Archive for the ‘Ethnic languages & Elective Subjects.’ Category

NST Leader: Pride and prejudice

Sunday, June 14th, 2020
 Rohingya refugees attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2019. - AFP/file pic

Rohingya refugees attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2019. – AFP/file pic

XENOPHOBIA in Malaysia is rearing its ugly head. Again.

The latest is in Johor, with a banner reading “Kami Tak Perlukan Anda Disini (We don’t need you here)” going viral. It is directed at the Rohingya, the most persecuted people in the world. Fortunately, Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar has intervened. If royal intervention is needed to eradicate prejudice, then we are in a sad state.

Many conveniently blame the prejudice on Covid-19. Be not so quick. Xenophobia or any other hate-fuelled phobia has a source elsewhere. Look no further than the heart, for it is here the taint begins. And it is in this very same place the ugly spot can be removed. Let’s not forget, the heart is the abode of love.

If we turn xenophobic against the Rohingya, what’s the difference between us and the ethnic cleansers of Myanmar? Or for that matter, the xenophobes from elsewhere. Isn’t there enough hate around the world? Must we add to this tinderbox that our troubled and troubling world already is? Whose side are we on?

The Myanmar military regime with genocidal tendencies, or those who fight for a more humane world? Humans or race? Granted, the origins of prejudice have a complex narrative. But it is all nurture and never nature. There is no original sin here. Prejudice is a pair of glasses we put on. It is a learned way of seeing. And a wrong way of seeing at that.

The good news is that it can be corrected though we must do plenty of work. Because what needs repair isn’t the physical pair of eyes, but the “eyes” of the heart. This again is a learned way of seeing. A right way of seeing. This requires knowledge. Knowledge about the human race and everything in the universe that surrounds us.

Consider the Earth. It is not all ours. We share this beautiful planet with 7.7 billion others of all colours that our skin pigments allow. But this isn’t the same as ethnicity, of which there are said to be 650 to 6,000, depending upon who is doing the seeing. This is understandable.

Like race, ethnicity is a mere social construct. Put another way, they are man-made constructs. What is real though is the human race that traces its origin to a common primordial pair. We are all related. This we often forget. Because it happened so long ago.

The Rohingya, the African-Americans, the Caucasians, the Malays, the Indians, the Chinese, and men and women of every other name we have taken to calling, are related. If we remember this, we will stop hating each other.

There is another thing. We share this generous Earth with other life forms, too. Experts tell us there are some 8.7 million species of plants and animals in the world. Hate them away and our lives will be threatened. Besides, they were here before we arrived some 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. Lest we forget, they hosted us. It’s only just we return the favour.

We owe a favour to our human kind, too. It doesn’t matter what label we give ourselves or others apply on us. Remember, it is a human construct. There is no ethnic label where we came from nor where we will go to. We learnt this here.

And we must unlearn it here, too. The heart of the matter is this: all lives matter.

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KSS wants proper Kadazan language taught in schools

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Kadazan Society Sabah (KSS) will pursue the teaching of the Kadazan language as a ‘mother tongue’ language to be taught in schools as provided for under the Education Act 1996 (Act 550).

This was to ensure the teaching of proper Kadazan language in schools as opposed to what is currently being taught, which was not their mother tongue.

KSS in a statement said parents are concerned as their children were not taught their proper mother tongue language and that they themselves have problems understanding it.

This would defeat the purpose of calling it a ‘mother tongue’ language or subject for the children, it said, if in actual fact it was not their mother tongue language being taught to them.

It stated that KSS have met the Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik in their pursuit and submitted a working paper to suggest the implementations which is hoped to be approved sooner rather than later.

“KSS is not against any other language being taught in schools but if we manage to get approval on it and the implementation of it thereafter, at least the Kadazan children will have the right to choose their own ‘mother tongue’ language in schools and then it would be right to call it their ‘mother tongue’ language if they are allowed to learn it.

“However, our pursuit of the teaching will be done in the correct manner and in accordance with the Education Act,” the statement said.

