Archive for August, 2019

A Merdeka wish for peace

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
It is our fervent Merdeka hope that violence and aggression be better handled and reduced. File Pic

I REMEMBER reading a research done in Indonesia some years back that science st‎udents are more readily radicalised to commit violence and extremism compared with their non-science counterparts.

One of the reasons cited was because science is a more rigid — black or white — discipline with few grey areas in between. As a result, science students are more inclined to decide on one or the other.

Whereas the humanities students are more used to choosing the “in-betweens” and feel comfortable with it. Although they may later gravitate towards violence but there is also a chance they may do otherwise.

In other words, religion may not be the main cause for violence per se.

That said, many were relieved to learn from the International Seminar on Religious Values in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism held last week at International Islamic University Malaysia that religions are indeed innocent bystanders‎ being (mis)assigned the malicious blame.

There are many factors that drive someone towards extremism. According to an expert on religion-state-society studies,‎ geopolitical or economic influences are more likely to be the cause, although religious labelling are more often used which then makes the issues more complex. At times politicians are the culprits by using religions for their vested interest.

Professor Mark Woodward said religious leaders instead have a crucial role and responsibility to play in stopping violent extremism. Together with politicians, religious leaders should refrain from using religious hatred as political tools to advance their own interests.

Policy makers are, therefore, ill-advised to use theological orientation as a factor in assessing the violent potential of Muslim movements and organisations, he writes. Instead more attention should be paid to variables that measure political attitudes and behaviour.

In line with this, the United Nations Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) urged states “to consider ‎ways to have a more inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels in local, national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflict, including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism”.

The seminar thus recommends the formation of a coordinating body, i.e. a secretariat, to facilitate the National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) under the purview of the Home Ministry.

This is to consolidate government resources towards actionable response on PCVE issues and to also involve other stakeholders and acquire expertise from educational, civil society organisations and the private sector.

As it is, a survey of existing PCVE programmes across various ministries and agencies, such as the Department of National Unity and Integration under the Prime Minister’s Department, indicates that there are significant efforts at engagement and capacity building for PCVE.

However, there are also overlapping and duplication of efforts and responsibilities of these different government agencies which may prevent effective and cost-efficient enforcement of policies. By having a national secretariat, better optimisation of resources and best practices can be achieved‎. ‎In addition, it also recommends the development of a PCVE programme package for Malaysian youths for national implementation.

This will be ascertained through a pilot study and identification of existing best practices across government ministries and agencies.

The principles of public health provide a useful framework for PCVE using capacity building especially in terms of research, collaboration, advocacy and engagement as part of more general nation-building efforts and also target segmentation of those considered to be at risk of radicalisation and violence.

By rigorously understanding the causes and consequences of violent extremism and terrorism via research and instrumentation, a more general but relevant primary prevention programme, policy interventions, advocacy; and a more focused countering of violent extremism programmes can be created.

Before all those, it also recommends that outmoded aspects of PCVE be reformed and expanded in the so-called post-ISIS period, by giving focus on the threat of far-right extremism and other religious and ideological radicalism, and the dynamics of their exchanges intra and between communities that threaten local and global peace.

By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.

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NST Leader: Celebrate our diversity

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
Malaysians, young and old, and from all walks of life, must prevail over the challenges together, regardless of race, to progress as a developed and high-income country. We need to rekindle the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) that seems to have faded into the woodwork over time. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD)

MALAYSIA is 62 today. As an independent nation that has seen 14 general elections, been served by six prime ministers and two political coalitions, how have we fared? Have we achieved Merdeka in its truest sense?

Merdeka is not just about celebrating independence or flying the Jalur Gemilang. True Merdeka is about preserving a nation’s unity — the unity that guarantees the survival of a nation. Malaysia is said to be a melting pot of different cultures, races and religions; in essence it is still a young and growing nation. After more than six decades, our journey is far from complete.

As a nation, we seem to have come full circle, and the old demons that we thought we had vanquished post-independence have resurfaced, such as disunity, the race issue, income disparity and a depressed economy (although this is mostly external).

Malaysians, young and old, and from all walks of life, must prevail over the challenges together, regardless of race, to progress as a developed and high-income country. We need to rekindle the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) that seems to have faded into the woodwork over time. Muhibbah was the theme in the campaign for unity after our dark moment in history — it was a time when camaraderie and the bond of friendship was strong among the people, and where the young were taught values of nation-building and the meaning of Merdeka. Those were Malaysia’s summer years.

Physically and economically, Malaysia has grown — reportedly, economists forecast Malaysia’s economy to grow at 4.5 per cent this year to RM1.51 trillion from last year’s RM1.45 trillion, despite the uncertainty from the prolonged US-China trade war. We have a national car, buildings and skyscrapers, but all these would mean naught if we are not united.

Things have become complicated today. Malaysians tend to forget this is a country that was built on the blood, sweat and tears of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs, Orang Asli, Kadazan, Bidayuh, Murut — all those races. We appear to have lost all sense of respect for each other.

In recent weeks, we have seen incidents of flags flown upside down, insults and slurs exchanged over the introduction of khat in schools and a fender bender turned racial. Issues have been blown out of proportion, and rumours, slanders and lies have become the norm. Rightly, we have to ask ourselves how much do we love this country and are we patriotic enough to protect our sovereignty from internal and external threats. Let’s reflect and ponder.

Building a nation is like growing a family — good parents grow a family that will always be one because each member knows he belongs. Bad parents, seen to favour some over others, usually can’t hold a family together. Leaders, therefore, must set the course, chart the direction wisely and become exemplars.

Today is Merdeka — let’s celebrate our diversity, warts and all. We have inherited a beautiful and peaceful country from our forefathers; as patriotic citizens we have a responsibility to guard this Shangri-la at all costs and make it better for future generations.

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Instilling nationalism and unity through General Studies

Saturday, August 31st, 2019
Students of various ethnic backgrounds waving the Jalur Gemilang at the Universiti Putra Malaysia 61st Independence Day Celebration.

AS the ones who will be holding Malaysia’s reins in the future, the nation’s young citizens must possess a strong nationalistic spirit and love for the country’s diverse society.

General Studies or Matapelajaran Pengajian Umum (MPU) is one course with a few subjects, offered at tertiary institutions in the country to strengthen these values among students. It was first introduced in September 2013 and was made compulsory for all students in public and private higher education institutions in the country.

The Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education (MoE) stated that one of the objectives of the subject was to produce holistic graduates and instil a sense of patriotism and nation building in the younger generation.

According to a statement from the department, graduates need to have intellectual skills to become more responsible citizens. This can be achieved through creating awareness of a national identity and volunteerism which are the main objectives of MPU.

Compulsory only for Malaysian students, Ethnic Relations or Hubungan Etnik is a subject offered in MPU which revolves around the dynamic social relations between Malaysians.

“In Ethnic Relations, which falls under the first category, students learn about the many important core values and concepts with regards to race relations”, said Dr Wendy Yee Mei Tien Member of the Technical Committee for Enhancing General Studies in Malaysian Higher Education Institutions and a Universiti Malaya (UM) lecturer

Other subjects offered in MPU include Islamic and Asian Civilisations (TITAS), Malaysian Studies, Entrepreneurship Skills and Bahasa Melayu Komunikasi.

Dr Wendy Yee Mei Tien, member of the Technical Committee for Enhancing General Studies in Malaysian Higher Education Institutions and a Universiti Malaya (UM) lecturer, said: “The MPU courses comprise four main categories, which are appreciating philosophy, values and history; mastering humanity skills; broadening knowledge about Malaysia and global issues; and developing community-minded skills.

“In Ethnic Relations, which falls under the first category, students learn about the many important core values and concepts with regards to race relations,” said Yee.


Social cohesion is an important concept in Ethnic Relations, according to Yee, who is also the UM Internship Training and Academic Enrichment Centre (Citra) director.

“On social cohesion, we talk about the peace and stability that Malaysia has achieved after 62 years of independence.The state of stability that we enjoy today is due to the strong social bond among Malaysians. This is demonstrated through the consensus, compromise, tolerance and the accommodating spirit that we share,” she said.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) Tun Tan Cheng Lock Centre for Social and Policy Studies Chairperson Associate Professor Dr Chin Yee Mun echoes the importance of social cohesion.

“In this subject, students are taught about the social reality of Malaysia’s multi-ethnic environment. Malaysians need to live cohesively. There were times in the past when we were in conflict, but we have improved and learnt to appreciate social cohesion,” said Chin.

The subject provides students with a better understanding of ethnic relations from both the historical and contemporary perspectives, according to Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Ecology Faculty senior lecturer Dr Mohd Mahadee Ismail.

“The course looks into how all aspects of life — politics, law, economics, religion and education — play an important role in establishing a harmonious ethnic relationship.

“For example, students are exposed to the cooperation between race-based political parties in Malaysia. Through such collaboration, we maintained the country’s stability and achieved immense progress. So, students will understand the importance of ethnic relations through political cooperation,” said Mohd Mahadee.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Creative Industries Faculty Dean Dr David Tneh Cheng Eng (left) with the students who won the king and queen title for Patriotism Day.

“They will learn how the nation transformed into a society of interdependence. This brings about a shared sense of belonging,” he added.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Pusat Citra Universiti deputy director Associate Professor Dr Mashitoh Yaacob said: “Ethnic Relations is included in the Citra Compulsory Courses category in UKM. The course exposes students to the nation’s heritage and history. They will be equipped with noble values to interact with others in a multiethnic society.

“The subject teaches students that diversity is a strength for the nation, not a liability. Students will learn about unity in diversity,” said Mashitoh, who is also a member of the Technical Committee for Enhancing General Studies (MPU) in Malaysian Higher Education Institutions.

“Students will be aware of cultural exchanges and the common values that Malaysians share. For instance, everyone eats nasi lemak and wears baju kurung. In a typical Malaysian conversation, you will see people speaking in at least two or three different languages in a single sentence,” said Yee.


In Ethnic Relations, students delve into the concepts of stereotypes, prejudice, racism and discrimination.

“Students can first reflect upon themselves to see whether they harbour any stereotypical views or prejudice towards other ethnic groups, without realising it. Once they start to recognise their negative tendencies they can become better Malaysians,” said Yee.

“Through self-reflection, students will not fear or deny differences. Instead, they develop a deeper understanding of people from different cultures.”

Yee also said students attain inter-ethnic maturity and social relations literacy, adding: “Acquiring these tools will enable them to sieve through the negative narratives and influences in their lives. These include biased news, social media reports and political rhetoric. This is important to build the foundation for a stable and harmonious society.”

Mashitoh Yaacob

Mohd Mahadee added: “It is important for all Malaysians regardless of race to understand the differences which exist in our society and to develop mutual tolerance.

“We share many similar values which makes the best foundation in building a united nation. Through this course, students can form a deeper understanding about other cultures.”

The subject also exposes students to the sacred and forbidden taboos of an ethnic group. “Students will learn why an ethnic group practises a certain taboo or tradition. It enables students to put themselves in other people’s shoes and develop empathy,” said Yee.

“Understanding the taboos held by different ethnic groups can encourage mutual respect for each other. This can foster unity among students,” said Mohd Mahadee.

Highlighting the importance of empathy, Yee added: “Students need to know how similar we are to each other. The pain of having a fever or of a mother delivering a baby is the same across ethnic groups. The blood that runs in us is the same. We should not be torn apart by superficiality when deep down there are more commonalities within us.”


Coursework is carried out in groups which require students from different races to work together.

Mohd Mahadee said: “Students are strongly encouraged to form a team that can reflect Malaysia’s identity. Through a variety of tasks and assignments, students of various ethnic groups get to know and understand each other.”

Yee said: “In Universiti Malaya, we make it compulsory to have group members from different ethnic groups. When students work together, they will develop empathy and compassion that goes beyond their own race.”

Chin said: “This subject encourages students to explore Malaysia’s society through assignments. Normally, students have to conduct a simple descriptive study on various issues concerning Malaysia’s diverse society.

“This assignment will encourage students to come out of their ethnic cocoon to talk to people from various ethnic backgrounds. Hopefully, this will trigger more interactions and deeper understanding of people from other cultures.”

While this subject is compulsory, the grading system is different in each university.

Yee said: “In UM, students taking Ethnic Relations are required to sit for final examinations which contributes 30 per cent to their grade.”

“In UKM students of the subject are graded and the grades are included in the students’ CGPA,” said Mashitoh.

“Normally, UPM students score good results in this subject. If they fail, they have to retake the subjects,” said Mohd Mahadee.

