His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Chancellor of Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College (KUPU SB), has called on religious education teachers to take on the responsibility of countering social ills that have been "attacking" Bruneians.
The Sultan in his titah said religious education teachers are increasingly important in fending off negative influences that result in social ills, including "spiritual and moral ilnesses".
These "spiritual or moral illnesses" are difficult to control, as they grow quite fast and require extraordinary capability and skills to "treat" and be "prevented", he added.
The monarch was speaking during Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College's (KUPU SB) fifth convocation at the International Convention Centre yesterday.
His Majesty called on authorities to formulate a career progression scheme for religious education teachers, in light of their importance in dealing with moral issues.
"Religious education teachers are on the frontline, and such is the purpose of establishing KUPU SB, which is to produce quality religious teachers capable of educating the nation's children," said the monarch.
His Majesty added that while the Ministry of Education had introduced a Teachers Service Scheme for mainstream educators in 2008, he had not heard of one specifically for religious education teachers. The Sultan went on to say that it is important to produce religious teachers who specialise in Islamic knowledge, in which what they learn can be imparted to the community.
This includes the capability to verify whether certain methodologies and terms that originated elsewhere go against religion.
"We do not want the religious knowledge to be (foreshadowed) by the culture of the current times, because culture itself is not religion; all the more when it goes against the religion.
"Because we know that religious people too at times do not have an in-depth understanding on religious values, like refusing to follow the sunnah, such as reciting bismillah before writing a book or other research papers," he added, saying that it would be a "tragedy" if this happened to KUPU SB.
The monarch also touched on the important role of parents in education, as parents leave a stronger impact on children compared to teachers, as stressed in one of the hadiths by Prophet Muhammad SAW.
"Nevertheless, it is also important for both institutions - parents and teachers - to co-operate in carrying out the major tasks and responsibilities (in educating children)," he said.
His Majesty reminded all 232 KUPU SB graduates and teachers that they are entrusted to share with the community the knowledge they gained throughout their studies. "They cannot shirk such a responsibility anymore; this is their fundamental job and even a holy struggle," he said.
The monarch expressed his delight that KUPU SB is reorganising its programmes and curriculum to make them more relevant and effective, in the context of teacher training. "This is truly important to update and equip oneself (with Islamic knowledge); and it needs to be reminded that KUPU SB is like a factory (striving) for better production," he said.
The monarch further noted the collaboration of the university with other tertiary education institutions overseas.
Collaborations include the Consortium of Asia-Pacific Education Universities and Asia-Pacific University-Community Engagement Network.
"What is hoped is that KUPU SB will not only take the best benefits from its experiences with overseas higher education institutions, but it will also contribute (to people) what it has learned, which is 'unique', as a religious teachers institution in the region," he said.
His Majesty also extended his appreciation and gratitude to the lmembers of the university for their contributions and services, before handing out certificates to KUPU SB graduates at the ICC.