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Reorientating public administrators

Sunday, October 28th, 2018
Administrative and Diplomatic Service personnel at a townhall with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya in August. Alternative views for participation, speech, interaction and creativity have emerged in post-May 9 Malaysia. Hence, thinking about space (and place), scale and ratio is a fundamental ingredient in PTD training and orientation. FILE PIC

THE bureaucracy continues the administration of a nation regardless of political change. At least, that is the observation in theorising on political and social revolutions in the modern world.

Recently, I engaged with a group of Administrative and Diplomatic Service (Perkhidmatan Tadbir dan Diplomatik) cadets in talking about the nation at the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN). The title of my lecture was “Malaysia: engaging with History, State and Society”.

In the session, I touched on a number of areas deemed to be useful to the orientation of members of the nation’s elite civil service. These included managing representations of discourse, history and historiography; colonialism; “Malaysia” as rantau/region and as nation-state; phases of independence, nation-crafting, ethnicity and identity; the New Economic Policy, the Iranian Revolution, Islamisation and Globalisation; and, Technology, new media and new history, as well as decolonisation. I also touched on the current discourse on the origins of the Malays, and the contestations on their history and narrative in recent times. Public debates and subsequent policies have to be informed on the nature of the discourse and how it influences the nation.

In that regard, civil servants, especially those at the policy level, must be informed of the different levels of discourse permeating in our midst. What is popularly known as public perception is actually crafted and informed by these discourses, their levels and interactions.

Policy, academic and popular levels of discourses and feed are informed by each other. PTD cadets, in taking on the role of policymakers, must be engaged as to the origins of the discourses and how they affect public sentiments. What is important here is to hold in abeyance what happens on the ground through formulating an objectivised knowledge of the national society.

The civil service serves the government of the day. Like any major national institutions, it cannot be partisan. At the policymaking level, civil servants serve as social scientists. They should develop such an orientation in structuring practice as produced by knowledge — that of the concrete and of the abstract. They have to forge paths in understanding society and constantly engage in its renewal on how and why the nation comes to be what it is now.

The orientation of the cadets must allow for epistemological diversity, cultural and scientific pluralism. There is a variety of ways of knowing and policy formulation in sustaining social, cultural and political relations among members of the nation. In this regard, the cadets need to know how history is related to attitudes and policy. I gave the case of the kampung in Penang which are conceived as slums or as residues of the past and, therefore, must be uprooted in the name of “development” by the authorities.

Public attitudes towards places, peoples and names, as well as institutions, inform policymakers, and vice versa. Being alert to what is absent or present is critical in their orientation. Being alert also means what has been produced by one’s own society, and that of others, of the world. And there has been a tremendous propensity for new narratives of the nation over the last two decades. PTD cadets would have to know what these are and how they are represented and in what form.

The new media has given a
plurality of meanings to history, ethnicity and identity. In the Malaysian context, any form of civil service training must not only expose participants to present policies and procedures, the Federal Constitution and national institutions, but also notions of history and who we are, and why we are what we are.

Digital technologies and new media have been instrumental in inducing these notions. If everyone can fly, as an airline slogan says, now everyone can write and express himself or herself. This is the new challenge for civil servants now. The new media enables the manifestation — construction or deconstruction (perhaps destruction too) of nationhood and nation building. We have become at the same time, users/producers of the new media, immersed in a complex media ecology of divides, diversities and literacy.

PTD cadets must be aware of the ongoing cycle of subversion and reconfiguration then pitting the more-concentrated mainstream of a national “centre” against diffuse, but increasingly, interactive and participatory “edges”. That still continues in the post-May 9 condition. Unlike much of the nation before the 1990s, there are now alternative views for participation, speech, interaction and creativity. There is the growth of oppositional and activist new media. The dust has yet to settle.