“All UTAR students must pass this subject but it does not contribute to their CGPA,” said Chin.


Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) vice-chancellor Professor Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim said that the Ethnic Relations subject puts emphasis on developing responsible citizens with positive inter-ethnic interactions.

“UiTM prioritises the development of patriotic spirit among students to fulfil the government’s desire to build a multi-ethnic society with love and respect for religion, race and the nation.

“The courses including Ethnic Relations are very relevant in achieving the Education Ministry’s goal in the application of moral values, national identity, cultural understanding, self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

“Graduates are also expected to develop moral values, a sense of responsibility and a patriotic spirit,” said Azraai.

Yee said that the course is relevant as diversity is Malaysia’ greatest asset.

“The course may not directly land you a job or put food on the table but it builds the foundation for a stable society. If a society is unstable or in conflict, it no longer matters if you score 4.0 or graduate with a top degree. You won’t be able to secure a job.”

Noting that attitudes do not change overnight, Yee added: “The subject can at least create awareness and give students an opportunity to learn about each other. Without knowing each other, students can become ignorant of other cultures which may lead to suspicion and distrust. This will eventually lead to fear and hatred.

“Dispelling the ignorance is a measure of effectiveness. We may not be able to see immediate result but a transformation will happen.”

Mashitoh said: “A conclusive study needs to be conducted to find out whether there is a direct correlation between MPU courses and students becoming better citizens.

“However, in my view, the courses play a vital role. Based on studies conducted by Pusat Citra Universiti, UKM, we have received positive feedback from students who underwent industrial training as well as our graduates. MPU courses, in one way or another, have contributed to them becoming better Malaysians.”

According to Chin, while MPU subjects such as Ethnic Relations can educate students, external factors also play a role

Reserve Officers Training Unit (Palapes) marching at the UPM 61st Independence Day Celebration.

“Developing positive relationships with other ethnic groups is a life-long learning process. We are trying to instil these seeds but there are multiple factors such as politics, family background and peer influence that come into play.

“In my view, the course is significant for nation building. It is an investment to develop a more mature-minded human capital and to maintain the harmony in Malaysia,” said Yee.

Mohd Mahadee said: “This subject constitutes a unifying feature of our multiethnic society. We need to continue teaching it to ensure that students appreciate the true identity of Malaysia and become patriotic citizens of our beloved country.

“Without unity, it is possible for the country’s wellbeing to be disrupted. We need to unite to reduce ethnic gaps and societal conflicts that could endanger national security.”

Having recently revised the curriculum in 2017, the MoE is in the midst of revamping the MPU syllabus again.

“The new syllabus will incorporate more elements on patriotism and ethics. It will also include current issues related to the economic, political, social, cultural and environmental landscape based on philosophical and ethical theories,” said a representative from the MoE’s Higher Education Department.

Mashitoh, who has been involved in designing and reviewing MPU courses at the national level said: “Changes to the content and focus of MPU courses are inevitable to move forward in meeting the current needs of the society.

“In UKM, changes to the courses are made as a result of rigorous studies and reviews of the structure and curriculum, feedback from both internal and external stakeholders as well as benchmarking exercises with local and international higher learning institutions.”


The subject enabled UiTM student Vellarie June Jeffrey Lungin, 20, from Penampang, Sabah, to be more educated about Malaysia.

“It is very important for young Malaysians to learn and appreciate the different cultural values because our generation will be shaping the country’s future.

“This subject can help students become better Malaysians as we will sit alongside others who are of different religions and races. We work with them, exchange ideas and learn to accept others’ opinions.

“Unity is the foundation of a patriotic spirit. When we’re united, we will strive together for the peace and harmony of our country,” said Vellarie, who is a Kadazan.

The Ethnic Relations subject is a platform to learn in depth about various ethnic groups according to UM Applied Chemistry student Arif Zuhair Mohd Arnuar.

“I learnt about the beauty of the diversity of cultures. I can find the universal values in each culture to apply in my own life. Once we get to know each other, a mutual understanding will develop. This way, we may avoid any inter-ethnic challenges in the future.”

UTAR Civil Engineering student Wang Wei Dong, 21, said: “In my opinion, this subject is important. We can learn more about Malaysian history and how our ancestors built a country that we can live in peacefully.”

UPM Biomedical Sciences student Yasothaa Velusamy said that the course allows her to understand the issues of ethnic prejudice and discrimination.

“This subject improves our general knowledge in terms of various ethnic relations in Malaysia. More importantly, the younger generation needs to respect each other’s religion and culture. By learning this, students become better and more united citizens.”

By Rayyan Rafidi.

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Bringing the world into the classroom

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Students listen attentively to the briefing for news reporting via the Instagram competition. NSTP/SADDAM YUSOFF.

THERE is no denying that social media usage has a powerful presence in young people’s lives.

Recently, in a collaboration with the New Straits Times, a News Reporting competition via Instagram took place at #MySchoolGoals International Festival.

It saw 26 students producing news reports that were complemented with interesting photos and videos on the social media network platform.

Hosted by SMK TTDI Jaya, Shah Alam, its Language Department head and #MySchoolGoals programme manager Adibah Omar said: “Some educators refuse to include social media in education, thinking that it will only be harmful to students.

“What we should do is show students how to use social media responsibly for educational purposes. If you can’t beat them, join them,” she added.

With this in mind, Adibah decided to elevate the usual school co-curriculum carnival to a bigger scale.

Themed “Bringing the World to Your Classroom”, the inaugural #MySchoolGoals International Festival attracted students from schools in Malaysia and neighbouring Asian countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and even Saudi Arabia.

With its aim of cultivating a love for reading and promoting a positive learning environment, students also found themselves engaging in other competitions and activities such as Cool Coding, MySchoolGoals Idol, 3R Competition and the Young Adult Book Fair.

Alfin Nurfadhilah Ramli, 16, from Al Azhar Senior High School, Indonesia, said that he was happy to be a part of the festival.

“It was my first time joining a news writing competition. I was also very happy to get to socialise with students from other countries.”

Nur Aina Nazurah Mohamad Imran, a student from SMK TTDI Jaya, who clinched the gold award for News Reporting, revealed that she initially lacked the confidence to write.

“I decided to give it a shot anyway. In order to build better self esteem, I knew that I must be ready to step out of my comfort zone.

“Through the competition, I was able to improve my English language skills and gain new and exciting experiences.”

