Sultan upholds value of reading
By Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday stressed the importance for people to possess knowledge for nation building.

In his titah at the opening of the Knowledge Convention 2011 yesterday at the International Convention Centre in Berakas, His Majesty said the theme was chosen to remind us about the significance of knowledge.

A knowledgeable person is one that endlessly learns, listens, sees and reads to acquire knowledge. This kind of person is mentioned in the Quran as one whose status is uplifted by Allah the Almighty and mankind.

"Where do we stand on this issue pertaining to knowledge?" the monarch asked. "I mean, what is our status on issues pertaining to reading, listening and acquiring reading materials? Based on one study, people in certain developing countries only read one line in a year or at the most half a page in a year.

"Among the developed countries, the rate of those who are able to read is only one page a year. With respect to us, although there hasn't been any study on it, it would probably fall under the category of one line a year or more than one line in a year. If this is correct, then the culture of reading is of great importance that should be prioritised in the national development programme.

"If that is the case, it is the responsibility of the nation to make the people truly knowledgeable, or in other words, acquiring and accepting knowledge through education and reading. Projects and programmes towards this should be provided," said His Majesty.

"In my opinion, matters pertaining to producing knowledgeable people could always be implemented. We could do it nationwide by organising knowledge acquisition and learning activities.

"In a formal way, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education while informally, it could be implemented by various agencies and in adult classes in a new format.

"Intellectuals and scholars could intensify it with various motivational activities, talks at religious halls, suraus, mosques, workplaces and so on.

"In other words, we nurture the culture of gaining knowledge at home, religious halls, workplaces and so on, so that our next generation develops the reading habit and nurtures the culture of knowledge.

"These aspirations are found in the 'Nation of Zikir' plan which requires knowledge to be taught, talks presented, exhibitions showcased, books written and libraries provided to make knowledge a basis for living in a nation.

"Wasn't knowledge prioritised in Islam? Wasn't the first versus brought by Allah the Almighty touch on knowledge?" the Sultan asked.

"Lifelong learning is not something new in Islam. It became a doctrine and soul of the Prophet's mission. We don't have to go the East or the West to acquire and look for the best methodology, concept or philosophy as Islam has it all. We only have to make an effort. If we don't know, ask the people who know. And if no one knows, conduct a study. It should show Islam providing all of these.

"All agencies and knowledgeable persons as well as intellectuals need to frame steps and go to the villages, be it at their religious halls, suraus, mosques, halls, village chiefs' houses and so on, to give motivation to the residents for them to become knowledgeable persons.

"It is not appropriate to deprive the village residents of knowledge just because their mosques or religious halls do not have the facilities and for any other reason.

"Hence, I would like to urge intellectuals, in particular, to sacrifice their energy and for teachers to go the extra mile to disseminate useful knowledge to the residents 'towards a knowledgeable community'.

In concluding his titah, His Majesty hoped that this Knowledge Convention which carries the theme "Education shapes the genuine identity of the people" would achieve its aspiration.

Also present at the ceremony were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah, HRH Prince Haji 'Abdul 'Azim, HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik and HRH Prince 'Abdul Mateen.

The Knowledge Convention is held to mark the 65th birthday anniversary of the monarch. The Minister of Education, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong in his welcoming speech said, seven activities have been arranged for this year's convention including the presentation of premier paper by Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan, Professor at the Department of Usuluddin and Comparative Religion, Malaysia's International Islamic University.

There will also be a premier talk today, premier forum on July 28 where three experts in education have been invited as panelists. Until July 28, there are seminars which focus on education and the community.

There will also be workshops until July 28 where the participants will discuss issues relating to the premier paper, premier forum, talk and seminars. Motivational talks will also be held during the period, while another activity is the exhibition, which will run until July 31.

The exhibition focuses on time tunnel with the slogan lifelong learning. The time tunnel portrays Marriage by the Museums Department; Baby Inside the Womb; the Birth of the National Inheritance brought by the Ministry of Health; and Shelter as the Basis to Shape Human Capacity Building.

The next phase of the time tunnel is Upbringing, Embracing MIB concept by MIB Executive Council; Islamic Education as the Basis to Shape Human Capacity Building brought by the Islamic Studies Department; Producing Graduates by Tertiary Education Institute; Competitive Community by Local Job Agencies and Workforce Development by TAIB and BSP Sdn Bhd; Youth as Hope of the Nation by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports; Shaping Village Community by Kg Belimbing, Kg Pelambayan Village Consultative Councils; Senior Citizens by the Community Development Department; and 'Husnul Khatimah' by Mosque Affairs Department. - Borneo Bulletin (27th July 2011)