Archive for July, 2016

Teachers’ vital role

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

WHAT makes an international school truly international?

Eaton International School chief executive officer Datuk Felician Teo believes its teachers play a role.

“There are some international schools which use ternational curriculum but most of their teachers are locals.

“It doesn’t mean local teachers can’t teach an international curriculum but they are not trained or certified to do so,” he said during a press conference last week before the launching of the school’s new campus in Jade Hills, Kajang.

The school currently sits in an interim campus with an occupancy of 400 students.

A collaboration with Gamuda Land, Eaton International School will open its new campus in September and hopes to have at least 600 students for the new school year.

It has a British curriculum and at the same time, offers Chinese Language and Bahasa Malaysia to all students.

Founded in 2013, Eaton Interna-tional School’s first phase is able to accommodate up to 1,200 students.

“We are focused on being a full fledged international school.

“Not only do we offer an international curriculum, but our teachers are expatriate teachers,” said Teo.

Aside from having mostly expat teachers, the school adopts an international ethos.

Students from preschool, primary and secondary levels are offered a variety of co-curricular activities such as fencing, taekwondo and drama.


Read more @

Bringing positive pacts and outcomes

Sunday, July 31st, 2016
They are extraordinary people who not only teach, but also help youth from displaced and deprived backgrounds learn new skills and find their voice.

WHILE the right to education is enshrined in various universal proclamations, such as Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the sad truth is that many children are still not accorded the kind of education they deserve.

Realising that more can be done to improve the lot of children and teens, many Malaysians have stepped in to do their bit.

“It is pointless watching from the sidelines. If there is a way to help improve a situation, we must lend a hand,” says S. Siva Ahnantham, a volunteer teacher.

“We need to step back from our everyday lives, appreciate what we have and contribute in whatever way we can to those who aren’t as fortunate,” adds the IT consultant.

In Kuala Lumpur, just across the Chan Sow Lin LRT station, IDEAS, an independent Malaysian think tank, has been offering help to disadvantaged teens and refugees.

IDEAS Academy provides secondary level education for those aged between 12 and 15.

It is an initiative supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Our plan is to expand to pre-university (A Levels), which means that we will soon have students aged up to 18,” says IDEAS Academy board chairman and IDEAS chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan, 41..

UNHCR says that Malaysia has 151,560 refugees and asylum-seekers from conflict areas.

Of these, 34,000 are children below the age of 18, and only 28% of them have access to education.

When IDEAS Academy conducted its first lesson in September 2014 in a classroom in HELP College of Arts and Technology, only 24 students showed up. Through word of mouth, the number soon ballooned to over 100 students.

A year later, the centre moved to its present site where it occupies four floors. To date, this is the only secondary education provider available within the area for refugee children, adds Wan Saiful.


Read more @

Reach out and touch lives

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Accept those who are different, and offer a second chance to those who may have stumbled along the way.

TIMES are hard, and I guess none feels it more painfully than the many charities that depend on the kindness of corporations and the public to continue serving the marginalised.

Which is why my heart was gladdened last Thursday as contributions of RM30,000 each were handed over to two deserving causes – United Voice and Kenosis Home.

The donations were raised from the sale of the book Sunday Starters – Reflections on Life, which is a compilation of selected articles from this column.

Credit should go to all my readers who so generously bought up copies, and I’m especially happy that together we are able to make a difference in many lives.

For United Voice, the country’s first self-advocacy group for people with learning disabilities, the gift will enable them to run activities that will help their members overcome prejudices and gain acceptance and perhaps even employment – in short, have a stronger, united voice.

Kenosis Home meanwhile, offers an invaluable service of helping ex-drug addicts to get back on their feet and make a smooth transition to become productive members of society.

The home counsels clients and helps them secure gainful employment.

In cooperation with the Samaritans Ministries, it also organises a soup kitchen every Saturday afternoon in Brickfields.

To Kenosis Home too, the gift has come at just the right time, as contributions slow down noticeably owing to the poor economy.

There are of course countless other NGOs who are doing a marvellous job of lending a hand to the disadvantaged.

But these two are close to my heart as I have always felt strongly that social justice requires us to be inclusive in our approach, as well as to offer a second chance to those who may have stumbled along the way.

Being inclusive means rising above prejudices rooted in what are perceived as “differences” – whether it is gender, race, or disabilities.

It requires us to embrace such persons as equal members of society, and ensuring they have access to facilities and rights due to them.

For persons with disabilities, it has been a long and challenging journey to have their voices heard.

Many advocates have worked tirelessly to get them to where they are today, and still more needs to be done.