Surprised to emerge as the winner, Nur Aina Nazurah added: “I was overwhelmed with joy. Winning this competition has undoubtedly motivated me to continue writing in the future.”

Angellyn Loh Jeng Man, 17, who took second place, revealed that her curiosity about a reporter’s functions spurred her to participate.

“This competition was the perfect opportunity for me to dig deeper into journalism. In my passion for writing, I was supported by my teachers and parents. News writing is nothing like writing an article in school. I never knew there were so many important details necessary for a news report until I tried writing one myself,” said Loh.

Another student, Anton Yeoh Zhen Feng, 14, pointed out that a briefing given by a New Straits Times journalist was very helpful.

“I learnt that before writing a news report, we should research the topic, compile all the facts, interview key people of interest, start writing the lead and do a fact-check before publishing.”

The highlight of the festival was the largest Book Swapping event in Malaysia where 4,584 students exchanged books and made new friends.

SMK TTDI Jaya student, Ayra Amani Zulkifli, 16, said that her love of books was the reason behind her participation.

“I developed a keen interest in reading after borrowing a friend’s book back in primary school. Aside from romance and young adult genres, I enjoy reading biographies such as Princess Diana – Her True Story. So how could I miss the largest book swap in the country? I will cherish this experience for a long time.”

She added: “The festival has helped me a lot as a student because it has enabled me to enhance my communication skills and develop leadership qualities.”

Finalist Aiden Lim Kaiven, 14, from SMK TTDI Jaya, who participated in the Cool Coding competition, pointed out that games are educational too.

The Cool Coding competition required students to complete a game-based coding exercise. “I joined the competition because playing games is fun and it keeps my mind active. I did not have any prior experience in coding. So I strongly believe that this competition should be in the next festival,” Lim said.

To shed light on the issue of plastic pollution in Malaysia, students showcased their innovative skills in the 3R Competition. SK TTDI Jaya student Janna Amaneena Johan, 10 and her group members invented a lamp made of plastic spoons and bottles.

She revealed: “After watching tutorials on YouTube and with the help of our teachers and parents, we invented this lamp, inspired by pine trees.”

Students were also involved in the performing arts through competitions such as MySchoolGoals Idol and #MySchoolGoals Model Search.

Ain-Nur Fakhira Roslan,17, who won bronze for her rendition of Semakin by Siti Sarah, in the MySchoolGoals Idol, said: “I love to sing as it expresses my inner thoughts and feelings.

“Getting in the top three was beyond my expectations. It was a tough ride, so winning bronze was a proud moment for me.”

Placing third, she also received the offer of free vocal lessons at The Academy of Recording Arts worth RM1,000. Ain-Nur Fakhira plans to take up the offer after completing her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.

Another participant, Nur Alyssya Yusoff, 15, decided she would show off her singing skills. “It was a great opportunity for me to do something that I love. I am very grateful as it was my first time participating in a singing competition.”

According to Adibah, it was a great feat for a government school like SMK TTDI Jaya to pull off hosting a festival of such magnitude. “I just wanted to provide opportunities for students to shine. As a teacher of a class with 40 students, I haven’t been able to send everyone to represent the school in various competitions.

“So this festival is an avenue to bring the world to them. Students were able to join each activity based on their talents, interests and creativity,” said Adibah.

“I would also like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Education Ministry for promoting our festival,” said a grateful Adibah.

By Rayyan Rafidi.

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135 special education students take part in environmental activities

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: A total of 135 special education students from schools in Kota Kinabalu did their part for the nature in the recent Apresiasi Alam programme at Tanjung Lipat beach.

The one-day event saw gotong-royong activities and beach cleanup along the shoreline apart from ecobrick lessons as a measure to save and utilise plastic waste in the area.

Organised by SMK Kolombong’s Special Education Integrated Programme (PPKI), the event was aimed not only at raising environmental awareness and instilling the sense of love and responsibility towards nature, but also develop confidence among students with disabilities.

SMK Kolombong’s Special Education Senior Assistant Alizah Abd Malek said apart from giving them learning experience, the school also hoped to expose the students to the public and allow them to interact and engage with local community.

“We are therefore killing two birds with one stone…we hope these special education students will be able to socialise with the community through this exposure.

“For us under special education, every step is a learning experience. Even one step outside of school is a lesson for our children because that is where they will learn how to interact with others, how to listen to instructions, appreciate the nature, and learn to love everything in their surrounding,” she said.

Following its initiation last year, she stated that the programme had left significant impact among students with some parents telling them that their children had learnt to pick up rubbish from the ground.

This was proof that people with disabilities have equal responsibility and could also play their role in looking after the environment.

“It is actually quite easy to teach these students because they tend to remember and adopt our lessons into their lives, making it a routine after being trained and taught several times inside and outside of school.

“Therefore, we want them to attain inclusion and play their role as well, as citizens of Kota Kinabalu.” Some 75 mainstream students also took part in the initiative which was joined in by SMK Taman Tun Fuad, SMK Inanam, SMK Kolombong, SK Luyang, SK Bukit Padang, SK Kolombong, and SK Tanjung Aru.

With disabilities ranging from autism to cerebral palsy, SMKKolombong PPKI currently has 107 students, 19 teachers, and five assistants, with facilities that include three fish ponds and 12 classrooms for Form 1 to Form 5 students.

Besides skills development classes, students were also required to take up core subjects including Bahasa Melayu, English and Mathematics.

She said elective subjects – pastry, sewing, basic gardening, and beading for low-functioning students – were prioritized, adding that the school had just begin rearing stingless bee.

“These are all one step ahead towards entrepreneurship to train the students so that they would no longer have to rely on job seeking.

“The lessons that we try to deliver were also for those that can be guided by their own parents at home…we want to help them think, what would happen to their children when they are no longer here?

“That is why elective subjects are critical for special education students as it helps them become independent beings,” Alizah said.

In addition to PPKI, she underlined that some of its students with special needs were involved in the Inclusive Education Programme (PPI) where they learn the usual mainstream syllabus and sit for public examinations – PT3 and SPM.

This has resulted in a number of its PPI students pursuing higher education at public and private institutions including Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia and AMC College, among others.

She noted, however, that limited options for special education students in Sabah have left them with nowhere to turn to, apart from development centres.

“For our students, we usually enrol them to Cheshire Home – they have this programme with ATI College where they teach pastries, housekeeping and F&B but since seats are limited, we could only assist four to five students.


