Govt to focus on digital infrastructure development

June 23rd, 2019

Al-Ishsal (left) briefing Shafie (right) on digital infrastructure development in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: The state government will be focusing on its digital infrastructure development on three areas, namely industrial, tourism and education.

Education and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob said his ministry was given the responsibility as the exco at the central level to look into the digital infrastructure development.

“A number of places will be the focus of this particular development, such as Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP), Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Sipitang and the new port in Kudat.

“Apart from that, good system and digital infrastructure are also needed in at tourism centres, especially at famous islands around Semporna, Mount Kinabalu area, Maliau Basin and Long Pasia that will be developed into a tourism spot.

“Urban areas will be also developed as medical tourism, education hub… and the focus will be from Papar to Beaufort areas,” he said.

Yusof also hoped all errors in the digital infrastructure will be solved as soon as possible, in line with the needs of Industrial Revolution 4.0 to evolve the 3G, 4G and 5G development according to  investors’ needs.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Al-Ishsal Ishak said his discussion with the state government was productive and had gone smoothly.

According to him, MCMC and the state government will be collaborating to develop the needed infrastructure at the areas identified, in line with MCMC’s goal to develop National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan.

“This plan, which combines the use of optical fibres and wireless connectivity, targets the achievement of 98 per cent baseline coverage in inhabited areas by 2023 with a minimum bandwidth of 30 Mbps.

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Encouraging children’s literacy skills through creative activities

June 23rd, 2019

ASIDE FROM school teachers, parental guidance in introducing the concept of early literacy in fun ways is important. Early literacy skills are critical as it determines how well children learn reading and writing skills as better reading and writing skills help improve their academic achievement.

In regard to that, a senior lecturer of Universiti Malaya, Dr Mohd Nazri Rahman has taken the initiative to explore the uniqueness of Sabah’s traditional and cultural art by developing the Tuninipot Literacy-Creative Module for Children in Sabah.

This program (module) is a collaboration of the Universiti Malaya Community and Sustainability Center (UMCares) with the Department of National Unity and Integration (Sabah Branch); and the Institute of Teacher Education, Kent Campus, Tuaran.

Nazri further explained explained that the Tuninipot Module highlights the concept of Early Literacy through the traditional art of the Orang Asli community in Sabah.

Through this module, the Early Literacy skills have applied the basic techniques of early literacy teaching, which is the Sound-Word Combination Method (Ishak Haron, 2003) that is combined with the Basic Child Reading Method (Mohd Nazri Abdul Rahman, 2014).

“This module also provides children with the opportunity to learn the arts and culture of the Sabahans in an exciting and encouraging learning environment for children to read and write. This module highlights the tradition and culture of the community as a form of formal learning,” he said.

He added that through the implementation of this module, the early learning of literally does not only apply for teachers in school, but also involves parents’ commitment to teach their children to read at home.

Therefore, a workshop – ‘Teaching Children to Read Efficinetly’ – was held recently at Tadika Perpaduan Kampung Lohan, Kundasang, to help parents improve their knowledge in guiding children to read, write, and calculate at home.

Through this workshop, parents were exposed to the technique of teaching children reading through creative reading cards that can be practiced at home by parents.

What interesting was that the workshop involved of parents with their respective children which emphasised the techniques to guide children to read, write, and calculate through some fun activities in the Tuninipot Literacy-Creative Module.

Nazri also stated that the Tuninipot Module also features alphabets in the forms of creative designs based on the arts and culture of the Sabah community.

“This module also provides a new dimension in the relationship between parents, communities, and kindergarten schools in efforts to improve the children’s quality of education.

“Today, not many of us know and understand the traditional art and culture of the Sabahans. Thus, through this module, children have the opportunity to learn and experience to form alphabets using coconut leaves or painting, draw and design alphabet based on the traditional art and culture of the Sabah community.”

For Noor Baidareh Julubin, the implementation of the programme also provided new perspectives on early childhood education where the basic skills of the traditional arts and culture of Sabah society are combined with the basic skills of readers and writers.

“Even the elements of Sabah’s creativity such as weaving of coconut leaves and cinnamon, traditional songs, and folklore have developed the main source of the module.

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Students of different races play vital role in empowering national language

June 23rd, 2019

SEPANGGAR: The involvement of students of various races in activities that can empower Bahasa Melayu is crucial, said Sabah Minister of Education and Innovation, Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob.

He said, activities such as the State-level Bahasa Melayu Co-Academic Competition organised by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) and Malaysian Education Ministry is one of the examples that could elevate the national language among the youths.

The competitions held at Kampus Intan Sabah yesterday during the event consist of the Teen Forum, Sahibbah for Primary Schools and Secondary Schools, Poetry Recital, and Syair Presentation.

“For me, each of the competitions shows our initiative to preserve our national language, in line with the objective of the Federal Constitution. It also creates awareness among the youths about the importance of national language in developing a nation.

“I hope these competitions could educate our students, regardless of their race, language, and background on the importance of using the correct national language,” he said.

He said this in his text speech which was delivered by Assistant Minister to Minister of Education and Innovation Mohammad Mohamarin during the closing ceremony of the Bahasa Melayu Co-Academic Competition.

He added that the youths are the nation’s most important assets, as they will be the next leaders in the future; therefore they need to be efficiently equipped with knowledge and education.

Besides that, the school’s involvement in empowering the usage of national language among students is also pivotal.

“This is in line with the competition’s objective which is to provide a platform for students to use standard Malay language among themselves,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sabah Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka Director Aminah Awang Besar stressed that the involvement of DBP in the competition is one of their continuous efforts to preserve the national language.


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Preparing undergraduates for the workplace

June 21st, 2019
SEGi University engineering students undergoing training at one ofthe top notch engineering labs in the country.

ARE Malaysian graduates ready to face challenges at the workplace? Are they innovative and equipped with communication and problem-solving skills? Can they carry out tasks independently at the workplace?

Many fresh graduates are stunningly ill-prepared for the workforce, without realising it.

Industry players look for fresh recruits who possess critical thinking skills and breadth of knowledge that comes from understanding not only how to perform a given task, but the reasoning behind it.

But employers in the country generally feel there is a gap in graduate skills, suggesting that universities do not necessarily provide enough opportunities for students to develop abilities critical to the labour market.

Low proficiency in the English language and lack of soft skills including creativity, communication and critical thinking are among the reasons fresh graduates not ready to enter the workforce.

The recent STEM Forum, titled Graduates and Employment: Are They Ready from the Industry Perspective?, organised by Universiti Malaya STEM Centre, saw a group of panellists from the industry voicing their concerns that many Malaysian graduates are still unprepared to join the labour market.

ISSUES founder and chief executive officer Dr Ruzaimi Mat Rani said most Malaysian students are not ready to face challenges at the workplace, based on his experience with the graduates who attended his freehand visualisation communication skill (FVCS), creativity and innovation in organisation workshop.

FVCS is a programme formulated to cater to the needs of an individual and organisation to be more effective in daily communication skills.

The workshop attracted more than 3,000 participants but less than 10 per cent were able to draw with visualisation skills.

“It was easy when I asked them to draw a pot of flowers. But they were not able to draw their dream house,” added Ruzaimi.

But what is the link between FVCS and employability of graduates?

“FVCS is essential to be acquired by all to increase individual and organisation productivity. Without it, you are less effective in your daily communication.

“Imagine you’ve been hired but what’s next? You have to ‘create’,” he added, referring to the highest rank of Higher Order Thinking Skills, which is the fundamental skill.

The most common challenge graduates face is communication, especially during the job interview and at the workplace.

“About 75 per cent of project management fail because of communication. Graduates should be able to communicate well, which is a basic requirement at an interview. Communication skills are crucial when they enter the workforce.”

Strand Aerospace Malaysia principal consultant Dr Rahmat Shazi said he prepares human capital for high value industries, not just aerospace but also other sectors meant to be established or expanded in the country.

Last year after the company interviewed 700 graduates, not only from local universities but also from across the globe which included candidates from Russia, Indonesia and the United States, it came across multiple issues related to readiness to work.

“Most of our graduates can’t even visualise what they want to say, hence the failure to put the message across.

“This is due to lack of high cognitive skills such as attention, memory and logical reasoning,” said Rahmat.