I have a soft spot for United Voice which was set up in July 2005 after branching out from Dignity and Services, an advocacy movement speaking and acting on behalf of and alongside persons with learning disabilities.

I was on the board of D&S at one time and it was such a joy to see how these young people could handle matters on their own, from writing their own cheques to representing themselves at important meetings and dialogues.


Read more @

A diplomatic approach to human rights

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

‘We didn’t fight the British to become independent so that we can oppress our own people,’ says the new chairman of Suhakam.

As the new Suhakam chairman, Tan Sri Razali Ismail says he won’t be going to barricades trying to knock down doors on human rights. For him, there is no “They against Us” or “Us against Them” when it comes to Suhakam and the government.

“We want to try to build a kind of sophistication where the government knows where we are coming from and trust us and don’t look at us as an agent to challenge or destroy them. We are not out to bash them,” he says.

The former diplomat believes “it is possible to persuade” the government on human rights. “I have to try my talent and my charm on the people inside, which is not going to be easy.”

Razali says Suhakam wants to talk with civil servants on human rights and hopes it can be introduced as part of the school syllabus to start the kids on it from young. He says “ it is a poor show on the part of the government” that Suhakam’s annual report is not tabled and debated in parliament.

“I am prepared to go on bended knees to meet with the Speakers of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on this. They must look at us.’’

The following is the full interview with Razali.

Q: How would you describe the state of human rights in the country now compared to 10 years ago?

We have come quite a long way. We are on the verge of being a developed country. With that, comes the attributes of human rights. In the olden days, we never used to bathe in hot water but now virtually all the urban population in Malaysia wants to bathe in hot water. These are things which are important to people naturally.

In the past, some of us including me used to wake up at 4.30am, trek an hour to the road to wait for a bus to go to school. This is hardly heard of these days, although it might still be happening in some places.
So human rights has come a long way in the country. But that is not the end of the journey. There are many things to do. The more developed the country is, the greater the expectations.

Q : Wouldn’t you say there is a deteriorating of human rights now compared to ten years ago because there are now more religious tensions?

It is the people who make the tensions. I don’t necessarily point a finger at the government for the religious tension. There are many other reasons for that. I am not an apologist to the government at all. Believe you me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.

You have to understand history. The British detained people arbitrarily during the colonial days. But now, there is to a greater extent a system for redress.
And there are aspects of human rights which the country must get into seriously like the deprivation of people.

Some of them are not Malaysian nationals. Then there are those who are marginalised. These people have to be helped.

The philosophy of Malaysia is to help all people. Historically, there are no permanent people in Malaysia.

Everyone came here from some area or other and they came with hopes and dreams, If their dreams don’t happen, they hope it will happen in their children’s lifetime. So the government must understand the aspirations of people that they want to move ahead and do better and the government must help.

We cannot have a country that is truncated between the rich and the poor. If everyone is poor, fine. If everyone is rich, that’s great. But you can’t have a huge disparity of income. We have to deal with that. To me, that is very important. This is what Suhakam wants to look into. We must get a lot of support from people who realise it is a bad thing to have these disparities.

Q: But the government already has been coming up with a lot of policies over the years to address disparities and grow the middle class?

Yes the government has done a lot. We have better access to housing and greater access to education. But people who are not Malaysians are not getting it. We have migrant workers here who think of Malaysia as Shangri-la. They prosper here and we have to help them. The global responsibility of Malaysia is linked to our own constitution. Suhakam will pay a lot of attention in dealing with that.

Q: You were a diplomat and a UN special envoy to Myanmar. Is that why you have taken a special interest in this?

I carry the bad habits of being a diplomat in trying to look at things, somewhere in between – at possibilities.

I don’t go to barricades and try to knock down doors. We have not come to a point where we have do this in Malaysia. I think it is possible to persuade.


Read more @

Carry out your duty without fear or favour, says Shukri

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

PUTRAJAYA: In a highly emotional farewell speech, outgoing Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner of operations Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull reminded his colleagues to perform their duties without fear or favour.

“The MACC is not for cowards. The fight against corruption is not an easy job and there are many challenges that come with it.

“You must face it with a strong heart,” said Mohd Shukri in his farewell address at the MACC headquarters here.

Mohd Shukri shared the challenges that he had to go through during his tenure, which included receiving death threats.

“I have had a live bullet delivered to the house. I suffered from insomnia and have high blood pressure.

“I have been insulted and even accused of being a conspirator to topple the Government,” said a visibly upset Mohd Shukri, pausing several times and choking on his words.

Without mentioning any names, Mohd Shukri lambasted an “individual” who recently lodged a police report against his boss, chief commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, for allegedly plotting to topple the Prime Minister.