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First woman in Sabah to head fire station

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Agustavia: Meaningful National Month.

KOTA KINABALU: This year’s National Month celebration is indeed a memorable one for Agustavia Joe Guasi as not only her birthday falls on National Day but she was also appointed as the Chief of the Lintas Fire Station, here, on Aug 1.

The appointment was especially significant as it made Agustavia, 37, the first woman in Sabah to hold the post.

Sharing her story, the mother of four said she started her career in 2001 merely because she needed a job, but as Lady Luck would have it, she now heads a fire station.

Agustavia said before joining as a recruit, she had never thought about being a firefighter and was not even clear about the real job of firefighters, just relating it to fire extinguishing and helping out during road accidents.

“But I promptly fell in love with the job during my recruit training,” said the former student of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Mat Salleh, Ranau.

Talking about her career path, the firefighter, who hails from Kampung Nalapak, Ranau, said she started recruit training at the Sabah Fire Academy for a year before being placed in the training department until 2007.

“Then I was transferred to the Sabah State Operations and Rescue Division from 2007 to 2009. A year later, I worked here (at the Lintas Fire Station) before working at the Sabah Operations Centre from 2011 until July,” she said.

Amazingly, her busy schedule did not stop her from reaching for the stars. Agustavia is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Public Administration degree at Universiti Utara Malaysia.

On significant moments of her career, she said among the tasks she has handled are the “Ops Gempa” in Mount Kinabalu and “Ops Kemarau” in Papar district in 2015 as well as the frequent fires in squatter areas around Kota Kinabalu.

As the head of the fire station, she said, a big task looms for her as she is not only responsible for the staff and the running of the station, but also acts as the front line in dealing with the community.

“Those who are interested to be firefighters, especially women, should be mentally and physically prepared to be able to carry out their duties as firefighters. This career is not as easy as wearing a uniform; this job means constantly putting your life at risk while carrying out the task.

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Dr Morni and Dr Zaida Seminar on Positive Parenting Skills

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Prof Dr Morni Kambrie, Chairman and Founder SIDMA College collaborated with Prof Dr Zaida Mustafa, Dean, School of Education & Humanities, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK) and collectively presented a Seminar on Positive Parenting Skills (Seminar Keibubapaan dan Kanak-kanak) at SMK Gunsanad II, Keningau on 27 August 2019.

Prof Dr Zaida Mustafa, who has been serving for more than 30 over years in various capacities with the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE); and for six years as the Dean of UNITAR International University prior to her current position as the Dean at UNIRAZAK. Her vast experience, knowledge and skills gained throughout her service has enabled her to collaborate with Prof Dr Morni to develop and presented at the seminar on positive parenting skills recently.

Prof Dr Morni Hj Kambrie was a UiTM lecturer prior to continuing his MBA in Scotland (1987) and PhD in 1990 has developed his interest in education since he was a lecturer back in 1984, and later as a lecturer with Edith Cowin University, Australia. Prior to his establishment of SIDMA College, he was engaged as a contract lecturer at University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).

Both Dr Morni and Dr Zaida are unique motivational speakers, well-known for their entertaining, captivating, highly interactive and energizing delivery techniques when they are on stage presenting their talk. When Dr Zaida was serving with MOE, she was appointed as an International Trainer, and has been giving talks to top education officers at international level.

With such combined unique background knowledge, experience and findings in the education of the young, both Dr Zaida and Dr Morni combing efforts to share parenting skills in a very meaningful, thought provoking, motivational as well as entertaining sharing to help parents in disciplining kids from toddlers to teens, particularly parents and students from the rural setting such as in Keningau, Sabah.

The goal of parenting is to teach kids to develop self-discipline; and many parents feel that spanking is necessary, an effective method to develop effective discipline. However, both Dr Zaida and Dr Morni talked about disciplining kids from toddlers to adolescents by focusing on developing their self-emotion – ensuring that children feel positive about themselves and to be the winners they were meant to be. For that, they both shared lots of practical solutions for parents to improve communication, building positive relationship as well as sharing other useful parenting skills; and avoiding negative skills such as yelling, screaming, spanking, caning, etc.

More than 250 teachers, parents, and students from secondary schools in and around Keningau district such as SMK Keningau, SMK Keningau II,  SMK Apin-Apin, SM St Francis Xavier, SMK Bingkor, SMK Agama Keningau, SMK Gunsanad, SMK Tulid, SMK Sook, SM Ken Hwa, and SMK Gunsanad II sent their representatives mainly from the upper secondary classes to participate in the event.

Encik Masly bin Wahip, Keningau District Education Officer, who was amazed by Dr Zaida and Dr Morni’s efforts to motivate and share the positive parenting skills and ideas thanked them sincerely for their efforts. He particularly thanked Dr Zaida who took time off to travel all the way from Kuala Lumpur to present and share some of the useful parenting skills technique.He too thanked all the Keningau secondary schools principals for their cooperation in sending representatives to this complimentary professional development event, and he hoped that they benefit from attending such activity.

At SIDMA College UNIRAZAK Sabah various courses are offered as follows:

  • Master of Management
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Education (Hons)
  • Bachelor of Early Childhood Education Hons)
  • Bachelor of English (Hons)
  • Bachelor of Management (Hons)
  • Diploma in Early Childhood Education
  • Diploma in Management
  • Diploma on Occupational Safety and Health

SIDMA College UNIRAZAK Sabah September 2019 Intake of new students are now in progress. SPM/STPM/Diploma school leavers are warmly welcomed to visit the college located at Jalan Bundusan, 88300 Kota Kinabalu to get more information and also to register. You can also make enquiries by calling SIDMA Hotlines 088-732 000 or 088-732 020 or Whatsapp to 013-865 4877. See you soon!

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Positive learning attitude key to change

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Dass (centre) guiding the participants in completing their tasks during the teacher workshop.

WHEN Omar Awwaluddin Ghazali turned up at The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) workshop held in SMK Seri Dungun, Terengganu, early this month, he was curious to find out what was in store for him.

The SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Kemaman teacher confessed that he had rarely used newspapers as a classroom resource.

“The problem is we don’t have enough to distribute to the classrooms, ” he said.

He also admitted to being unfamiliar with newspapers, as he usually obtained the latest news online or from the television.