Even the name “Malaysia” has not been unaffected. We know that it is the name of the nation-state. But there is a revival to that name — historically and geographically — in response to a complex host of forces permeating our midst. Thinking about space (and place), scale and ratio is a fundamental ingredient in PTD training and orientation. What is also critical is how this can facilitate Malaysia’s new engagement in foreign policy and international relations — the nation’s image and ideas through public diplomacy.

Coming back to a non-partisan civil service, the INTAN module has to factor in political ideology in Malaysia/Malaya over the different phases of the nation’s history before and after 1957, after 1969 and certainly after May 9, 2018. With 61 years of serving only one government, certainly the training of the civil service and its PTD echelons must see a reorientation and a re-understanding of neutrality, viz., the political culture and ideology of the nation.

By Datuk Dr. A Murad Merican.

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Bundu-Liwan dialect official Kadazandusun language in school – Madius

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Madius (seated second right) listening to briefing presented by from Dr Morni.

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau clarified that there should no longer be any confusion arising from what ethnic language to be used as the standard and official Kadazandusun language to be taught in school as the decision to use the Bundu-Liwan dialect have been agreed upon between the two major Kadazandusun association namely the Kadazabdusun Cultural Association (KDCA) and United Sabah Dusun Association (USDA) way back in 1988.

Madius who is also the President-elect of UPKO was explaining this issue during a courtesy call at his office by a six-member delegation from the Kadazandusun Language Club of SIDMA College lead by SIDMA Chairman Dr Morni Kambrie and club President, Salumah Nain who called upon Madius today.

“When the proposal to teach the Kadazandusun language in school was forwarded to the Federal government in mid 1980s during the tenure of the late Dr. Sulaiman Daud as the Education Minister, both KDCA (then KCA) and USDA signed an agreement to use the Bundu-Liwan dialect as the dialect to be used to teach the Kadazandusun language in School. Although at that time political differences separated the leaders of KDCA and USDA, however both association; KDCA represented by Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan as President, and Wilfred Bumburing as the Secretary General; and USDA by the late Datuk Mark Koding as the president then and Mr. Raymond Tombung as the secretary general, signed the agreement to finally decide to use the Bundu-Liwan dialect as the standard Kadazandusun language.” Madius explained.

Madius also said that the decision to decide to use the Bundu-Liwan dialect as the standard Kadazandusun language was a result of a resolution reached during a KCA-organised symposium held at the Perkasa Hotel in Kundasang in 1988.

“When we were first informed that the Education Ministry were prepared to approved the proposal to teach the Kadazandusun language in school, question arose as to which dialect to use considering that there are more than 30 different dialect being spoken of among the Kadazandusun tribes. As a member of the then KCA central committee, and as the Chairman of the Language and Literature Bureau of KCA, I was tasked with organizing the symposium which were attended by the majority stakeholders and we therefore reach a consensus that the Bundu-Liwan dialect would be the official language that will be taught in School and that it will be called the Kadazandusun language incorporating the two words, Kadazan and Dusun, into one word that would defined the Kadazandusun language.” Madius added.

Meanwhile, Madius expressed his desire that the Kadazandusun Language Foundation (KLF) would stick to its original objective in promoting the teaching of the Kadazandusun language using the dialect that it was originally tasked to carry out.

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App to help promote KDM language

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

PENAMPANG: A new KadazanDusun language app designed to help especially youngsters to learn the local language will be unveiled soon, said Assistant Minister of Education and Innovation, Jenifer Lasimbang.

“We must continue to preserve our mother tongue KadazanDusun to uphold our identity for the future generation.

“This app was designed so that the youth can learn our KadazanDusun language,” she said when officiating the Kaamatan celebration at Kg. Soobong, Kolopis, yesterday.

Jenifer who is also the Moyog assemblywoman disclosed that the app will be available for free and was developed through the success of ‘Huminodun, the movie’.

“Through the success of the Huminodun movie, we were able to develop this app,” she added.

Meanwhile, Jenifer who starred in the 2017 movie also expressed her concern about the inability of the today’s youths in mastering KadazanDusun.