Industry players believe that fresh graduates should first nail the job interview. It is important for employers to find out the strength and capabilities of the candidates before hiring them.

The job interview itself prepares them for the workplace.

BMW Quill Automobiles hiring manager Alex Tang Chee Keong said many Malaysian graduates are ready on paper, which means they only have good academic qualifications.

But the reality is, he added, many do not know anything about the industry.

“Graduates need to equip themselves with relevant knowledge. Ask yourself what you can contribute. That’s what employers want.

“For example, if I hire a fresh graduate, I expect him to at least be familiar with and understand the industry that he wants to join.

“However, many of them don’t do their research or visit the company website and learn its core brand value.

“I advise graduates to read to increase general knowledge. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a magazine or newspaper,” added Tang.

Consultant Hishamuddin Mohamed at Strategic Swiss Partners, a leading boutique management and financial advisory firm, said fresh graduates need to step up, especially if they are seeking a job in a multinational corporation.

“Bear in mind that you are among many job seekers applying for one position. So you have to make a good first impression, otherwise you’re going to be just another number.

“Graduates have their resumes but is the university preparing them for effective employment and better work opportunity?”

(From left) Panellists Ruzaimi Mat Rani, Rahmat Shazi, Alex Tang Chee Keong and Hishamuddin Mohamad. With them is moderator Professor Datuk Dr Noraini Idris from the National STEM Movement atthe STEM Forum, Graduates and Employment: AreThey Ready from the Industry Perspective? held at Universiti Malaya recently. Pic By ROHANIS SHUKRI.


Tertiary institutions today must be able to play multiple roles in preparing undergraduates for the future.

SEGi University vice-chancellor Professor Dr Patrick Kee Peng Kong said in view of Industry Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0), the university continues to update its programmes and collaborate with industry leaders to ensure its academics and students are IR 4.0-ready.

“To produce industry-relevant graduates, we focus on a student-centred environment where students are provided with opportunities to interact and work with industry partners on their assignments and projects, and have access to advanced laboratories and workshops with essential tools to develop their skills.

“We also ensure that students gain exposure to the real-life work environment so that their transition into the industry is as seamless as possible through programmes such as Employment Readiness, Enrichment and Aspiring Club Leadership and Personal Professional Development. They also hone their soft skills via hands-on courses,” added Kee.

Taylor’s University deputy vice-chancellor and chief academic officer Professor Dr Pradeep Nair believes that higher education goes beyond just ensuring that graduates are industry-ready.

He said the core responsibility of a university is to ensure graduates are equipped with the right job skills to start their career, however, more importantly, the institution needs to equip them with life skills and emotional well-being to lead a successful and happy life.

“Being very good in one’s job-related knowledge and skills without life skills and social intelligence is the reason companies keep saying that graduates aren’t prepared for the workforce.

“For example, an aeronautical engineer may know everything about designing and maintaining an aircraft or its propulsion systems, but it will be his communication skills, creativity, resilience, ability to work with diverse teams, agility in adapting to different situations and cultural contexts, and take risks, among other qualities that will help him secure a good job and grow in the organisation,” added Pradeep.


Is the curriculum at the university ready for IR 4.0?

Kee said universities globally have moved away from textbook- and classroom-based learning into a blended environment, with trends pointing towards research- and project-centric approaches.

Programmes have become industry-driven and flexible, forcing tertiary institutions to constantly review their courses, curricula and methodologies.

“As industries worldwide are facing a digital economy disruption, the education industry is in a prime position to make a difference by shifting its focus and approaches.

“The government is well aware of this scenario, which is why the Malaysia Education Blueprint (2015-2025) places emphasis on flexible and skill-based learning and greater hands-on exposure.

“It is common practice for tertiary institutions to review and revise their curricula based on industry needs and practices, failing which they will be deemed irrelevant.

“After all, we are in the business of preparing human capital for various industries and it will defeat our purpose if we fail to revise, reinvent or innovate.

“However, it depends on the nature of the industry. With IR 4.0, we know that certain fields such as information technology, computing and engineering must be reviewed continuously while all other programmes, periodically.”