But when the workshop began, Omar could be seen paying close attention to Star-NiE freelance consultant trainer Lucille Dass, actively contributing to discussions and even taking charge of his group’s hands-on activities.

It was precisely this kind of positive learning attitude that Dass urged the English language teachers in attendance to adopt in their profession.

Quoting Alvin Toffler, who wrote Future Shock, she said: “The illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

“Are you open to learning? Learning starts from the womb to the tomb – that means there is no end to learning. Once you stop learning, you are brain-dead. This is very serious, especially for teachers. If you don’t accept other people’s views, you are brain-dead, ” she explained.

“As teachers, we must first of all be learners. When you learn something new, you unlearn what is old and useless – you throw it away because it is of no use anymore at this point in time – then you would have relearned.”

Dass also emphasised the need for teachers to cultivate a genuine love for languages among their students.

“When your students enjoy learning, they take ownership of their learning; they become motivated, inspired and independent learners – that’s what you must aim for.

The students getting to know each other at the start of their session.The students getting to know each other at the start of their session

“Make them fall in love with the language, whatever language it is – then they want to learn, not because it is a school subject but because they love to learn – that is the kind of attitude a teacher must have, ” she said.

“A textbook is just a guide. Exams are only a snapshot of their abilities. It is better to use the language for life, ” she added.

Learn, unlearn and relearn

Sponsored by Petronas to support the use of newspapers in the classroom, the NiE workshop in Terengganu saw the participation of 35 primary and secondary school teachers, as well as the Terengganu Hired English Language Personnel (T-HELP).

The oil and gas giant is also sponsoring RM150,000 worth of NiE pullouts to supplement the Trenglish (Transforming English in Terengganu) programme for the third year.

Introduced in 2015, the Trenglish programme, involving 50 schools in the state, is a collaborative effort between Petronas, the state education department and Yayasan Terengganu to improve English language proficiency among students.

At the end of the teacher workshop, Omar was so inspired by Dass’ session that he gave it a nine out of 10 rating.

“Before coming here, I wasn’t exposed to such activities. I didn’t know I could use the newspaper in such a way to teach English, for example, getting students to find pictures and having them write their own descriptions.

“Now, I have more activities to apply in class. I will use The Star newspaper and the NiE pullout more often from now on, ” he said.

Omar is grateful for Petronas’ initiative to provide a better classroom environment and resource for teachers and students.

“The students in Terengganu lack the opportunity to use the English language in their environment. Because of Petronas’ sponsorship, they get more chances of familiarising themselves with the language through the newspaper, NiE pullout and student workshop, ” he said.

Teacher Zaini Kussin from SMK Kuala Jengal, Dungun, could also be seen eagerly raising his hands and sharing his answers several times during the workshop. Although this was his second year being a participant, he found new ideas worth exploring in his classroom.

“The instructor gave us two activities that I found interesting and lively – the kinaesthetic activity where we used the newspaper to mime some actions, and the pronunciation activity where we practised our intonation to the beat of a tambourine, ” he said, adding that he is inspired by Dass to use the maracas and other musical instruments in his English language lessons.

Zaini also shared that after attending the NiE workshop last year, he entrusted his school’s T-HELP Soleha Soleh with conducting newspaper activities during relief classes.

“I gave her a set of NiE activity cards I got from the workshop. She has tried them out with the students, ” he said.

Soleha, who was a first-time participant at an NiE workshop, rated Dass’ session a full 10 out of 10. She shared that she carries out newspaper activities four times a month.

“The students like using the newspaper. Every time they see me, they expect something different. I use both the newspaper and the pullout.

“I usually adapt the activities in the pullout if the level is too difficult for my students. We focus on fun, simple activities such as coming up with dialogues for characters in comic strips and pictures, ” she said.

While Zaini acknowledges the effort that Petronas is making to boost the state’s English language proficiency, he feels more can be done to ensure that the programme produces results.

“It’s a good thing that Petronas is doing this. But right now, it’s up to the teachers to use the newspaper. If we are not doing it, there won’t be results. Maybe Petronas and The Star can come up with a competition that can motivate us to be more active, and get the students to produce some work. It will cost more for Petronas but if you don’t have an exam, students don’t have the motivation to learn because they have nothing to worry about; likewise, if there’s a competition, it will challenge them to do more, ” he said.

For teacher Toharah Omar, the NiE workshop was a timely refresher as she attended a similar workshop some 10 years ago in Pahang.

“Sometimes the same teachers go for workshops while the others don’t get the opportunity. I’m thankful that I’m here for this. I hope Petronas and Star-NiE organise more workshops for teachers so that we gain new ideas and be more confident when carrying out newspaper activities in the classroom, ” she said.

As an English language teacher at SMK Tengku Lela Segara, Toharah has done her part to broaden her teaching repertoire through the use of newspapers.

“The students are more excited when I use the newspaper and NiE in the classroom. It’s a new experience for them because not all the teachers use it as a resource. They like to look at the pictures. It’s also useful because they get ideas and information which help them to enhance their essays or in debates, ” she said.

“I always advise my students to refer to the dictionary to learn new words from the newspaper, and not rely on me as a walking dictionary, ” she added.

Enjoyable experience

Later on the same day, 52 students – ranging from Forms One to Four – attended the student workshop held at the same venue.

Toharah’s student Nur Syamimi Zuhayra Mohd Razini found the experience enjoyable.

“This is my first NiE workshop. I realised there are many things I didn’t know about the newspaper. I learned new terms like jump line and byline.

“I particularly enjoyed the group activity where we were asked to label everything that we saw in a picture. It was so interesting and allowed us to practise our vocabulary, ” she said.

A passionate learner of the English language, the Form Two student hopes to see her articles published in the BRATs section of the NiE pullout.

“I like writing compositions and often look out for stories written by the BRATs participants, ” she said, referring to The Star’s writing platform for teenagers.

Nur Syamimi is grateful for Petronas’ sponsorship, which enables her to read The Star once a week.

“I bring home a copy from school every Wednesday and my family reads it, too, ” she added.

A second-year participant of the workshop, Form Three student Aleya Maisarah Azmi from SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Dungun found new takeaway points.

“I learned new vocabulary and many new things that I can do with the newspaper. I’m always excited when my English language teacher uses the newspaper in class. I especially like reading the comic section. I wish I could experience more of the NiE activities, ” she said.

Written by a team of experienced English language specialists, the NiE pullouts are packed with engaging hands-on newspaper activities for the classroom.