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Don’t ignore the significance of Chinese language

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: The universal significance of Chinese language can no longer be ignored, and its mastering would benefit those who intend to do business with China.

“With the rapid growth and rise of China as a global economic powerhouse, learning and mastering the Chinese language is important to those who want to penetrate the China market,” said Datuk Susan Wong Siew Guen, the President of Sze Yi Association West Coast, Sabah.

She said many Malaysian Chinese have now realized that it is a great loss not to be able to read and write in Chinese.

“We are also seeing more and more Bumiputeras enrolling in Chinese schools nowadays and they have learned to speak Mandarin fluently,” she added.

She highlighted this while opening the fifth state-wide Chinese essay competition for Kota Kinabalu zone held at Sabah Tshung Tsin Secondary School hall here, Sunday.

“Since China adopted the Open Door Policy 30 years ago, the country has achieved remarkable growth,” she said. “As such, Mandarin has become one of the most useful languages in the world.”

Wong, who is also the Vice President of the Confederation of Chinese Communities Associations of Sabah and Labuan, noted that Malaysia placed equal emphasis on the Malay, Chinese and English languages.

She pointed out it was a common perception among the people, the Malaysian Chinese included, that English was the only useful language to be learned.

As a result, many Malaysian Chinese have opted to learn English and Malay languages and many opted out of Chinese-medium schools or neglected Mandarin altogether.

The state-wide Chinese essay competition is organized by the Confederation of Chinese Communities Associations of Sabah and Labuan, which was in its fifth consecutive year, was held simultaneously at Ktoa Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, Lahad Datu, Keningau, Tenom, Kudat and Labuan.

The Education Bureau of Sze Yi Association West Coast, Sabah was entrusted with co-organizing the competition for Kota Kinabalu zone.

The competition has attracted 510 participants in Kota Kinabalu this year, an increased from 411 last year. Some 1,000 participants took part in the essay competition throughout Sabah.

She reiterated that the competition aimed to elevate the standard of Chinese essay writing in Sabah and to cultivate the interests in writing among the younger generation.

“The State Education Department also recognized the competition as extracurricular activities, meaning that students who took part in the competition could earn extra points,” she pointed out.

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Using foreign words to help teach Kadazan

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

PENAMPANG: The toughest challenge in teaching Kadazan in schools today is that the students have totally lost their mother tongue and cannot even understand basic words.

Ironically foreign words have to be used to convey meanings, according to two lecturers from IPG Kampus Kent Tuaran, Dr Chiam Sun May and Evelyn Annol.

They were explaining after delivering their short papers during a Seminar on Kadazan language held at the Donggongon Library Hall.

Trainee teachers from their campus doing practical cannot deliver their prepared sets of lessons because about 80pc of the students totally cannot communicate in their mother tongue and soon get bored, they said.

The other problems are lack of teaching aids, academic reference books and mentoring process where the senior teachers acting as mentors are themselves not experts in the language.

Another combined paper by the two was a study on the use of language by the Kadazans themselves in the district.

Their findings were that those born in the 50s are still using the language, those from the 60s are dedicated in urging the use of the language but sadly those from the 70s to the 90s are no longer even speaking among themselves in Kadazan.

The participants were told that the language is not even taught at St Michael’s School, in the heartland of the Kadazans, because there are no takers of the subject.

In terms of gender, the womenfolk are more active in promoting the language.

The impact of the language being aired in the radio gave rise to some patriotism when the name of the village where the singers and composers came from are also mentioned, said Evelyn.

The British recognised the language in 1950 and by 1955 only 15 minutes of airtime was allocated and only for news. The Department of Information and Broadcasting decided to use Kadazan after doing some research and found it clear, easy to understand and already used in Church.

When independence came, the language was removed from the air in 1969, however, in 1979 it was revived after a radio pioneer Wilfred Mojilis applied personally to the Director to have the Kadazan Programme included in the air, said Evelyn

by Oswald Supi.

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The KadazanDusun language dilemma

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

DURING the third and final round of the recent statewide Mr Kaamatan or Harvest Festival Contest 2017, the seven finalists, out of 44 contestants, were asked two questions.

