Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

21 NGOs form council to tackle Sabah migrant, stateless issue

Monday, June 4th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-one Sabah non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have grouped together to form the Development of Human Resources Sabah Native Rights Council, which is aimed at resolving Sabah’s issues with migrants and stateless citizens.

Representatives of these groups, who met at the two-day workshop here yesterday, agreed to work to tackle problems relating to documentation, citizenship and stateless citizens at the grassroots level in their respective communities in the state.

“Through this initiative, we aim to offer assistance to those affected by statelessness and documentation problems in Sabah,” said Protem Yang-Dipertua, Dato’ Nani Bin Sakam, who said the council is ready to cooperate with state and federal governments on migrant issues.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Nani said the council is also planning to submit a list of resolutions to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal of certain state government policies that may need to be reviewed and liberalized.

“We are still in the process of finalizing these resolutions which is aimed addressing problems with citizenship, stateless residents facing Sabahans,” he said.

The final list of resolutions gathered from the discussions in the two-day workshop will be submitted to the Chief Minister.

Among members of the council’s pro-tem committee include Deputy Yang-Dipertua Datuk Mohd Kudar Datuk Abdul Kadir, Vice-Yang Dipertua, Dr Azlina Ikad, Secretary General Datuk Mohd Saidi Bin Bakal and Women’s Chief Halinda Awang Osman among others.

“The role of the committee is essentially important to connect the community with the government on a range of issues facing the people and the NGOs are more aware of the issues at the grassroots,” he said.


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Safety begins at school

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
Lee (fifth from right; middle in blue) poses together with the SK Pulau Meranti pupils who are wearing safety helmets. With him are (from right) SK Pulau Meranti Parent-Teacher Association chairman Hasnan Abdullah, Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd Quality, Safety, Health and Environment head of department Andy Lee Choon Fooh and Mohammad Imran.

Lee (fifth from right; middle in blue) poses together with the SK Pulau Meranti pupils who are wearing safety helmets. With him are (from right) SK Pulau Meranti Parent-Teacher Association chairman Hasnan Abdullah, Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd Quality, Safety, Health and Environment head of department Andy Lee Choon Fooh and Mohammad Imran.

CONCERNED with the rise of accidents in schools in recent years, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has urged schools that are 20 years and older to conduct annual safety audits.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman said through this measure, schools will be able to identify safety hazards such as unsafe electrical wiring or rusty school gates, so preventing the occurrence of more incidents.

“It is an important matter that must be addressed for the safety and health of pupils and teachers.

“A school is a place of work.

“Every workspace is subjected to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994, which states that any place of work with more than 40 employees must set up a safety and health committee.

“(Once set up), this committee can then discuss when they should carry out the audit and they can approach authorities such as the Public Works Department (JKR) to cooperate on the matter,” he said after launching Gamuda Berhad’s Safety at School programme at SK Pulau Meranti, Puchong.

Lee said safety audits are important, especially for older schools.

“Safety in schools cannot be ignored.

“Through this audit, we will know how conducive and safe an environment a school can provide for its pupils,” he said, adding that people often think of safety and health as a boring issue.

The Safety at School programme was introduced last year by Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd Quality, Safety, Health and Environment Department.

Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd business development director Datuk Mohammad Imran Ismail said the focus is to raise awareness on safety; pupils must be aware of the basics of personal protective equipment such as helmets and safety vests.

“Looking at the rise in the number of accidents in schools, some of which have been fatal, Gamuda Berhad believes safety begins in schools.

“Safety at Schools aims to raise greater awareness on quality, safety, health and the environment,” he said.

Two schools were selected for the programme last year, namely SK (Asli) Bukit Cheding, Jenjarom and SK Sungai Serai, Hulu Langat.

Due to the overwhelming response received, Gamuda selected three schools this year; SK Pulau Meranti, Puchong, SK Bukit Changgang, Banting and SK Bukit Kemuning, Shah Alam.

Games and quizzes are conducted and designed to test pupils’ knowledge based on the occupational safety and health talks given during the one-day programme.

The top five groups will be rewarded with prizes as an incentive to focus and perform throughout the sessions.

A demonstration will also be held to introduce basic personal protective equipment to pupils, who will be asked to volunteer to wear these equipment, thus providing them with hands-on experience.