With 33 issues published per year, the 12-page NiE pullout presents activities divided into elementary, intermediate and advanced levels to suit students’ English language proficiency.

The pullout is syllabus-based and endorsed by the Education Ministry.

The teacher and student workshops in Dungun were part of four workshops sponsored by Petronas. The two other NiE workshops – one for teachers and one for students – were held at SM Imtiaz Yayasan Terengganu Kuala Terengganu last month.

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Employers who pay back their workers’ PTPTN loans get tax exemption this year.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Now, employers can pay back as part of their initiative, ’ said Abdul Ghaffar.

EMPLOYERS who help to pay back their workers’ outstanding loans from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) will enjoy a tax exemption this year.

This tax benefit was announced by the Government last November under Budget 2019.

“We want to reach out to employers from the private sectors such as banking, telecommunications and multimedia to help by paying their employees’ PTPTN loans as part of their corporate social responsibility.

“It will be a win-win situation for both parties. PTPTN offered loans to students to produce the best human capital for the job market.

“Now, employers can pay back as part of their initiative, ” said PTPTN public relations and event management senior general manager Abdul Ghaffar Yusop at Menara PTPTN in Kuala Lumpur.

“We also want to turn their (employers’) heart and mind towards their staff’s well-being. They have to consider their employees as valuable assets who can contribute to the development of their industries, ” he added.

Abdul Ghaffar said workers whose loans have been paid up by their employer would be more productive, motivated and loyal to their company.

Employers can settle the loan in full or pay in monthly installments, till Dec 31 this year. They are prohibited from placing their workers on an employment bond as a condition for paying off their loan.

Employers also cannot make deductions from employees’ wages in relation to the company settling their PTPTN loans. Errant employers can face action from the Inland Revenue Board.

Abdul Ghaffar clarified that if the PTPTN borrower is self-employed or runs his own business, he will not be eligible for this tax exemption.

“He is also not eligible if he pays up the loans of employees who happen to be his siblings, spouse, children or grandchildren. This is to avoid manipulation, ” he said.

There is no minimum or maximum amount of loan payment for employers to enjoy the tax exemption. “If the employer pays up a RM50,000 loan, he is qualified for a RM50,000 tax exemption, ” he said.

Abdul Ghaffar said employers could offer PTPTN loan repayment as incentives to their staff.

“Some employers provide annual bonus or holiday packages to show their appreciation for their employees.

“Now they can offer to pay their employees’ PTPTN loans and enjoy the tax exemption.”

Hii settled PTPTN loans for two of his project engineers.Hii settled PTPTN loans for two of his project engineers.

He urged corporate bodies, multinational corporations and government-linked companies to help employees pay back their staff’s PTPTN loan.

Vector Infotech Sdn Bhd managing director Hii Ding Sin, who supports the employer loan repayment plan, said his network solutions-based company has helped its two project engineers with their PTPTN loans.

“We paid about RM37,000 in full (loan) settlement for a project engineer in June this year. As for the other project engineer, we paid for him more than RM26,000 in August. This is incentive for them to increase productivity while working with us, ” he said.

Hii shared that the management would be paying for more employees’ PTPTN loans in monthly instalments, as part of the company’s commitment to help society and enable more people to pursue education.

“I came from a poor family, and it is important to support PTPTN’s contributions to help produce more competent workers from university level, ” Hii added.

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Celebrating our uniqueness

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

With six days to go before Malaysia marks her 62nd year of independence, schools and universities are showing their patriotic spirit by celebrating the diversity and colours that unite us. StarEdu finds out what students in the Klang Valley are doing for this Merdeka season.

DESCRIBING herself as Malaysian to the core, Dr Mahaletchimi Balakrishnan always chooses to fly Malaysia Airlines when visiting her daughter who is studying in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I would always choose our national carrier whenever I travel overseas. Although I can see from the map that the plane has left Malaysia, I’ll still feel like I’m home (on the plane), ” she said.

The true-blue Malaysian is SMK Rawang’s senior assistant of co-curricular activities and Bahasa Malaysia teacher, who wanted to share her love for the country with her students and teachers in the school.

(Standing from left) Nurul Arianna, Chean, Teejes, Syahirah Medinna, adviser Navitra G. Selvakumar and Chalani with a preview of their video at Taylor’s University.

“We wanted to do something special for National Day. That’s why the biggest Jalur Gemilang in Gombak project was born, ” said Dr Mahaletchimi who has been teaching for 30 years.

“We roped in students from all races to help paint the giant flag that measures three metres in height and 10 metres in length. They started during the last week of July and completed it on Aug 2.

The purpose of the project, she added, was to ignite the spirit of patriotism when students see the gigantic flag that has been hung above the stage for all to admire during the school’s national day celebration week launch on Aug 5.

The school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), which was very supportive of the activity, donated the RM1,000 needed to fund the project.

Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin at UCSI University’s block G lobby, to signify the spirit of unity and  create an awareness on recycling.Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin at UCSI University’s block G lobby, to signify the spirit of unity and create an awareness on recycling.An appreciative Dr Mahaletchimi said she hoped the youth would grow up to be kind and responsible Malaysians who would continue to live peacefully among one another.

“Don’t get influenced by politics. Just do our part as Malaysian citizens. Our duty is to love the country and support our leader, ” she noted.

Norliza shared Dr Mahaletchimi’s sentiment.

“What makes us uniquely Malaysian is our multiculturalism and acceptance of each other, ” she said, adding that organising the National Day celebration in school was important to raise the awareness of merdeka among the young.

Usually a “silent member” in co-curricular activities – especially those held during the weekend – Tan Cai Yin, 15, made an exception for the Jalur Gemilang project.

“It brought us (students) closer together, ” said Cai Yin.

A strong believer in “live and let live”, the third former said that forgiveness and exchange of cultural information can boost understanding among races to create a more harmonious society.

Jafni Zafirah Mohd Bustamam, 17, who was involved in painting the giant flag, said showing love towards the country was the duty of Malaysians.

“Malaysia is a peaceful place with citizens who adopt good values as well as respect and help each other.

“The flag is a significant symbol and identifies us as Malaysians. Celebrating National Day in school is important because it reminds us to be proud Malaysians, ” said the fifth former.

Loshiny Ganesan, 16, who volunteered for the project, said it was carried out seamlessly.