It was mandatory for first question to be answered in the finalist’s mother tongue while the second question, in the finalist’s choice of language.

Only one of the contestants, Dicky Jerry, representing the Keningau District, responded to both questions fluently in his mother tongue, Dusun.

Some of the other finalists could barely muster enough words in their mother tongues to deliver coherent sentences. At 19 years old, fulfilling other criteria superbly, Dicky impressed the judges, most of whom are KadazanDusun speakers, to win the coveted title.

Based on the 2010 census, Sabah’s population stood at roughly 3.2 million. Thirty-two ethnic groups call Sabah their home, out of which only 28 are recognised as indigenous.

The largest indigenous ethnic group, which forms 17.8% of the population, is the KadazanDusun. The other prominent ethnic groups include the Bajau at 13.4% of the population and the Murut at 3.3%.

Other indigenous ethnic groups constitute 14.6% of the population while the non indigenous groups constitute the rest of the population.

On 24 January 1995, the KadazanDusun Cultural Association and the United Sabah Dusun Association consented to declare KadazanDusun as the standard language of the KadazanDusun people.

Based on the 2010 census, the language is supposedly spoken by about 560,000 speakers residing in the districts of Penampang, Papar, Tuaran, Tambunan, Ranau and Keningau. Depending on the locations, the language is spoken in a variety of dialects.

The KadazanDusun’s Tangara dialect, for example, is predominantly spoken in the west coast of Sabah while the Bundu-Liwan dialect is more popular in the interior.

The similarities between the Kadazan and Dusun languages are sufficient for speakers of these two languages to understand each other easily. In a nutshell, the most salient distinction between these two languages are the differences in their phonemic charts. Kadazan consists of fricatives [v] and [z] which are absent in Dusun. On the other hand, /w/, / y/ and /r/ are present in Dusun but not in Kadazan.

In an earlier 2005 UNESCO’s report, the KadazanDusun language is classified as an endangered language, spoken by a mere 300,000 people.

The language has apparently joined about 7,000 other languages worldwide that face the real threat of extinction. Indeed, the language could eventually become a mere literary exhibit in 50 years if is left to survive on its own devices.

Prior to the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the KadazanDusun language was the predominant language in all KadazanDusun households. After 1963, Malay gradually replaced English as the medium of instruction in schools, and the official language in government.

Sabah Malay, which, according to a study is a dialect of Malay rather than a bazaar language, has become the language of communication among the multi-ethnic groups in Sabah. English continued to be held in high esteem.

Probably thinking that their children could learn their mother tongues at home, KadazanDusun parents born in the 1950s began to encourage their children to learn English or Malay, hoping for them to gain an advantage in securing jobs in both the government and private sectors.

Eventually, these parents too started to communicate with their children in English or Sabah Malay instead of their mother tongues. As a result, many KadazanDusun children nowadays grow up not acquiring a command of their mother tongues.

Through constant and popular use, Sabah Malay gradually replaced the KadazanDusun tongue in many KadazanDusun homes. This language shift contributed to the decline in the use of the KadazanDusun language.

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Learning how to speak properly is important

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Being articulate is a crucial skill in Putrajaya, especially for those who head ministries, government departments and agencies. File pic.

BABY babble may sound cute. We laugh in delight whenever a baby starts to coo and make unintelligible sounds.

But, if left unattended, the baby may have a rough road ahead learning to speak clearly when he gets older, and adults around him may have a tough time trying to decipher his strings of alien sounding words.

As new parents, we have been told by our elders to use proper and clear language when talking to babies instead of baby babble no matter how cute it sounds. The need to master the ability to speak clearly does not only apply to babies, but adults, too.

Most adults do not have speech impairment unless they have some form of oral defect or issues with their voice box.

Being articulate is a crucial skill in Putrajaya, especially for those who head ministries, government departments and agencies.

This writer has covered enough events at the administrative capital in the past five years to witness all sorts of people with articulation issues.