Deloitte’s Global Second Annual Report on IR 4.0 Readiness reveals that as the revolution gains momentum, there is a higher disparity in talent match.

C-suite executives who participated in the survey have raised concerns over the slow-paced evolution of the current education system.

“In fact, 57 per cent say the education system needs to be redesigned. While they were referring to the public education system, we believe private institutions also play an equally important role in producing industry-competent graduates, especially in growing economies like ours,” added Kee.

However, Pradeep said the university has to ensure that any major change in curriculum conforms to the Code of Practice for Programme Accreditation and programme standards issued by Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) as well as the requirements set by professional bodies, where applicable.

“There is nothing stopping a university from innovating its programme curriculum and engaging with accreditation bodies to accept and allow such change,” he added.

Once Taylor’s University has obtained approval from MQA, it will introduce work-based learning opportunities as part of its curriculum from next year onwards.

“Currently, we have restructured three degree programmes to be offered in a work-based learning mode. This is really exciting as students will have the option to spend their third and final year in select companies of their choice.

“This is real world learning and will certainly help bridge the university-industry gap. Our students will not need to pay extra for this as it has been incorporated as part of their tuition fees.”


While a decision for a curriculum overhaul typically comes from the management, it needs to involve the academics at every step.

Pradeep said academics are inherently intellectuals and listen to data-driven arguments for change. Benchmarking top universities in the US and Australia, for example, helps convince them that this is possible.

“Engaging professional and accreditation bodies is also key as many approaches are not yet common practice in our country.

“Adopting technology in learning and teaching must be preceded by technology that works. We introduced blended learning to enable students to have a platform to learn on-the-go, to be mobile and flexible in their acquisition of knowledge.

“This allows them to develop life skills such as communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and flexibility. Our experience has been that industry players in Malaysia and Asia welcome our students to spend time learning with, and from, them — at no additional cost to the industry.

“Through this, our students are able to apply for internships with leading brands so they obtain valuable work experience that sets them apart from their peers. These work placement opportunities take some of our students overseas as well.”

By NST Education.

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More schools declared unsafe

June 21st, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is racing against time to repair 587 dilapidated schools as more schools have been declared unsafe.

It is seeking urgent allocation from the federal government to repair the ‘breaking-down’ schools. Minister of Education and Innovation Datuk Dr. Yusof Yacob said he has discussed with the Ministry of Finance to solve the issue, estimating that a total RM3 billion is required to repair all dilapidated schools.

For the time being, he said the government has received RM78 million allocation to repair 15 critical schools which are in the process of designing, among others.

“We will not stop here, there will be 75 schools which will follow and we are working very hard to solve this.

“For now, we have identified (critical schools) and works will be done according to priority including the school’s severity, land approval and such,” he said.

He added that the federal government had also approved RM6 million for maintenance and small repairs with another RM12 million for the same purpose to come.

He explained that the increased number of schools classified as unsafe from only 69 early this year was due to monthly auditing from the Public Works Department.

“We hope to solve this in any way possible within the near future; we cannot wait until these schools collapse, we need to find solution.

“We seek understanding from education officers and the people that we are not keeping silent and we are taking action to solve this issue.

“We are very concerned about the education system and infrastructure; we hope we will be able to change our landscape of infrastructure in our State’s education,” he said.

Meanwhile, he noted that illiteracy among students particularly in rural districts still exists even upon entering secondary schools.

He said while the number is low, it is enough to raise concern with various factors contributing to the matter including late registration to schools.

“It shouldn’t happen in today’s modern world though we admit that even in some developing countries, illiteracy still exists among the citizens but we don’t want to look into that; we want to model developed countries like Singapore, Finland and Japan where their citizens are literate,” he added.

Dr Yusof said that students should also be provided with early exposure on how to create jobs instead of searching for one, by becoming entrepreneurs which he described as the new direction in today’s digital era.

He was speaking during the Kota Kinabalu Education Office 2018 Excellent Service Award (APC), Teacher’s Day, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Kaamatan celebration here on Thursday.

Earlier, Dr. Yusof presented certificates to 373 recipients of KK District Education Office 2018 APC, Special Awards and the 2019 Tokoh Guru award.

Urging teachers to remain creative in their approaches, he highlighted the importance of English proficiency, exposure to entrepreneurship, and morality among students.

He reminded teachers to modify their teaching methods, adding that students need to also be informed of today’s Industrial Revolution needs.

“I went on a visit to SMK Banggi recently and asked the students what they want to be; most of them want to become policemen, firemen and teachers.

“None of them want to become entrepreneurs which show that they are not aware of what is needed in today’s world.

“We want our youth to become job creators, not job seekers,” he reiterated.

He asserted that the government is committed in attaining autonomy in education, and that it has provided full scholarships to students with excellent academic results to study in top international universities.


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Top Seven Unduk Ngadau Sabah 2019 Courtesy Visit to SIDMA College

June 21st, 2019

Today, 20 June 2019, all top seven Harvest Queen (Unduk Ngadau) Sabah 2019 paid courtesy call to SIDMA College to sincerely convey their heartfelt thanks to SIDMA College Sabah and UNIRAZAK (University Tun Abdul Razak) for sponsoring them scholarship to further their studies. These top seven winners are Miss Francisca Ester Nain (Unduk Ngadau Sabah 2019 as well as Unduk Ngadau Karambunai); Miss Annette Rabecca Januin (Unduk Ngadau Pantai Manis, Papar); Miss Leticia Casianus Bansin (Unduk Ngadau Penampang); Miss Skye Judith Harding (Unduk Ngadau Tamparuli); Miss Conne Juenin (Unduk Ngadau Kundasang); Miss Nurul Yanadido (Unduk Ngadau Tandek) and Miss Vinny Alvionitta Sasising (Unduk Ngadau Klang Valley).

Prof Dr Morni Hj Kambrie, Chairman and Founder of SIDMA College, was really impressed and felt honoured to warmly welcome all the top seven Harvest Queen winners to the college. Along with Dr Morni were Madam Azlina Ngatimin (Director, Corporate Relations and Business Development), managers, coordinators just to name a few; along with all the lecturers, staff and students of the college. All of them were very honoured and impressed by these 2019 Unduk Ngadau visit to the college. They too took the opportunities to congratulate all of them for winning the 2019 Unduk Ngadau Competition at various level of the competition.

Upon their arrival, a photo taking session was arranged for all staffs and students to have their photos taken with all these Unduk

Dr Morni in a short media session congratulated SIDMA College and UNIRAZAK for incorporating the element of knowledge / education into the Sabah 2019 Unduk Ngadau Competition by sponsoring various scholarships for the top three winners to further their studies.

Earlier when asked to comment on the competition, Miss Jo-Anna Sue Henley Rampas, the 2019 Unduk Ngadau Organiser stressed that “Unduk Ngadau is a cultural pageant; thus contestants must not only be judged by their beautiful, but they must also be very knowledgeable about their own mother tongue, culture and ethnicity. The contestants also need to do research and prepare documentations about their respective district and ethnic group; as well as current issues relating to women empowerment and efforts, and many more”. Thus the award of scholarship by SIDMA College and UNIRAZAK to the three winners of the Unduk Ngadau 2019 to further their studies is very relevant for the occasion.

Dr Morni added that SIDMA College Sabah and UNIRAZAK, both being institutions of higher learning; will continue to facilitate these Unduk Ngadau winners (upon their registration with the college), together with all its existing students in ways possible to ensure that all of them will complete their studies successfully and without any difficulties. As these Unduk Ngadau are also the ambassador of Sabah, Dr Morni also offer to assist them in their mastery of the Kadazandusun Language, improve their communication skills, public speaking skills, conversational skills, as well as their academic studies. Dr Morni also hope that these Unduk Ngadau will further their studies upon completion of their degree, and be among the very few Unduk Ngadau to receive a PhD.

Unduk Ngadau 2019 Miss Francisca Ester Nain, who hailed from Karambunai, was among the very few finalists who speak very fluently in her mother tongue (Dusun Tindal language). She plans to be a teacher, particularly to teach the Kadazandusun language to the young generation.

She was indeed glad to know that UNIRAZAK offers Bachelor of Education (Hons) with option to major in KadazanDusun language, and she added that probably her fellow Harvest Queen winners and other fellow participants might also consider taking up the course. By getting this Bachelor’s degree, it will enable them to fulfil their dream of becoming a teacher – teaching the Kadazandusun language. This will enable them not only to teach the language, but also continue to preserve, develop and promote the KadazanDusun language, thus to ensure that the language will continue to stay relevant in this dynamic modern era .

Francisca too hope that more KadazanDusun school leavers with SPM / STPM / Diploma / Matriculation will consider taking up Bachelor of Education (Hons) at UNIRAZAK SIDMA College Sabah. She also planned to record and documented Sabah’s local culture in various languages, and shares it throughout the world.

Miss Francisca along with all the other winners of the 2019 Unduk Ngadau, sincerely thanked SIDMA College and UNIRAZAK for providing her and the other winners the much needed sponsorship for them to further their education as well as getting financial incentives. They too thanked all the other sponsors who have contributed prizes such cash, air tickets, and more to enliven the event.

Unduk Ngadau pageant has become an annual auspicious event as well as the most important highlights of the Kaamatan festival; which commemorate the legend of Huminodun, a maiden, who was sacrificed by her father, Kinoingan to save the people from famine so as to bring about a bountiful harvest.

SIDMA College will continue to collaborate with UNIRAZAK, and together develop and create the necessary platform that will facilitate all of our students to develop skills and knowledge that they can apply to connect with the community that they are in, to analyse it and thus be able to understand related issues, as well as to transform their respective community to greater heights. The college will act as a place for lecturers and students to get together, connect with those around them, and together assist and positively transform them in all ways possible.

It is noteworthy to mention that since 2004, the following overall Champion for State level’s Unduk Ngadau had walked through the gate of SIDMA College Sabah:

  1. Miss Fharelynne Ivonne Henry – Unduk Ngadau 2004
  2. Miss Jo-Anna Sue Henley Rampas – Unduk Ngadau 2007
  3. Miss Ryannie Neils Yong – Unduk Ngadau 2015
  4. Miss Kerinah Mah – Unduk Ngadau 2017

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NST Leader: The importance of being learned

June 18th, 2019
Islam tells us that there are two types of knowledge: one is given, the other is sought. Both are important to fulfil the purpose of man on Earth. – NSTP/MOHD YUSNI ARIFFIN

THE New Straits Times is a paper that lauds knowledge. It has taken this stand for the last 174 years.

Islam has celebrated knowledge much longer. To be exact, for 1,440 years. This paper’s Leader today, in its small way, joins in the celebration.

Islam grants knowledge or ilm, as it is called in Arabic, a very high place in the scheme of things. It has been so since the creation of the first man.

Islam tells us that there are two types of knowledge: one is given, the other is sought. Both are important to fulfil the purpose of man on Earth.

The seeker must ready himself to receive this knowledge. In striving shall the glory of such men be.

So readied and armed, he can then make his journey back to his true home. It is for this reason Muslims place a high premium on seeking knowledge. In fact, a prophetic tradition enjoins Muslims to seek knowledge even if it is in China (this being a distant place then).

But not all acquisition of knowledge can be considered “education”. Dr Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas tells us so in his tome Prologomena To The Metaphysics Of Islam. It must come activated with a moral purpose whose origin is in wisdom.

The Malaysian philosopher and religious scholar puts it thus: knowledge is the recognition of the proper places of things in the order of creation (adab), such that it leads to the recognition of the proper place of God in the order of being and existence.

This is knowledge properly so-called. But the road to the acquisition of such knowledge is filled with more than cobblestones.

There will be distractions, diversions and disturbance. Distress even. For the seeker and teacher. A place in paradise must be earned; it is not a birthright of any.

But we live in a world that is fast becoming secular; it is afraid of its own shadow. In such a world, religion is either in second place or no place.

The Arabic din, meaning religion, is treated as the English “din” in such a confused and confusing world.

Delirium rules. It is to this world that preacher Dr Zakir Naik has come. Our position is this: no one should stand in the way of one who wants to deliver the message of Islam.

After all, Islam is the official religion in Malaysia. Perhaps, the fault lies in the method. This can be mended. But the media cannot try him, just as they cannot try any other men. Neither can Zakir be sentenced before being tried justly in a proper court. Kangaroo courts are so stone age.