“All students involved were cooperative and worked well together, ” she said.

Better me, better Malaysia

Dressed in a red-gold coloured cheongsam for the first time was a special moment for Mellody Nizam, 18.

“I like the cheongsam as its patterns and colours are so pretty!” said the Lower Six student from Chong Hwa Independent High School, Kuala Lumpur.

She was dressed up for Chong Hwa’s National Day celebration that was inspired by Star Media Group’s Raise The Flag campaign.

Themed “Better me, better Malaysia”, Chong Hwa’s Raise The Flag Campaign – which the school started conducting in 2017 – was organised by its English Language Department with the aim of boosting the patriotic spirit among students, teachers and staff within the school.

It was held in conjunction with the country’s 62nd National Day as well as the school’s

100th anniversary.Mellody said the national day celebration served as a reminder to all about the country’s achievements over 62 years.

The student whose parental lineage includes Filipino, Dutch, Sabahan, Sarawakian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani, said she was fortunate to be born in a place where people from different racial backgrounds and cultures could live in harmony.

“Being a Malaysian is to be able to live in a peaceful country with friends that I can make from other race

Chong Hwa Independent High School principal Cheong (fourth left), staff and guests cutting a cake to mark its launch of the “Raise The Flag” campaign in conjunction with the school’s national day celebrations.Chong Hwa Independent High School principal Cheong (fourth left), staff and guests cutting a cake to mark its launch of the “Raise The Flag” campaign in conjunction with the school’s national day celebrations.

“I believe the most important is to be open-minded, learn and respect each other, ” she said.

Chong Hwa principal Cheong Moey Lian said during her opening speech that Malaysians should be proud of how far the country has come.“Building a forever home is possible only when you belong to a country. We must continue to live united and harmoniously – which creates a safe haven for citizens to thrive, ” she said.

Celebrating National Day, said Cheong, would ignite the spirit of patriotism among school staff, teachers and students – the future leaders of the country.

“We started this Raise The Flag campaign in 2017 when The Star was doing it and we have continued it since then, ” she said.

English Language head of department Tan Choon Moi who is in charge of the campaign, was delighted with the positive response from students.

“Students were proactive and took their own initiative to prepare for this year’s Raise The Flag campaign. They came back during the school holiday to start preparation for it, ” said the Johorean who has taught English in Chong Hwa for two decades.

Elegantly dressed in a crimson red saree, an elated Poh Jing Jie, 17, was radiating excitement on the campaign’s launch day.

Fondly known as Ginger among her friends and teachers, she said this was the first time students were allowed to come to school in traditional clothing.

“I was always envious of my sister who studies in a national school as she always gets to dress up in a variety of traditional clothing for school events. Now its my turn!” said Ginger, pointing out that people take simple things like wearing traditional clothing for granted.

“National Day, to me, is a celebration of all things in my country. It’s my home and I really love it – its culture, the warm-hearted people and delicious food!” said the fifth former.

The Jalur Gemilang painted by SMK Rawang students was hung on the school stage for all to admire.

The Jalur Gemilang painted by SMK Rawang students was hung on the school stage for all to admire.

Malaysia remains the best place in her heart, added the student who has been to Japan, Spain, Vietnam, Australia and other places.

Maria Puspa Sari Dewi Rokk, 18, whose father is Malaysian-Indian and mother is Indonesian, described Malaysia as the “best place ever”.

“Besides the awesome food, the people are Malaysia’s prized treasures, ” said the student who was dressed in a colourful saree.

Patriotism through art

Students from UCSI University spent a week to decorate a mannequin with recycled paper that replicated the national flower, the hibiscus, to celebrate Merdeka.

Over 1,000 hibiscus paper flowers have been installed on the mannequin to signify the spirit of unity as well as to create an awareness on recycling. The mannequin is currently placed at the lobby of the university’s block G.

Project leader cum event coordinator, Lucas Lim, said the initiative was to encourage students to play a pivotal role in inspiring patriotism through art.

“We want to remind our staff and students that the five conspicuous petals of the national flower champion the five principles of the Rukun Negara.

“And that the vibrant colours of the flower symbolises the courage and vitality of the people. By using recycled paper, we hope to encourage recycling, ” he said.

One word for Malaysia

It’s easy for Malaysians to describe what unites them with their fellow countrymen.

Give them a minute and they can give you enough fodder to fill a chapter on this topic.

The Taylor’s Tradisi Club from Taylor’s University are on a mission to summarise this uniquely Malay-sian characteristic in just one word.

They are creating a video featuring the university’s students expressing what they believe unites Malaysians using just one word.

Tradisi Club member Chalani Ganeson, 23, said tradition is what unites Malaysians.

“Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures and traditions, ” she said, adding that having all these cultures and embracing them make us uniquely Malaysian.

Her sentiments are echoed by Nurul Arianna Fadzil, 19, who believes embracing different cultures is something special to Malaysia.“We can learn one another’s traditions through something like dancing. Even if we don’t understand the language, we can still move to the beat, ” she added.

Nurul Arianna said she will be part of the club’s cultural event and will perform a Hindi dance.

Fellow club member Syahirah Medinna Saiful Bahri, 20, said love is a big factor in uniting Malaysians.

Even though she grew up in an urban environment, she said her Chinese and Indian neighbours would often bring food for her family.

“Not just on festive occasions, ” she said, adding that her family sends food over to her neighbours’ homes as well.

A-Levels student Chean Sweet Chiao, 18, said that being Malaysian is about being inclusive while Teejes Gopala Krishnan, 19, believes that food is what unites Malaysians.

Learn from history and show strong fighting spirit in their pursuit of excellence. As students, your greatest contribution to the nation is to ensure that the benefits and opportunities given to you are fully utilised, said Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) vice-chancellor Emeritus Prof Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim.

He also reminded students and staff to be more vigilant with what they see on social media.

“Academics and intellectuals must safeguard and not take for granted the unity and harmony that we are very proud of as Malaysians.

“We are the gatekeepers in ensuring that our culture and values as a community are preserved and able to overcome obstacles so that we can continue to enjoy the peace that we have today, ” he said during the launch of the Aug 1 varsity-wide programme to commemorate the country’s 62nd Merdeka Day.

Events will be carried out in 36 UiTM campuses nationwide. Also present was National Laureate Datuk Baha Zain, whose famous works include “Dalam Lingkaran” and “Topeng-topeng”.

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