In recent years, there is no mistake that the critical role our nation’s youth play in the development of the country has become part of the national agenda.
As the country strides even closer towards the Brunei Vision 2035, youth issues such as employment, entrepreneurship, upskilling, activism as well as education have been pushed to the forefront of the sultanate’s public discourse.
In a titah during the 34th National Day celebration in 2018, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam maintained that the road towards the country’s development is “borne by the younger generation”.
“The country desperately needs the younger generation to dare to lead the development (of the nation)… They are expected to breathe new life into the development efforts of the country,” he added.
Despite this resurgence of hope towards the youth of the nation, these future leaders however must perform the daunting task of attaining the skills and knowledge necessary to manoeuvre through not only the 21st century but the current Fourth Industrial Revolution as well as the impending Society 5.0.
With the monarch calling for a Whole-of-Nation approach to further enhance efforts to generate the economy and development, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, the largest Islamic bank in Brunei has heeded the call by equipping a specific segment of the country’s youth with the right tools that can advance the nation closer towards Vision 2035.
BIBD ALAF: Empowering the underprivileged through life-long learning
BIBD Advocating Life-Long Learning for an Aspiring Future (BIBD ALAF) was launched in May 2013 by Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah.
From the get-go, the unique programme was intended to provide life-long learning aspirations to talented underprivileged students to ensure that they are not limited or left behind due to their financial circumstances.
Students of the ALAF programme are selected based on the family’s monthly household income of not more than $500 and they must achieve excellent examination results (scoring 85% and above) for three consecutive years.
The programme is kept sustainable by the collaborative efforts of both the private and public sectors, which includes BIBD’s own charity expeditions, generous contributions from corporate agencies as well as the general public.
“In principle, the programme is a scholarship for life-long learning for the underprivileged segment (of students) so that they will become financially independent once they graduate from school or the programme,” said BIBD Chief Marketing Officer, Hjh Nurul Akmar Hj Mohd Jaafar.
“Advocating Life-Long Learning for an Aspiring Future (ALAF) strives for this segment of the society to be financially independent, so they can break out of the cycle of poverty, better their lives and have goals that can contribute to the country,” she added.
With about 243 students under their sponsorship since the programme was established eight years ago, Hjh Nurul Akmar reiterated BIBD’s beliefs of the importance of education and how it is a fundamental core for national development.
Part and parcel of the ALAF programme are that it falls in line with the objectives of Brunei Vision 2035, of being nationally recognised for the achievements of its educated and highly skilled people and an economy that is both dynamic and sustainable with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that is among the top 10 countries in the world.
“Though we may have a small part in this, through the 243 students that we have sponsored, we believe that this will create a ripple effect (in the future),” she continued.
Aligning with the national agenda; Brunei Vision 2035
BIBD ALAF provides comprehensive financial and academic support for its students. From primary school to completing university, BIBD ALAF is there to support its students in every step of their educational journey.
According to Hjh Nurul Akmar, BIBD takes great care in the components of education and skills that they deliver to the students.
Whether they involve life, leadership or even future-ready skills, one of the priorities of the programme is to build up this segment of the community to become valuable human assets that will help improve the country’s GDP.
“We have a student who is in the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom taking Pharmacy and one final year student in the Al-Azhar University, Egypt, taking Syariah,” she explained.
“We also have students who are looking to enter the media and creative industry, so imagine the diversity of passion from these ALAF students and the subjects they are taking these can become jobs of the future,” she added.
Furthermore, with the establishment of the BIBD ALAF Centre for Excellence and Empowerment in February of this year, this emphasis towards ensuring ALAF students are “future-ready” is even heightened.
Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, the BIBD ALAF Centre features a computer lab and an IT technology incubator where students are given the opportunity to take up skills that are relevant in this digital age.
From coding, 3D printing to drone building and virtual reality simulations, ALAF students are imbued with skills that will ensure their relevance in the current and future job market.
Aside from this, the students are also taught other skills that address different concerns of the modern age like health and sustainable farming.
This is in due part to the bank’s commitment towards not only the Brunei Vision 2035 but also the Brunei Darussalam United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which in itself naturally falls in step with the national agenda.
Ultimately, the programme is hoped to contribute to the realisation of zero poverty and zero literacy in Brunei Darussalam in line with the National Vision 2035 envisaged by His Majesty the Sultan.
That is to invest in the human capital and resources that are both competitive and resilient as well as to provide comprehensive education to the youth of Brunei in shaping future leaders.
“We really envision our ALAF students to be the future leaders of the country,” continued Hjh Nurul Akmar.
“With the skills we provided, the emotional quotient we have equipped them with and other key things; such as concerns of health, mental health and spirituality, we hope that these students can not only turn their life around but also the country’s,” she added.
For members of the public interested in donating to the BIBD ALAF programme, they can do so by donating through BIBD’s CSR Raised Fund Account at 00-001-01-0400011.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN