Various benefits in store for SMEs under Penjana

June 5th, 2020
 The government decided to help each business through several measures.-NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.The government decided to help each business through several measures.-NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS.

KUALA LUMPUR: Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are expected to gain various benefits from the Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) which was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today.

During a special address to the nation, Muhyiddin said based on feedback given by the business sector, the government decided to help each business through several measures.

He said among the grievances aired by business operators were on the decline of demands by customers and their inability to fully utilise digital technology to generate online sales.

“To encourage micro-enterprises and SMEs to move to the digital or online services, the government, together with the private sector, will finance the venture through a matching grant of RM140 million.

“This allocation will be used for training sessions, vendor subsidies and sales assistance and it will be spearheaded by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) along with selected e-commerce platforms.

“The government, in collaboration with private companies, will be running a ‘Shop Malaysia Online’ campaign to encourage people to shop online, where promotional codes and various discount vouchers will be provided through the e-commerce platform,” he said, adding that to start it off, the government would allocate RM70 million.

The prime minister said the government would also continue to award grants and loans to SMEs and mid-tier companies to enable more companies to subscribe to or use digitalisation services.

This, he said, would amount to RM70 million.

“Firstly, RM100 million of SME Digital Matching Grants will be provided in collaboration with telecommunication companies; secondly RM500 million under the SME Technology Transformation Fund will be provided as a simple loan; and third, RM100 million is allocated under the Smart Automation Grants, where each eligible company will receive a grant of up to RM1 million.”

To assist the sustainability of SMEs involved in the targeted sector, Muhyiddin said the banking sector would offer an additional RM2 billion through the Penjana SME Financing Scheme.

The application process for this financing scheme will begin from mid-June 2020 with a limit of up to RM500,000 per SME.

For micro-enterprises, he said the government would establish Penjana Micro Funding in collaboration with Bank Simpanan Nasional and Tekun Nasional for the financing of RM400 million of which RM50 million would be dedicated to women entrepreneurs.

To strengthen Bumiputera involvement and to ensure sustainability in business and entrepreneurship, the prime minister said funding of RM200 million would be offered through the National Entrepreneur Corporation Berhad (PUNB).

“Also, RM300 million will be channelled to MARA (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) where Bumiputera entrepreneurs and affected skills institutes can obtain funding for working capital.

“To assist SMEs’ cash flow, beginning in July, SME Bank through the SME-GO Scheme will provide financing to 16,000 qualified G2 and G3 grades contractors who have received projects under Prihatin.

“For the convenience of the contractor, no collateral or deposit is required.”

By Adib PoveraHana Naz HarunArfa Yunus.

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5,300 illegals ’stranded’ in Sabah after Philippines refused to accept them

June 5th, 2020

TAWAU: About 5,300 Filipino illegal immigrants are “stranded” at temporary detention centres (PTS) in Sabah after the Philippine government refused to accept their return to the republic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Security Council (NSC) Sabah director Sharifah Sitti Saleha Habib Yussof said this resulted in the Filipino immigrants staying longer at the detention centres.

“The Foreign Ministry hopes the neighbouring countries can cooperate by willing to accepting the entry of their citizens who are being detained for illegal entry into Sabah,” she said here today.

She said that since Jan 1 this year until last March 17, a total of 3,347 illegal immigrants were deported, comprising 2,331 Filipinos, 816 Indonesians and the others from countries such as India, China, Pakistan and Vietnam.

However, since implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18 and then the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) on May, there was no deportation of illegal immigrants from the Philippines, she added.

She expressed her gratitude to Indonesia, including  its consulate (KRI) in Sabah, for extending its cooperation to facilitate the return of its citizens from Malaysia.

She said a total of 322 Indonesian illegal immigrants were deported to the republic through Sabah since the implementation of CMO.

They included 82 people, comprising 77 men and five women, who were deported by ferry from Tawau today, she added.

By: Bernama.

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Bahari is first Orang Asli to be appointed faculty dean

June 4th, 2020
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)'s Professor Dr Bahari Belaton created history by becoming the first Orang Asli to be appointed dean of USM School of Computer Sciences (SOCS). -Pic courtesy of USM Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)’s Professor Dr Bahari Belaton created history by becoming the first Orang Asli to be appointed dean of USM School of Computer Sciences (SOCS). -Pic courtesy of USM

GEORGE TOWN: Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)’s Professor Dr Bahari Belaton created history by becoming the first Orang Asli to be appointed dean of USM School of Computer Sciences (SOCS) effective yesterday.

Bahari, who belongs to the Semai tribe of Tangkai Cermin in Perak, also added another feather to his cap when he was appointed National Advanced IPv6 Centre (NAv6) director.

With these two appointments, Bahari is believed to be the first Orang Asli to be appointed as a dean in Malaysian history and also the first to hold two head of department positions simultaneously in an institution of higher learning in Malaysia.

Known for his expertise in areas of Scientific Data Visualisation, Computer Graphics and Network Security, he has served with USM for more than 24 years and achieved numerous successes throughout his career, especially with regards to academic development and research.

“My aim in life is to serve, provide my expertise and contribute my capabilities to USM, my students, my community and my family,” said Bahari, who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the South Australian Institute of Technology in Australia in 1989.

To fulfil a requirement by the Malaysian Public Service Department (JPA), which specifies that those who intend to serve in the public sector need to have an Honours degree, he then pursued an additional year of study at Flinders University, Australia (1991) to obtain an Honours before completing his Doctoral studies (Ph.D) at Leeds University, United Kingdom (1995).

Bahari, the fifth of seven siblings, lost his father when he was nine. His life became even harder as he had to depend on his mother who struggled to earn a living for the family.

“Around the 1960s, conditions were different than how it is now. Added to the fact that staying in an Orang Asli village that was about 20km from the nearest town, which was Tanjung Tualang, everything was less than rosy.

“In fact, I only came to know in the later years from my late mother that all my other siblings had passed away, leaving only me and my elder sister, without knowing the exact cause of their deaths.

“There was no electricity in our village, and we were fortunate enough to get clean water supply from tin miners, who by chance lived close to the village. It was water from three main pipes that was shared with the whole village.

“Such conditions, however, were not really obstacles for me in seeking knowledge,” he said, as he mentioned that his only sister also managed to make a change in her life by being one of the pioneer nurses at a special hospital for Orang Asli in Gombak, Selangor, and had since retired.

Bahari was raised by his mother single-handedly, and being illiterate, education to her was not a priority.

What mattered most then was the means to earn a living and to continue with life. She did all kinds of work, from searching for forest produce to working for farmers in minding their crops, to make ends meet.

However, he was proud of his mother who was very dear to him, because despite her shortcomings, she had always supported him in his pursuit of knowledge and always tried her best to provide for his needs, including school uniform, shoes, pocket money and so forth.

During his secondary school days, his observations of success stories from other communities would fuel his desire to succeed like them one day.

Bahari also acknowledged that the Department of Orang Asli Affairs (JHEOA) had played an important role throughout his life journey and the lives of other Orang Asli children in providing them with various aids and support.

“External factors were also helpful in giving the right motivation to individuals from minority groups as with me, where support at home was very minimal in assisting and promoting formal education.

“Recognition and support provided by teachers and the school community played a crucial role. In my case for example, the teachers gave me the chance to be the classroom monitor and prefect, among others.

“Honestly, I would say that though it might seem to many as being small or of minor relevance, for the minority groups or those in the bottom billion, such a support would mean a lot; these are the game changers for my life,” he said as he shared some tips on his success until now.

Not forgetting his roots, Bahari also shared some insights and advice to the minority groups such as himself, with the hope of encouraging and inspiring them to also attain success.

He said what was important was that those out there needed to persevere what they hope to achieve, as the challenges faced by this group in whatever area or at whichever level would be twice as hard compared to the general society.

“For the Orang Asli specifically, the challenge to adapt, the dominating sense of togetherness (being different from others) and other aspects are among the ‘unwritten’ issues which need to be dealt with simultaneously along with other challenges faced by the general society.

“The Orang Asli community also need to live with tolerance and be humble, while embracing the need to befriend as many as possible from the general society,” he added.

By Audrey Dermawan.

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Dental students need to adjust to new normal

June 4th, 2020
The dental profession has been listed at the highest risk of Covid-19 exposure. -Pic for illustrations purposes only The dental profession has been listed at the highest risk of Covid-19 exposure. -Pic for illustrations purposes only

LETTER: In March, the New York Times published an article on professions who are st risk of Covid-19. The dental profession has been listed at the highest risk of Covid-19 exposure. These include dentists, dental surgery assistants, dental therapists and dental laboratory technologists.

Close proximity to patients coupled with associated aerosol-generating procedure (AGP) are the main contributing factors.

While it is almost impossible to perform dental procedure at a distance, the only way to reduce the risk during this pandemic is by reducing the number of aerosol-generating procedures and limiting the number of patients seen in clinic.

Since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18, public and private dental schools have ceased clinical dental training and teaching.

The Higher Education Ministry suspended face-to-face clinical teaching, and recommended online teaching and learning based on a university’s capabilities.

However, exceptions are made for some students, including final-year dental students, who are required to complete their clinical training, subject to the termination of the MCO.

To graduate as a dentist, apart from passing the final written examination, dental students need to meet the minimum clinical experience (MCE) and expected clinical experience (ECE) and, more importantly, demonstrate competency skills as recommended by the Malaysian Dental Council (MDC) and Dental Dean Council.

MCE and ECE ensure dental graduates are able to perform clinical procedures on patient independently based on a predetermined standard while practising safe dentistry. MCE and ECE both hands-on in nature, which includes, clinical, laboratory and simulation skills.

These coming months are critical to ensure dental students are equipped with not only clinical skills, but also new cross-infection procedures in this Covid-19 pandemic.

For the past several weeks, dental schools have been preparing themselves with standard operating procedure (SOP) to receive students and patients, and to continue dental teaching under the new norm in clinical practice. The new norm will set a new standard of care in dental practice.

The Malaysian Qualifications Agency recommended the ratio of one lecturer to every four to six dental students. Under the new norm of clinical supervision, owing to cross infection control, the ratio will improve to one lecturer to one to two dental students.

This will significantly improve the clinical dental training for the students. Apart from that, patient can expect a high quality of dental treatment under supervision of clinical specialist lecturers.

As only final-year students are allowed to return to universities, there will be fewer number of dental students in a given time. In simulation clinic or laboratory, non-clinical hands-on procedures can be performed with a small group of students. This will allow students to have more interaction with their supervisors and improve their competency skills.

With the reopening of dental schools, and a new SOP, public can expect a high quality of care from dental students.


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Importance of promoting safety culture

June 4th, 2020
Safety is a cherished personal value that must be practised in all aspects of our lives, whether at the workplace, on the road, at home, in schools, in sports or recreation. --BERNAMA picSafety is a cherished personal value that must be practised in all aspects of our lives, whether at the workplace, on the road, at home, in schools, in sports or recreation. –BERNAMA pic

LETTER: Safety is not merely about rules or regulations and procedures. It is a serious matter that affects life and death.

It is about the prevention of fatal diseases or accidents that can kill or destroy the livelihood of the victims and their family members.

The impact of diseases such as Covid-19 is better understood by the victims and their family members. For those have lost their loved ones, life will never be the same again.

The real challenge for our community is to impress upon everyone the real impact that Covid-19 causes to human lives and the need to prevent it. This is why community empowerment is important to guide, advise and help one another to combat Covid-19.

As such, safety is a cherished personal value that must be practised in all aspects of our lives, whether at the workplace, on the road, at home, in schools, in sports or recreation.

In combating Covid-19, no amount of effort by the Health authorities and the frontliners can help if the community does not empower itself to ensure the health and safety.

For safety to effectively encompass all aspects of life and reinforced as a shared value, lifestyle and attitude, it is vital to have the involvement and participation of the community.

This can be achieved through community outreach educational programmes jointly organised by government agencies and, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations.

The educational programmes should be targeted not just at the working population but also the elderly, housewives, hawkers, shopkeepers and young children.

A community that is well informed and educated on safety will naturally be one where the members value and practise safety as a way of life. Communities with such a culture will have high expectations on safety standards and low or zero tolerance towards hazard to the community or individuals.

Safety is for everyone. Preventing harm to yourself, your family, friends and community gives you greater peace of mind. Let’s work together to get this important message across in our fight against Covid-19.


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Produce a thorough back-to-school blueprint

June 4th, 2020
Education is an innate human right. -- Pix: NSTP/ SYARAFIQ ABD SAMADEducation is an innate human right. — Pix: NSTP/ SYARAFIQ ABD SAMAD

IN Asia, governments pledge billions in stimulus money, yet continue to downplay the reopening of schools. This is unacceptable and demands an urgency equal to other national priorities. Many private schools face a fiscal crunch and without state support, they will plausibly close their doors forever.

In this “new normal”, the United States and certain European states have reopened schools with novel standard operating procedure (SOP). However, parents and teachers fret policymakers are rashly upping the risk of children contracting the virus.

The National Association of Head Teachers (the United Kingdom) says implementing the SOP, precisely those of physical distancing, is a “massive problem” in overcrowded and under-funded schools. Another question, should Asian children return to school before a vaccine is widely available?

The Philippines recently announced that it would board up institutes until further notice. And if we pursue otherwise, how do we make school safe for them? I argue that the rewards of reopening schools as soon as possible outweigh the costs, both socially and economically.

First, it is necessary we agree that education is an innate human right. In lawful societies, the government is duty-bound to educate them. Failure to prioritise literacy leads to people unequipped to prosper in wealth and mind. The bottom line is, we must bust the myth that advances in communications and information technology make homeschooling an easy substitute for brick-and-mortar schools.

While the pandemic forces more adults to work from home, and online learning is ever more accessible, parents are struggling to balance jobs with teaching their kids, a recent Insider Intelligence feature revealed. This flattens the learning curve of children to an alarming degree, and in special needs cases, may cause irreversible harm.

Then, there is the question of individual motivation. Children today may be tech-savvy, but we often hear stories of virtual truancy and missed homework. It is silly to expect them to embrace online learning solely because it involves the Internet, which ordinarily entertains them. Also, few schools possess the technological infrastructure or the human capital to deploy online learning effectively.

And what of underprivileged children? In many Asian countries, clean water and uninterrupted power are luxuries, what to say of broadband Internet and laptops. To worsen matters, affordable state-funded education for such youth is their only ticket out of lack. The economic free-fall that grips the globe has also magnified incidents of domestic abuse of which children are the most vulnerable.

On the flip-side, those opposed to resuming the school year make valid points. Late in May, a New York Times piece reported that underlying health conditions in children worry doctors. In their opinion, most schools are unprepared to receive students in the usual numbers, and the patchy application of safety codes will endanger lives and those of the parents and school staff.

However, studies worldwide reveal that children, for reasons unknown, are less likely to contract the virus. The weightier issues here are of piecemeal funding and the oppressive SOP of social distancing and hygiene, which children cannot uphold.

One of the many roadmaps by the Australian Department of Health that I reviewed appears most workable. Instead of stressing physical distance, the plan urges students and staff to practise rigorous hygiene, and teachers to arrange classes outdoors and to ventilate classrooms by throwing open the windows.

This brings us to the following dilemma: while adolescents and teenagers may accept restrictions, what of preschoolers? Anyone who deals with children aged 6 and below knows laying rules is the surest way to invite rebellion.

Likewise, social interaction in preschools is key. Young children stay engaged and learn best through hands-on activities. The best solution is by gamifying the safety guidelines. How? For starters, let children make their own face masks, do-it-yourself, and you won’t need to coerce their cooperation.

If teachers can design fun activities around the guidelines, I guarantee they will observe students follow along without complaint. Evidence suggests we cannot hunker down and outlast Covid-19. Perhaps, like other respiratory illnesses such as influenza, we have to learn to live with it.

Thus, denying children a timely education will inevitably create greater socio-economic imbalances. Therefore, Asian policymakers must forthwith bring forward a thorough back-to-school blueprint. To accomplish such will require deep coordination with educators, schools and local officials. For, in trying to keep children safe, we must not ruin their lives.

By Jerrica Fatima Ann.

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Keeping creativity afloat during school closure

June 4th, 2020
A student holding up one of the English language projects by English teacher Mohana Ram Murugiah.A student holding up one of the English language projects by English teacher Mohana Ram Murugiah.

Aiming to inject a little excitement into writing, English teacher Mohana Ram Murugiah from Methodist Girls School, Ipoh came out with a writing topic “10 Ways to Kill Your English Teacher” for his students to work on.

The activity is one of the five English language projects planned by Mohana to reach out to his students and improve their language skills despite the challenge of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and school closure.

“This activity was designed to pique their interest in writing and encourage critical thinking. The topic may be controversial but it is catchy enough to attract readers’ attention.

“They were supposed to tackle the topic in many different ways, not to literally ‘kill’ the English teacher. The students were excited upon hearing the topic and they couldn’t wait to start writing. At the same time, they were careful with their ideas as to not offend me as a teacher,” he said.

Realising that parents may face difficulties in helping their children with online learning, Mohana focused on delivering his lesson with project-based learning so that the students could explore and learn something new during this period.

Mohana Ram Murugiah. Mohana Ram Murugiah.

“I can just choose to give homework via the class Telegram group but, I personally feel that I would not be connected to the students by doing so. With the projects however, they constantly reached out to me to seek guidance and ask related questions.

“In one of the projects, they were required to create a scrapbook about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. The activity was a great follow up project to a unit in the Full Blast Form Four textbook. Later, students needed to present their scrapbook in weekly online lessons via Google Meet.

An article by a student on the topic “10 Ways to Kill Your English Teacher”.An article by a student on the topic “10 Ways to Kill Your English Teacher”.

“They were also tasked to come out with the Covid-19 awareness posters. Those who have limited access to technology devices could create the posters in a traditional way using their creativity.

“Other online activities were creating a brochure for an innovative product as well as a group video project titled “My Lockdown Memories”. These are the things to make learning enjoyable for the students while giving them a chance at learning new skills on top of honing their English skills,” he added.

On top of the projects, Mohana has been conducting free English online lessons with around 500 Form Five students every Thursday in two Google Meet sessions, throughout school closure. The participants of the sessions are from different parts of Perak as well as other states.

To help students who are unable to follow his live lessons, Mohana posted videos in his YouTube channel which mainly focuses on writing skill.

For his effort, Mohana was recently named the recipient for the Creative and Innovation Teaching award by the Perak State Education Department in an online Teacher’s Day celebration.

He was also awarded the 2019 Global Teacher Award in New Delhi, India and International Conference on English Language Teaching (ICELT) Top English Teacher Award in 2015.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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Be cautious when buying face masks online, says Ismail Sabri [NSTTV]

June 4th, 2020
PUTRAJAYA: Police have opened 572 investigation papers on fraudulent face mask sales involving RM5.5 million in losses, from March 18 until yesterday.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said most of the transactions were done via social media platforms and mobile messaging applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

“Selangor recorded the highest number of face mask scams with 122 cases followed by 68 cases each in Johor and Penang.

“To date, police have arrested 81 people (related to face masks scams) and 53 have been charged in Court.

“I hope people would be careful when making online transactions. Please avoid doing transactions on websites which appear suspicious and read the reviews from other users before placing any orders,” he said during his daily press conference here today.

On other matters, the Defence Minister said 111 motorists trying to cross the state borders without permission were told to turn back by the police, who conducted 140 intrastate roadblocks nationwide yesterday.

By Adib Povera.

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Temperature checks, eating in class during recess to be the new normal when schools reopen, says Education Minister

June 4th, 2020

KAJANG: Temperature screening before entering the school compound and eating in the classroom during recess are among the new normal practices students need to adopt when schools reopen.

Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said the guidelines stipulated that teachers will carry out body temperature checks when students enter school compounds and if they showed any symptoms, further action would be taken.

“We are also aware that some students walk or cycle to school and the temperature could be slightly above 37.5°C… so these students will be asked to rest first to ensure their body temperature returns to normal before it is checked again.

“Each school will have an isolation room. If the student shows any symptoms they will be brought there and the school, besides contacting the parents, will also contact the nearest health centre for further action, ” he said.

Mohd Radzi, who is also a senior minister, told Bernama this after a visit to see the preparations for school reopening at SMK Engku Husain in Semenyih on Wednesday (June 3).

Also present were Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, National Security Council (MKN) director-general Mohd Rabin Basir and Education director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim.

The new normal practices are among the Education Ministry’s school reopening management guidelines to be distributed to schools beginning Thursday (June 4).

The guidelines were also posted on the ministry’s website.


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Eight M’sian varsities among top 200 Asian universities’ list

June 4th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Eight Malaysian universities have maintained their spots in the top 200 universities in Asia.

The universities ranked in the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Rankings 2020 are Universiti Malaya (UM); Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM); Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM); Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP); Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM); Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM); Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR).

The eighth edition of the rankings saw UPM and UKM move up 43 spots and 10 spots respectively.

UKM stands at 160th while UPM at 145th.

A total of 489 institutions were included in the survey, a 17% increase from 2019, THE said in a statement on Wednesday (June 3).

“With 78 institutions qualifying for the THE Asia University Rankings 2020 for the first time and a record 30 countries and regions represented, the competition across the region has never been greater,” it added.

UM ranked 43rd position, while UTAR was placed at 119th; UTP (124th); UTM (143rd); USM (156th) and UniMAP (165th).

This was the first time UniMAP made it into the rankings


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