Commending Gamuda on the initiative, Lee said such programmes ensure safety values are inculcated among students from a young age.

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Coping with student mental health

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

JUST earlier this month, the country was shocked by a suicide ­— a 20-year-old, a former Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia high achiever, jumped off a building in Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

It was reported that the tertiary student had just transferred to Seremban from an education institution in Kedah in the hope of doing better in her studies at the new place. Apparently she could not deal with the pressure to excel in her studies and succumbed to depression.

Students need to have rational expectations and a realistic perception of university life.

From suicide bids to self-harm and sleeping disorders to no-show at lectures and exams, such behaviours seem to be increasingly common at universities. The niggling question in the public’s mind is: Why is this happening? Is this indicative of the state of mental wellness among students on campus and, if so, how can the problem be dealt with?

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) counselling division senior counsellor Siti Fatimah Abdul Ghani said mental illness needs to be defined before delving into the issue.

“Everyone experiences stress from time to time and this is normal. Mental illness, on the other hand, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect your relationships, your job or prevent you from reaching an otherwise attainable goal,” she added.

If that sounds like a wide definition, Siti Fatimah said it is because the human mind is complex.

“Mental illness can range from anxiety and mood disorders, which have a severe and tangible effect on your emotions and motivation, to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia which affect perceptions or senses, with symptoms like delusions or hallucinations. Living with any of these can be debilitating. We rely on our senses, emotions and perceptions to get us through the day. When any of those fail, it can make life difficult.”

A study by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Department of Community Health, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Family Medicine published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry in 2013 sought to assess the prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress, and identify their correlates among university students.

It covered 506 students between the ages of 18 and 24 years from four universities in the Klang Valley, who answered an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire.

Analysis showed among all the respondents, 27.5 per cent had moderate, and 9.7 per cent had severe or extremely severe depression; 34 per cent had moderate, and 29 per cent had severe or extremely severe anxiety; and 18.6 per cent had moderate and 5.1 per cent had severe or extremely severe stress scores based on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 inventory.

Both depression and anxiety scores were significantly higher among older students (20 and above) and those born in rural areas. Stress scores were significantly higher among older students (20 and above), females, Malays and those whose family had either low or high incomes compared to those with middle incomes.

The study concluded that the prevalence of anxiety is much higher than either depression or stress, with some differences in their correlates except for age. It was recommended that these differences be further explored for development of better intervention programmes and appropriate support services targeting this group.


UPM Psychiatry Department head Associate Professor Dr Firdaus Mukhtar said, in general, undergraduates undergo challenges in managing their daily lives in a university environment.

The changes experienced in transitioning from a secondary school student to an undergraduate may affect them in the biological, physical, spiritual and psychological aspects.

Students who cannot manage the challenges — which can be due to high expectations, poor social support, lack of coping skills, financial and academic struggles, family factor and so on — may experience emotional distress.

“Whether overseas or at local universities, there are no exceptions where students experiencing emotional turmoil — including mental disorders — are concerned. This distress may lead to other extreme conditions such depression, anxiety, trauma and more.

“However, difficulties in adjusting to university life do not generally lead to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar and personality disorder.”

Dr Firdaus added that everyone reacts differently to a new environment.

“Adjustment is unique to each of us. The process of adjustment starts at the beginning of the semester after enrolment and when attending classes, making friends, moving into new accommodation, living far away from parents, and facing different attitudes of lecturers and the academic and university culture.

“Therefore, it is important to expose students to mental health education such as stress management, emotion regulation programme and coping skills training for them to identify and be aware of the symptoms — stress and related illnesses — that may prevent them from functioning normally,” she said.

Symptoms of mental health problems include difficulty in sleeping, lack of focus, inability to make decisions, lack of motivation, withdrawal from friends and activities, low self-esteem, sadness and fear for no reason.

“The earlier treatment is sought, the better.”

For serious cases that involve major psychiatric illnesses, a referral to psychiatrists and clinical psychologists is needed.

“The counselling section or the university’s health care centre may refer those cases that need psychiatric evaluation and psychotherapy.”

Allocate time for leisure.

In certain cases, those who have been diagnosed with learning or anxiety disorders may get certain exemptions or be allowed more time during examinations or submission of assignments. Dasar Kesihatan Negara provides that those who have been diagnosed with mental disorders should be given their rights just like others regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity.