“This individual who lodged the police report is not an educated person. He is unable to differentiate between a conspiracy and a struggle to fight corruption for the love of the country,” he said in an obvious reference to Umno Youth vice-chief Khairul Azwan Harun.

Khairul, who lodged a police report against the outgoing Abu Kassim, former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, alleged that the three were believed to be involved in a conspiracy to topple Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the Malaysian Government.

Read more @

‘Cut down on rice intake’ call

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

INANAM: Some 80 parents and teachers of SK Bantayan here benefitted from a “cooking healthy food” demonstration by a nutritionist Kimberly Wong during the half-day health programme at the school premises, Friday.

The programme which was jointly organised by Shangrila Resort in Kota Kinabalu together with Mercy Malaysia was lauded by headmistress Junaidah Yassin.

“From my observation, some of the students do not eat proper breakfast before they come to school.

It is important that parents must have knowledge and be more aware the importance of having good breakfast.

This is so that the children can come to school with an alert mind and good health, to perform well in their studies,” said Junaidah.

Kimberly, who is attached to the Health Clinic based in Kudat advised parents to give healthy breakfast for their children which contain milk as it is a good source for healthy bones.

“I understand that some children do not like to drink milk, therefore you can add milk in the breakfast meal such as pancake. Milk powder or liquid can be blended together with flour and pan-fry it with a little portion of oil or butter.

It is highly nutritious.

In your daily meal, you should have more vegetables and a little rice with meat and/ or fish,” she added.

Eating fruits daily is also a good practice for children and adult according to Kimberly.

She said any kinds of fruits are good however, it must be taken in moderate portion.

“When people get sick, only then they would consider taking fruits to help them recover.

But it is not the right way of doing. Fruit is taken to prevent us from getting sick but not to cure.

Therefore prevention is better than cure. Eat fruits everyday and you won’t get sick easily,” she advised.

She also alerted parents not to consume excessive rice as it is not good for the health in a long run.

She studies show that many Malaysians are going into obesity.

Read more @

Almost half of Sabah women in jail locals – and rising

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: Forty per cent of women in Sabah’s prisons are Malaysians, a majority of them of schooling age who got into trouble after dabbling with drugs. And their numbers are going up.

“The figure fluctuates, but lately there has been an increase in the number of women involved in drugs, there are some who were jailed for having drugs but the majority are here for substance abuse,” said State Prisons Department Deputy Director Nora Musa.

She said in the case of women, a majority are influenced into substance abuse by those close to them, perhaps those they call friends, boyfriends or even their husbands.

She said about 60 per cent of their women inmates are foreigners.

“But we see more of our locals getting into drugs and we are doing our level best to get them on the right track through rehabilitation as well as Jalinan Kasih programmes like we have today,” she said during the programme held in conjunction with the Raya celebrations here Friday.

Eleven female convicts got to spend several hours with their loved ones during the Jalinan Kasih programme jointly organised by the Kota Kinabalu Women’s Prisons Department and the Henry Gurney School.

One of them was 24-year-old Fatimah (not her real name) who was sentenced to five years in prison for a drug offence in 2012.

“I wanted to be a policewoman, but drugs got me into trouble, and after being in and out of prison 11 times, I think it is high time for me to change and start afresh,” said the woman from Kudat.

She started experimenting with drugs at 12 and admitted to being unhappy when she was first caught for drugs.

“I had no regret and I kept doing drugs, but it is time to change. I miss my mother, I am lucky to be among the selected few who get to spend a few hours with family during the Jalinan Kasih programME.

Read more @

Fighting extremism with education

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Knowledge concerning faith must be dynamic and go beyond elementary levels.

There are two basic types of theological extremism that always pose harm within the Muslim community, and both can be repelled through true knowledge and a proper education system.

The first extreme is rigid traditionalism whose adherents make ignorance their capital and the second is excessive rationalism, which advocates the misuse of logic to intrude upon traditional wisdom.

Given that those who advocate these forms of extremism are often endowed with eloquence both verbal and written, their misleading rhetoric may confuse people in general as far as the true intention of Islamic religious traditions is concerned.

Indeed, “knowledge concerning faith” should be understood as neither static nor limited to its basic preliminaries, such as those elementary levels taught to Muslim children.

On the contrary, the scope and content of knowledge of the religious tenets – which is obligatory for each and every Muslim with regard to its pursuit – is very dynamic in nature.

The vigour of a Muslim’s knowledge concerning faith must reflect the commensurable increase in his maturity as well as responsibility as an individual in his society, in tandem with advancement in the capacity of his intelligence and reasoning.

