TEMERLOH, PAHANG, 12 APRIL:Some 600 local students who are participants of empower ECER programme in Temerloh had an experience of a lifetime as they found themselves learning from and being inspired by Malaysia’s first and only astronaut, Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor in a special programme held here today.

The astronaut addressed the secondary school students from SMK Bahaman and SMK Lanchang, aged between 13 and 17, who attended an interactive session entitled “Your Power Within! Self Confidence & Self Realisation”.

Y.B. Dato’ Haji Mohd Sharkar bin Haji Shamsudin, the state assemblyman for Lanchang, was also present to officiate the program.

This is the third in a series of motivational sessions organised by the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) in collaboration with Datuk Dr Sheik Muszaphar for the participants of its empower ECER Academic Skills Training programme. On April 8, ECERDC took the astronaut to an Orang Asli primary school in Lipis, and in March, a similar programme was conducted for empower ECER students in Cameron Highlands.

Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John said, “We firmly believe that students learn best from example. We also realise that rural and remote communities tend to be cut off from positive mainstream influences, and to address this, we decided to bring a towering Malaysian to them.”

“Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar is a stellar example of someone who has achieved his dreams by setting his mind to it. Of the many barriers he had to overcome, the hardest probably was self-doubt and personal limitations.

“That is our key message to empower ECER students, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds. We are convinced that every student selected for our empower ECER programme has the potential to shine with the right kind of motivation and encouragement. Meeting someone of the stature of Datuk Dr Sheikh, and listening to his life experiences will boost their confidence, encourage them to dream big and realise the importance of excelling in their studies, the first step towards making dreams come true.”

While Sheikh Muszaphar’s appearance was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, students also participated in interactive activities and games conducted by a team of motivators led by Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar himself.

Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar shared his life experiences with the students and the difficult choices he had to make to achieve his ambition. It was motivating and meaningful, and the students were delighted with the chance to meet him face-to-face and hear first-hand accounts of his out-of-the-world experiences. They also had a chance to view the astronaut’s special space suit, gloves, parachute, the mini Qur’an and other personal effects that were part of the historic space mission.

empower ECER is a twin-pronged human capital development initiative of ECERDC that focuses on Academic Skills Training for examination-year students and Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for adults in the ECER. Human capital development is vital in supporting the progressive transformation of ECER’s economy and in this context, empower ECER targets academically weak students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while its adult reach is the unemployed or underemployed, single mothers, those in low-paying jobs and aspiring entrepreneurs. empower ECER aims to improve the academic performance of students and empower the adults with marketable skills which allows them to have better employment and business prospects.

First launched in Bentong in 2010, empower ECER is currently being implemented in nine ECER districts namely, Bentong, Temerloh, Raub, Cameron Highland, Lipis, Kuala Pahang in Pahang; Bachok and Jeli in Kelantan; and Kemaman in Terengganu. As at end-2012, a total of 11,426 participants, comprising 6,776 students and 4,650 adults have benefitted from the empower ECER programme.