“Many students, who had sought the help of counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists, were able to finish their studies, graduate and hold a good post in their career. Once students are aware of their illness, get treated and motivated to excel academically, nothing can stop them from achieving their dreams.”


So, how best can students take preventive measures so as not to succumb to mental illness?

Marian.E Arumugam, the head of Counselling and Psychological Services Centre and Health Services Centre at Taylor’s University, said students should take time to explore the university, understand the expectations of the programme, be confident to ask questions and find out as much information as possible on the programme they are interested in from course advisers and faculty staff on open days.

“Time management is important: maintaining a sense of routine for self-care, studies and delivering the course work. Learn to manage and limit communication technology, as too much becomes a distraction and can isolate the student and interfere with academic performance. Keep socially engaged with peers. Be open-minded, accepting of individual differences and non-judgmental,” she said.

Lee Siok Ping, director of Student LIFE at Sunway Education Group, underlined the importance of self-awareness and self-care.

“Self-awareness is about having knowledge of one’s thoughts, feelings, coping mechanisms, preferences, skills and strengths. It is the ability to be aware of what is happening to oneself, what leads one to feel or think that way, and what can you do about it.

“Meanwhile, self-care is being able to take care of one’s needs both on a daily basis as well as in a crisis. Many a time, students neglect to take care of their own needs such as making sure they eat proper meals, have enough time for leisure activities, sleep adequately and socialising regularly, when they are preoccupied with studies or when they are experiencing stressful life events,” she said.

It is paramount that students take care of themselves especially during challenging times as it allows them to restore emotional energy which then boosts their capacity to deal with challenges more effectively.

Dr Firdaus highlighted there are three roles that can help prevent mental illness during university life: students, family and the relevant authority at the institution.

“Students need to have rational expectations and a realistic perception of university life and the courses that they sign up for. Join orientation week to get to know the university lifestyle, balance academic and non-academic activities, socialise with healthy peers and get in touch closely with the management of the university to improve personal, academic and career development.


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Obesity among Asia-Pacific children is a growing health crisis, say researchers.

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018
Unhealthy diet: The rise in the consumption of processed foods, which often contain excess fats, salt and sugar, is one of the main contributors to the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific.

Unhealthy diet: The rise in the consumption of processed foods, which often contain excess fats, salt and sugar, is one of the main contributors to the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific.

OBESITY rates among children in Asia-Pacific are rising at a rapid rate, and more action is needed to encourage healthier lifestyles and ease pressure on fledgling healthcare systems, researchers say.

The number of overweight children under five rose 38% between 2000 and 2016 in the region, and the problem is growing, according to Sridhar Dharmapuri, a food safety and nutrition officer at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangkok.

“The rate of growth in obesity in Asia-Pacific is higher than in many other countries,” Dharmapuri told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“While the United States leads the way on obesity rates, the number of overweight children in Asia-Pacific is rising rapidly, and many countries in this region are now among the most health-threatened in the world.

But the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific is worrying because overweight children are at higher risk of becoming obese as adults and then developing serious health problems like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are among the most overweight countries in South-East Asia, while Samoa, Tonga and Nauru are the most overweight in the Pacific. Australia also has high rates of obesity.

Many of these nations are also struggling to tackle malnutrition among their citizens.

The cost to the Asia-Pacific region of citizens being overweight or obese is US$166bil (RM646.2bil) a year, a recent report by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) said.

Rising wealth levels over the last 20 years have played a major role in the rise in obesity levels, researchers say.

“The region has undergone economic growth, so food has become available at a relatively cheaper price,” said Matthias Helble, an economist at ADBI in Tokyo.

“For the last 20 years the economic growth has been almost uninterrupted,” said Helble, who has researched obesity levels in the region for three years.

In addition to consuming more, as economies have grown, people in Asia-Pacific have moved away from farming into manufacturing, and then to service sector jobs – which are more sedentary.

Cities in Asia-Pacific have also seen unprecedented growth over the last two decades; this year more than half the region’s population will for the first time be urban, the United Nations has estimated.

City-dwellers in Asia-Pacific can spend hours commuting – due to poor transport systems and infrastructure – and when they finally reach home they have little time to cook. Many opt to eat out.