There are those with such a soft voice that even if you place a voice recorder near to the person’s mouth, it can barely capture what he is saying.

When this happens, the frustration on the journalists’ faces is obvious as we know it will be tough to write the article later, with our bosses breathing down our necks, rushing us to meet the deadline.

Besides the soft spoken people, journalists also have to deal with those who have problems putting their thoughts and views into words or sentences for the laymen to understand.

Such speakers also tend to be long-winded, trying to impress listeners with their speeches that are longer than 30 minutes and peppered with jargon

Dealing with such characters is enough to make reporters reach for painkillers to numb the headache as we write the article.

Things go from bad to worse when journalists have to deal with people who enjoy using words and terms that do not exist in the dictionary, in sentences that are confusing, jumping from one subject to another all in one breath.

Once we have picked up our jaws from the floor, we cringe at the task of having to file in an article that our bosses and readers can comprehend when we have trouble understanding it.

For us in the English media, we often have to translate speeches from Bahasa Malaysia to English since Bahasa Malaysia, as the country’s official language, is widely used here in Putrajaya.

On rare occasions, we are spared from translating when speeches are in English, but another thing rears its ugly head — the atrocious pronunciation.

My brain has to do an acrobatic act just to figure out what the person is trying to say because their diction can sometimes be monotonous, sounding similar to the tone when one delivers a speech in Bahasa Malaysia.

I do not expect the speakers to sound British or American, but they should correctly pronounce English words.

A word, if pronounced wrongly, can mean another thing. For example, the word “bow” (bau) refers to the action of bending downward or to incline, while “bow” (bo) refers to a knot with two loops and two loose ends.

Pronunciation is so important that when I pursued my degree, I had to take a class on speaking skills. We had fun learning about it.

I was intrigued by what comedian Harith Iskander shared during a National Transformation 2050 dialogue session with the prime minister and those in the entertainment industry on Wednesday night.

Harith called on his fellow compatriots not to be afraid of the English and Chinese languages if they want their career to go beyond Malaysian shores.

“If you want to move forward, don’t be afraid of the English and Chinese languages,” he told more than 300 movers and shakers of the entertainment industry.

The same call should be made to those in Putrajaya.

Mastering English or Chinese will not make you any less Malaysian, but will instead give you a competitive edge.


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Going the extra mile

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

FORMER fifth former P. Yallene went the extra mile when she scored A for Tamil Literature in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination last year, although the subject was not taught in her school.

Now 18, the former SMK Taman Tasek Mutiara student also turned out to be the school’s top SPM scorer by scoring 5A+, 5A and an A- in the exam.

Although much of her success in the Tamil Literature subject is attributed to the fact that the school does teach Tamil Language, which she scored an A+ in, Yallene said she would not be able to pull off the feat without guidance and proper revision.

“We have four periods, or two hours of Tamil language subject taught in the school every week, but the teaching covers grammar and essay writing.

“To get assistance in Tamil Literature which covers novels, poems and drama, I asked for advice and extra lessons from the Tamil language teachers.

“I’m thankful for having Ms. Prema and Ms. Uma Devi in school for their help,” she said in an interview at her home last Tuesday.

Yallene also said that due to the new format in Tamil Literature introduced last year, there was little reference that she could obtain outside of school.

“There are no past-year exam questions to try out. Even reference books are limited at bookstores.

“I’m glad for the help and support from everyone in guiding me,” she added.

Asked about her secret, she said studying hard and paying attention was key, besides the willingness to always seek help from teachers.

“I also attended tuition for all the subjects, seven days a week.

“It was very tiring, but the reward is worth it,” she said.

Yallene said she has applied for various scholarships including from the Public Service Department. She hopes to pursue medicine and become a doctor.

Her parents who are both teachers also expressed pride in her success.

Her father A. Pandiyan, 47, who is a Maths teacher in SMK Simpang Ampat said he was happy with Yallene’s success and hopes that she will never give up learning her mother tongue.

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