A contemporaneous, dynamic understanding of religious doctrines is quite important in order to vanquish one’s epistemological doubt, if any, whether due to one’s personal inner agitation or external influence in the form of surreptitious deviant interpretations whose argumentations are raging in one’s society.

We are specifically referring to subtle, masquerading deviations that seek to undermine the teachings of the Quran, the authentic traditions of the Prophet (hadith) and the legitimate traditions of his Companions (athar) – all of which inseparably constitute Islamic religious tradition (naql).

Hence, knowledge concerning faith that is obligatory for each and every Muslim to pursue refers to knowledge that is “sufficient” to eliminate doubt and confusion concerning religious beliefs throughout one’s life.

“Sufficient” here means to the extent that one is able to know which religious doctrines are true as opposed to which are false until he or she is able to avoid believing in falsehood and errant beliefs or rejecting true religious tenets.


Read more @

    Nazir keen on celebrating diversity for a more peaceful Malaysia

    Friday, July 29th, 2016

    KUALA LUMPUR: Prominent ban­ker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak is looking forward to taking part in the Anak-Anak Malaysia Walk on Aug 14, saying he is ready to walk the talk for a richer, more peaceful and united Malaysia.

    This is his vision for a better Malaysia.

    “It is a Malaysia that is prospe­rous, peaceful and united and, of course, those three elements are interlaced. It is a place where everyone must feel that it is for them,” he told The Star.

    A moderate Malaysia is very dear to Nazir, hence his eagerness to join the upcoming Anak-Anak Malaysia Walk, meant to celebrate Malaysia’s diversity and to promote unity and understanding.

    Asked what Anak-Anak Malaysia meant to him, the CIMB Group chairman said it was about being Malaysian first and foremost, as well as recognising the need for unity in diversity.

    “Whatever our differences, at the end of the day we are one nation. We must strive for the betterment of this country and all its people, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion.

    “Obviously at a time when you get a relatively toxic political atmosphere, it is comforting to go back to themes that speak strongly about unity and multiculturalism that are so important to the nation,” he said.

    Nazir also observed that the younger generation was struggling to identify itself with elements of the current national administration system, and these frustrations must be addressed.

    “For instance, education issues have to be looked at in the context of the social contract – what we agreed on at the time of independence, and what was reformed at the time of the New Economic Policy.

    “Many among the new generation cannot identify with the NEP and the other elements of the system.

    “It is time for a holistic look at all this,” he said.

    The Anak-Anak Malaysia Walk 2016, to be held ahead of the National Day celebrations, will kick off at the Bukit Bintang City Centre on Aug 14.


    Read more @

    Much needed help for the jobless

    Friday, July 29th, 2016

    PETALING JAYA: With the large number of retrenchments and layoff in several sectors in the country, many people are coming together to help those who lost their jobs find gainful employment again.

    After opting for Voluntary Separation Scheme from a multinational company in Penang almost a year ago, human resource analyst Bala Chandran set up a WhatsApp chat group to help others like him.

    His informal group called the Penang Indian HR Network now has 250 members sharing job openings and opportunities.

    Bala, 34, who is now employed in another MNC, said those in the chat, who include directors, ma­nagers and leaders, were free to share information about the vacancies with anyone, regardless of race.

    “So far we have helped around 30 people,” he said.

    A Facebook group initially call­ed Helping Hands – Job Op­­por­tunities for Media Friends was set up by public relations group Rouge PR in the wake of lay­­offs and downsizing in va­­rious news organisations this year.

    According to the co-administrator S.S. Yoga, the group, which now has 1,262 members, changed its name recently to Joining Hands – Jobs for Media/PR Friends after PR companies started downsizing as well.

    Yoga said the group did not have data on how many members found jobs through the site.

    The Human Resources Deve­lop­ment Fund (HRDF) has introduced the 1Malaysia Outplace-ment Centre to retrain retrenched workers and help with job placement.

    HRDF chief executive Datuk C.M. Vignaesvaran said RM77mil had been allocated for the purpose. Of the amount, RM3mil has been used so far.

    He said the pilot programme had been successful with 400 finding jobs so far.

    Vignaesvaran said they hoped to help at least 4,000 this year but acknowledged that it was a small fraction of the 43,000 workers who reportedly lost their jobs in Malaysia since last year.

    However, he said that the programme was focused on re­trench­ed semi-skilled workers.

    Barisan Nasional Youth Job Fair chairman Dazma Shah Daud said changing mindsets to promote technical and vocational jobs would be the focus this year.

    “These are not second-class jobs and they are in demand,” he said.

    He said MNCs also wanted locals to replace skilled and professional foreigners.

    Read more @