This new lifestyle has caused a rise in the consumption of convenience and processed foods, which often contain excess fats and more salt and sugar.

People in the region also struggle to maintain a balanced diet, said Dharmapuri, with meals often lacking vegetables.

“The diet is largely rice-based,” he said. “On anybody’s plate, rice takes up between 50-70% of the space.”

When people are overweight they often suffer from other health problems, economists said, and this is likely to put pressure on public healthcare systems that are only just being established in many Asia-Pacific nations.

Absenteeism from work is also higher among obese people, said Helble, adding that overweight people often die earlier than those who lead healthy lives, so have a shorter productive life.

“The term ‘obesogenic environment’ has been used to describe an environment that promotes obesity among individuals and populations,” Elizabeth Ingram of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – a government statistics agency – said by e-mail.

“It includes physical, economic, political, and sociocultural factors.”

Fixing the problem will likely take years, and researchers said a joint effort by business and governments was needed.

Better labelling on foods to promote healthier options, education about healthier diets and lifestyles, and even healthier school meals would improve the situation, analysts said.

Sugar taxes, which have been introduced or are being discussed in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, are also one way to change people’s mindset, said Helble.

Building more sports facilities at schools and ensuring urban planners include recreational areas for cities and make them more walkable and less polluted, is also crucial.

Governments must work with retailers, like in Singapore, to create a coordinated approach on packaging and promote a balanced diet, researchers said.

Working with retailers to ban unhealthy and sweet foods from checkout areas, and pushing street vendors to switch from fried foods to healthier, more traditional options, are also key.

And countries should adopt a “farm to fork” approach, which encourages farmers to diversify what they grow and be less reliant on growing just rice, said Dharmapuri.

“In some Pacific island countries, it’s actually easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than buy fruits and vegetables,” he added.

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Don’t play around with safety

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

PLAYGROUND or danger zone?

The lines could easily be blurred, if areas for children to play and socialise turn into safety hazards due to poor maintenance, faulty equipment and badly designed layouts.

For public playgrounds in Malaysia, most (75.6%) are in a bad state, according to a recent study on 40 parks.

Rusty swing hooks, missing handhold bars and leg rests, broken spring rockers and big gaps in pathways are just some of the findings by the Playground Safety Association of Malaysia (PSAM).

Over 50% of playground equipment and park furniture are also rusty, posing a danger to children, says the study.

But the most common problem, plaguing 64% of the playgrounds, is the surfacing or flooring in play areas.

They are uneven, damaged, rotten or caked with fungus, completely worn out or unfastened from concrete floors.

“This is an important factor because 78% of injuries by children in playgrounds are due to falls,” according to the study made available to Sunday Star.

Such surfacing helps absorb the shock of falls but if they are damaged, it could even be the cause of a child to trip and get hurt.

Other main problems include damaged slides, broken swings, uncut grass and areas littered with hazardous items like broken bottles and trash, says PSAM secretary-general Noriah Mat.

“This is a long-standing problem in Malaysia because the know-how on playground maintenance and safety is still rather new here.

“But it’s high time to start training contractors to build safer playgrounds with proper layouts,” she says.

An example of poor layout is placing the jogging track or walkway too close to swings. Accidents may occur if the child on the swing collides with people walking on the path.

While safety is a shared responsibility in the community, Noriah says local governments are responsible for ensuring public areas are safe for use.

“Local authorities should carry out audits of playgrounds, identify the problems and solve them.

“They should engage certified playground safety inspectors (CPSI) to work with contractors in the installation and maintenance of playgrounds,” she says.

The study by PSAM, conducted for the Public Complaints Bureau, surveyed public playgrounds in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan in July last year.

During a national seminar on playgrounds last year, Public Complaints Bureau director-general Datuk Harjeet Singh had said there were a total of 11,231 complaints regarding playgrounds received by local authorities between 2015 and 2016.

Based on data from the Health Ministry, 530 children were discharged from public hospitals after suffering from falls involving playground equipment between 2014 and 2016.

Harjeet suggests that local authorities carry out mandatory yearly audits on parks.

“The findings of such checks should be the reference for local authorities to allocate budgets in repairing, upgrading and maintaining playgrounds,” he says.

The bureau also suggests that each local council have officers who are qualified CPSI and for advocacy programmes to be conducted to deter vandalism.

To set a benchmark on safety nationwide, the Department of Standards Malaysia has updated standards that public playgrounds should adhere to.

Three Malaysian Standards on playground equipment and surfacing were approved in January last year.

National Landscape Department deputy director-general (development) Rotina Mohd Daik says the new standards are a comprehensive update to the 2001 version.

One of the changes is increasing the minimum thickness of surfacing material from 25mm up to 100mm, depending on the fall height.

“Thicker surfacing will result in less impact for children and reduce risks of head injuries.

“Ideally, the whole play area should be covered with rubberised surfacing instead of just certain places like the landing areas for slides,” she explains.

The play area for swings should also have sufficent space between other equipment.

“The space between the swings and others should be double the height of the swing. So, if the swing is 2m tall, then the minimum clearance between the swing and other people or equipment should be 4m in length,” Rotina says.

While the standards are in place, the next step is to engage local authorities so that they will apply it to playgrounds nationwide.

“We plan to meet all 149 local authorities nationwide by this year to get them to use the standards in the planning permission stage for playgrounds.

“We want them to embed these standards in the contracts for developers and contractors. If they can do that, it will be a very good start in boosting playground safety,” Rotina says.

Department of Standards Malaysia director-general Datuk Fadilah Baharin says the new standards were developed to ensure the quality of playgrounds.

“Standards not only protect users, but also manufacturers of playground equipment. Should there be any legal disputes, manufacturers can defend themselves by falling back on the standards which they have adhered to,” she says.

It is currently not mandatory for local authorities to impose the standards but Fadilah hopes that they will consider it in their plans.

Noting that there is low awareness on playground safety, she urges parents to always supervise their children when they are at playgrounds

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Children must be exposed to safety issues, self-protection

Sunday, April 1st, 2018

PAPAR: The safety of younger generations is not something to be compromised for they are the nation’s number one asset, said Chairman of Sabah Land Development Board Datuk Abdul Rahim Ismail.

He noted that due to their young age, children have not been exposed enough to safety issues and how to protect themselves.

Thus, he said, it is the duties of parents, teachers and the society as a whole to be concerned and wary of the safety of youngsters instead of turning a blind eye to incidents that may harm them.

“In terms of safety, it covers the simplest and basic incidents including small accidents and injuries in schools or fire safety in homes as well as social problems such as drug abuse among others.

“These are also included in the form of safety for our children because they commonly become the target of these criminals,” said Rahim who is also Pantai Manis Assemblyman.

He was speaking after launching the 2018 ‘Let’s Be Safe’ campaign for primary students in Papar at the Community Hall here yesterday.

More than 1,000 primary students from seven schools in the district took part in the one-day campaign organised by Repsol Oil and Gas Malaysia where safety talks and demonstrations from the company, Fire and Police Department were conducted.

Students aged seven to 12 were also exposed to hazards and taught how to take action in cases of emergency through interactive video games.

“Through these interactions and simulations, the children will be more aware and see for themselves rather than speaking and talking (to them).

“It is not easy to handle children what more catch their attention but when we do simulations in forms of coloured pictures and computers, for example, they would be more attracted and better understand the issue that we are trying to bring.”

The campaign that was initiated in 2013 was part of Repsol’s corporate social responsibility which aimed to raise awareness and provide guidance to primary school students on safety issues.

Since its inception, more than 8,000 students from Sabah and Labuan have benefited from the programme. According to Repsol Oil and Gas Malaysia Health, Safety and Environment Manager Abu Bakar Hanfi Abdul Mannan, the team’s belief on early education had led to the initiative to teach children on hazards, risks, and safety.

Through the application of interactive videos, he said, the campaign had managed to bring greater impact to participants.

“Children are known to love playing, so we created video games that would interact with them where they could explore and at the same time identify hazards that are available in schools, public playing areas or even at homes.” He added that children were also given hands-on learning experience and practical training including the handling of fire extinguisher, how to communicate and were taught to memorize numbers that may be useful during emergencies.

He stated that through close collaboration with the Education, Fire and Police departments, the campaign will be extended to Tuaran, this year.


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Keeping kids safe

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Educators explain how preschoolers can be taught vital fire safety information that can make a big difference in case of an emergency.

“SCREAM fire!”

“Spray water!”

“Stop, drop and roll!”

These were some of the responses from preschoolers aged between three to six at the UCSI Child Development Centre during a recent fire drill.

Held thrice annually, the fire drill is one of the efforts the centre takes in raising awareness among the young on the do’s and don’ts in case a fire breaks out.

A number of tragic accidents caused by fire of late has gripped the nation; from the fire in Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah in Kampung Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur, last September that killed 23 students and teachers, to the fire that broke out in SK Sentosa, Tawau in February.

Acknowledging this, the centre aims to develop and produce quick thinking students who know how to react in such situations, says its manager Pang Yin Ling.

For her, education is key in raising awareness.

A firefighter from the Cheras Fire and Rescue station demonstrates how to use a fire extinguisher to the pupils.

A firefighter from the Cheras Fire and Rescue station demonstrates how to use a fire extinguisher to the pupils.

“We teach them the basic emergency numbers they should know by heart and steps they must follow to ensure their safety, based on tips and advice given by the Fire and Rescue Department.

“A child has a very short attention span, it is likely that they will forget what they have learnt at the beginning of the year.

“Therefore, my teachers and I make it a point to educate them over a period of time,” she adds.

Pang says the Fire and Rescue Department, and the centre inculcate fun learning into their activities with the pupils as a means of engaging with them; younger pupils also learn faster via play.

With each lesson, pupils are effectively able to demonstrate methods of escaping, she shares.

While the centre runs its own fire drill sessions and talks, Pang feels it is also important to have professional firefighters over to demonstrate.

Helping kids to be fire ready

Cheras Fire and Rescue Station chief officer Mohd Khairul Azmi Jaafar agreed with Pang, stating firefighters are ready to assist.

“The Fire and Rescue Department has established a club called Kelab 3K (Kelab Keselamatan Kebakaran Kanak-Kanak), which focuses on child care centres, through its fire safety modules and exercises.

“Once a child care centre is registered with Kelab 3K under a Fire and Rescue station within its area, we have their records and closely monitor which centres conducts fire drills and other programmes.

A firefighter from Cheras Fire and Rescue Station helps a child from UCSI Child Development Centre to hose down a fire during a fire safety demonstration by the firefighters.

Firefighters from Cheras Fire and Rescue Station douse a fire under the watchful eyes of the children from UCSI Child Development Centre, during a fire drill and safety demonstration.

“This way, we can supervise and are able to call up the centres which do not practise drills regularly,” he adds.

The aim behind Kelab 3K is to inculcate a basic understanding and knowledge of fire safety for schoolchildren.

Mohd Khairul says a common misconception that occurs is society placing full responsibility on the Fire and Rescue Department to raise awareness.

Fire has no friend or foe, he stresses.

“The responsibility to educate the young falls on society as a whole.

“In our campaigns, we emphasise one fire extinguisher for one home.

“Besides being an active fire protection device, placing it in homes will also attract a child’s curiosity.

“As they start asking questions, we educate them and it subsequently creates a cycle,” he shares.

A child from UCSI Child Development Centre covers his nose and mouth as he crawls away from a “fire” during a fire safety demonstration.

A child from UCSI Child Development Centre covers his nose and mouth as he crawls away from a “fire” during a fire safety demonstration.

UCSI Child Development Centre head of academic affairs and child psychologist Dr Chiah Wan Yeng states that fire drills conditions a child on how to deal with an emergency.

“Classical conditioning is a learning technique that can be applied to train children in dealing with emergency situations.

“It is one of the most constructive methods because by conditioning them to such situations, children learn how to respond following a stimulus.

“In a fire break out, the alarm is the important stimuli and the response that follows this stimulus will be the key to their survival.

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EXCLUSIVE: Children exploited by drug addict parents

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
A MOTHER was found to have used her two-month-old baby for money to satisfy her drug addiction. (FIle pix)

ALOR STAR: A MOTHER was found to have used her two-month-old baby for money to satisfy her drug addiction.

This was revealed during a joint operation under the National Blue Ocean Strategy with the National Anti-Drug Agency (Nada), police and the state Education and Welfare Departments.

A state Welfare Department spokesman said drug addicts had been using children to get cash. Some mothers even drugged their children to get them to
do what they wanted, resulting in children becoming addicts.

He said in just three months, the department had rescued 11 children, aged between 2 months and 13 years, who were neglected by their drug addict parents.

He said it was unfortunate that the children did not get the opportunity to go to school.

“Some of them are neglected, while others are homeless. The department has rescued 11 children since we started the operation last year.

“The children are being cared for by their relatives,” he told the New Straits Times.

He said the department rescued five siblings, including a 2-month-old baby, during a raid in Kota Sarang Semut here last November.

He added that of the five, an 11-year-old tested positive for drugs and had drug supplies on him, believed to belong to his parents.

“Nada officers had detained the parents. But, they continue to use their children to gain people’s sympathy. The five children are under their aunt’s care after receiving a temporary order under Section 19(2) of the Child Act (Amendment) 2016.”

He said four siblings, aged between 3 and 9, were found in a dilapidated house, while their father was busy taking drugs at a neighbour’s house, during another operation in Simpang Kuala near here.


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Malaysia tops in South-East Asia for online child pornography.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has the highest number of IP addresses uploading and downloading photographs and visuals of child pornography in South-East Asia, authorities have said.

The number of children falling prey to perpetrators whom they befriended online is also reportedly increasing fast.

Many Malaysian parents let their children use handphones without monitoring them, and more than 60% of children spend time in online chatrooms on the Internet on a daily basis.

Data shows that close to 20,000 IP addresses in Malaysia upload and download photographs and visuals of child pornography and that the country ranks top in South-East Asia in this regard.

Asst Comm Ong Chin Lan of the Royal Malaysia Police’s Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11), in a seminar on “Cyber Protection for Children”, revealed that based on data furnished by Dutch police based in Malaysia in 2015, about 17,338 IP addresses involved in child pornography were from Malaysia.

ACP Ong said data showed that prior to 2014, an average of 60 children a year were sexually assaulted by perpetrators whom they had befriended through the Internet.

The figure increased to 184 in 2015 and 183 in 2016. In 2017, the figure was 117, as of May 2017.

It is learnt that about 51% of children aged between 13 and 15 befriended the perpetrators through messaging app WeChat. Other channels included Facebook, WhatsApp and Beetalk.

Based on an investigation by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) of children between 10 and 17 in 2015, 91.6 % owned a handphone before the age of 15 while 88.5% had Facebook or other social media accounts.

It also found that only 35.6% of parents monitor their children’s activities.

Another figure that revealed a worrying trend was that 60% of girls and 40% of boys would go on to meet the people they befriended online.

Chen Pei Ling of non-governmental organisation PS The Children revealed during the seminar that out of 10 children surveyed by the group, three admitted to having met “boyfriends” whom they had never met in real life before.

Sin Chew Daily/Asia News Network
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Preventing teen suicide in era of social media

Sunday, January 7th, 2018
Good guidance for teenagers is vital as what they see or view on social media can shape their thoughts and opinions.

Experts are worried that impressionable teenagers may be influenced by social media or TV shows that ‘romanticise’ the act of suicide.

THE grieving families of two California teenagers who committed suicide last April, just days after watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, said the show acted as a trigger for their daughters. Bella Herndon, who was three days shy of 16, and Priscilla Chui, who had battled depression and struggled in school, did not know each other, but had watched the show at around the same time and died four days apart.

In the series, based on Jay Asher’s New York Times bestseller of the same name and produced by pop star Selena Gomez, young Hannah Baker committed suicide, and her reasons for doing so are contained in a series of cassette tapes she mailed to her classmates.

A few months ago, a college student in the Klang Valley allegedly imitated what he saw in the show by jumping off a building to his death. His friends were shocked by the incident as they had seen similar behaviour in other friends, who watched the series.

In 2016, Befrienders Kuala Lumpur reported 7,446 calls related to suicide; 26 per cent of them were students.

Social media and teen shows can be very influential in the lives of young adults today, because it’s about wanting to connect; to be in tune with every single experience that life can offer them, said HELP University counselling psychologist Dr Gerard Louis.

“They don’t want to be left out yet ironically, this generation of young people describe themselves as isolated and excluded. Many studies are beginning to show that there is a connection between heavy social media use and feeling isolated.”

He said what researchers were trying to figure out was whether isolation drove social media use or the heavy use of social media drove isolation, as all the time spent on social media deprived them of real interactions with people.

