of this were that the library was not adequately staffed and monitored to ensure its patrons behave. Similar suggestions were given for improving the trash problem in KK, by putting more work on the shoulders of our city council. But is that really the root of the problem that we are witnessing now?

If it necessary to always have someone police bad behavior, then how do cities of developed countries do without?

In KK, I have seen trash tossed out of buses (including school buses!), tables at fast food restaurants left littered with discarded food wrappers and drinks, half empty bottles left sitting on the ground or some ledge, used diapers left in the parking lot of a mall, the list just goes on and on. Just take a peek into one of the drains here and you will see it chock- full of discarded plastic bottles.

Trash aside, I have also observed selfish behaviors like hogging seats that someone else could sit on by putting their bags on it, double parking and not leaving a number, or parking in disabled parking spots. It is frustrating to see the level that we have descended to despite proudly calling ourselves a city.

I don’t believe that beach clean-ups are the answer to our problems, but a change of mindset is required. I believe that what we are witnessing now is the result of the “amah mentality” – the deluded belief that someone else is responsible for cleaning up after us.

It is time to change, and it is up to you and me and our children. Being a citizen of Malaysia shouldn’t be just about having rights, but having the responsibility to ensure that all public facilities are well-kept for the enjoyment of all. This country afterall belongs to all of us.

It is not too late to instill this sense of duty to our children.

My son Timmy, despite being just 3 years old, has surprised me with his own sense of civic duty one day while we were out eating at a McDonald’s. While we were eating, he suddenly stands up with the empty fries packet in hand.

I asked “where are you going, Timmy?” thinking he was off to do something mischievous
as usual.

“Throw in dustbin” he says. And off he went, as you can see from this photo (attached).

No doubt that this is what he learnt from school, but we as parents should be models of good behavior as well. No matter how busy I am sure we all are in this day and age, we should never be too busy to show our kids to do what is right as members of a community.

Here are ten things that we should do as parents, to help our children understand their basic responsibilities as citizens of KK city through civic consciousness:-

1. Encourage your family to recycle, reuse and reduce. Learn about your carbon footprint. Explain why this is important to your kids.
2. Learn together with your kids about the various tasks that the city council does for the city.3. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of who they are, even under stressful situations such as driving or tense face-to-face interactions.
4. Model respect for others and their values and ideas by actively listening and considering the opinions of others.
5. Talk with your kids about social responsibility and the effects our actions have on others.
6. Encourage global citizenship and teamwork by signing your kids up for sports, clubs and other co-curricular activities at school
7. Take your kids with you when you volunteer in your community or favorite NGO.
8. Find your neighborhood, city, state, and country on Google Maps and discuss geographic topography with your kids.
9. Discuss the effect that media, advertising, and political ads have on our daily decisions.
10. Read biographies on historical figures together with your kids.


Written by Sabrina Aripen, Parents Avenue’s Guest Writer
Communications & Leadership Professional and Founder and Chairperson of Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All Sabah (SERATA)

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