“Another reason people feel a sense of exclusion is that people watch all these interactions going on in social media and that it seems like everyone is connecting with everyone else but it always seems like other people’s lives are so much better than theirs, such as dream vacations and new homes.

“So the more they see this, the more they feel left out and are never able to get what they want, hence the greater the level of exclusion and possibly depression.”

However, he explained, this did not mean that social media had a causal link to suicide.

“We don’t know yet the mechanism that happens regarding this issue but there are certainly relationships here between high social media use and the heightened sense of exclusion and isolation. This makes people more vulnerable to suicide attempts.”

Louis pointed out that teenagers were more susceptible to ideas of suicide.

“For one, the teenage world can typically be a very confusing place. A very famous psychologist, Stanley Hall, coined the term ‘storm and stress’ to describe a heightened state of turmoil that teenagers experience due to the rapid physiological, psychological, emotional and social changes taking place in their lives.

“They’re not children anymore but not yet adults. Many go through an ‘identity crisis’ during this stage. Their views of right and wrong are constantly changing, often depending on their peers for direction and who influence them most. It’s often also said that the self esteem is most battered during this stage.

“On top of all of this, there’s the stress of having to constantly do well in school and exams. The pressure for many of these young people is great. While they have many virtual friends on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, they remain lonely.”

He said suicide happened when people did not feel a strong sense of connection with significant others and experience a deep sense of hopelessness regarding the future.

“In such a psychological state, and without a strong anchor in life, you can understand why ideas of suicide or self-harm appeal to many young people.”

Homemaker Stephanie Leong believes it depends on how the child is brought up.

“Children who are brought up properly are strong and confident in their own beliefs and are not easily swayed by others. They most likely will have a responsible adult who was always there for them when they were growing up, to guide them, to listen to them and to be their pillar of strength. Spending half an hour a day of quality time with them is better than none at all.

“For children who grew up without parental love and guidance, they will likely turn to their peers for attention. If their peers are of a bad influence or vicious in moral character, the child will be susceptible to their impact. The child may grow up insecure and without self-awareness. They will do anything to please their peers, just to be accepted,” said the mother of two.

She said social media and teen shows were big influences in the lives of young adults simply because they spent so much time there.

“If personalities they hero-worship are a bad influence, they’ll most likely mimic their behaviour.”

Leong, who founded the Facebook group “Parents To Tweens & Teens – Malaysia”, explained she started it when her kids were in their teens so parents like herself could discuss the problems their teenage children might face, and to support each other.

“Most parents fear the rebellious teen. For whatever reasons, be it hormonal or influence from friends, a docile and happy child may suddenly turn into an angry and stubborn teen. It’s really hard to get through to them.

“We, as parents, must learn to grow with them. We cannot discipline them like a 2-year-old anymore. We have to evolve with them. We need to be their friend more than a parent. We want to gain their trust so they will confide in us. We need to learn to listen and not judge. We need to let the leash loose.”

From discussions with other parents in the group, it’s clear that if parents are too strict, their kids will stop telling them what they’re up to, she added.

“After all, they’re teens and not children that we can easily control anymore. They can do a lot of things without our knowledge. We need to choose our battles and not fight them on every little issue.”

But how can parents be an authoritative figure and confidant at the same time?

“I believe that for our children to respect us, we must also learn to respect them as individuals. We have to be consistent. For instance, my children know that they can get away with certain things but they also know that I draw the line at being untruthful and being disrespectful.

“A messy room is not nice but it’s not the end of the world. My children are not afraid to tell me that they’ve done something wrong. They know the worst they will get from me is an earful. Also, do not make promises to your children you can’t keep. It’s okay to say you’ll try instead. And it’s also okay to say you’re sorry if you’ve wronged them.”

A student counsellor from a private college in Sunway concurred.

“Young adults are very different from when we were teenagers before. There is a fine line between being a friend and foe.

“Unfortunately, most don’t come to me voluntarily for counselling. It’s usually recommended by the lecturer when they notice abnormal behaviour or by parents who can’t get through to them,” she said.

She added that parents who pushed their college kids to extremes by demeaning them or yelling at them in front of their friends would be surprised at the lengths they would go to get attention.

“The best way I’ve seen to deal with a troubled youth is to take them out on one-on-one outings, so they feel special and will more likely open up to you.”


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