By no measure, he should be made to prove his innocence. No man should be placed in such a position. If we want a just world, we must act justly.

To Zakir, we say this: we have no problems with your message, sir, but please work on your method. The message is of Islam, one that is as old as 1,440 years.

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Sabah’s mangroves in danger: WWF

June 18th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Mangroves are important to Sabah but undervalued and in danger, said Head of Conservation Sabah WWF M’sia Dr Robecca Jumin.

“Sabah has the largest area of mangroves of any state in Malaysia, with over 232,000 hectares, mainly along Sabah’s east and southeast coast. Most are protected as Class V Mangrove Forest Reserves, or as Class 1 Protected or Class VI Virgin Jungle Forest Reserves.

“However some critical areas, for example on Sabah’s west coast, remain unprotected.

“While Sabah should be proud to host two wetlands recognized as being of global importance and designated as Ramsar sites – the Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands, and Kota Kinabalu Wetland right here in the capital, other parts of Sabah’s mangrove areas are decreasing or being degraded”, Dr Jumin said, in conjunction with World Ocean Day.

WWF Malaysia is one of nine organisations making up Coalition 3H, along with Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Borneo Futures, Danau Girang Field Centre, Forever Sabah, Jaringan Orang Asal Se-Malaysia (Joas), Land Empowerment Animals People (Leap), Pacos Trust and Seratu Aatai),

Although to the untrained eye all mangroves may look the same, there are at least 22 species of mangrove tree in Sabah, including those known locally as ’bakau kurap’, ‘bakau minyak’ and ‘api-api putih’, all of which have slightly differing characteristics.

But all are extraordinary trees that live in soft mud at the interface between land and sea. They have to deal with saltwater inundations, water salinity that is highly variable, poor soil aeration and unstable soils as well as strong waves, tide and wind action.

To do this mangroves have developed special features to survive. These include an amazing variety of root systems to gain stability in the soft mud. The roots also act as supplementary respiratory organs allowing them to breathe underwater in the oxygen-depleted mud.

While they can be tough, mangroves are also dependent on freshwater. They die when deprived of freshwater such as when road development reduces flow of water from rivers.

The rich habitat that mangroves provide is home to birds, crabs, prawns, mudskippers and many other types of fish, as well as Sabah’s famed fireflies, endangered proboscis monkeys and the increasingly rare silver leaf monkey, among many other species that are critical components of Sabah’s natural heritage.

Mangrove ecosystems provide humans with many services. By filtering out sediments, mangroves protect fragile coral reefs and vulnerable sea grass meadows from being smothered in sediment. In coral reefs that are near to healthy mangroves, fish are found to be more abundant, as the young fish grow and develop in the safety of the mangrove roots.

Fish as well as crabs and prawns are an essential source of food for thousands and thousands of coastal communities around the world. For Sabah, as we all know, fish is an important economic resource for the state.

Mangroves also act as a ‘bio-shield’, by stabilizing shorelines and reducing the effect of storms. The mass of trees rooted on the coast blunts the force of destructive waves and storm surges, finally dissipating the energy away from the land. As such where mangroves have been removed, or the sea has been reclaimed, the coastlines are prone to storm surges and coastal erosion. For this reason, the Sabah Shoreline Management Plan (2005) states that Class V Mangrove Forest Reserves should be retained while avoiding the development of hotels, condominiums and roads in mangrove forests.

This natural coastal protection and stabilization from mangrove forests is going to become more and more important as sea levels rise and more severe storms hit Sabah. Manmade substitutes to mangroves such as reinforced concrete embankments as a measure of erosion control would be extremely costly.

Dr Jumin stressed “For all these reasons we are heartened by State Minister Junz Wong’s statement in October, 2018 that he will protect mangroves by no longer giving approval for mangrove clearance to develop shrimp farms, and giving zero tolerance to any activities leading to the destruction of mangroves”.

Recent research has shown that mangroves (as well as the often overlooked sea grass meadows) store a surprisingly high amount of carbon, some of which remains sequestered for thousands of years in the sediment trapped by the mangrove root system. Based on this, the conversion of a mangrove forest to a shrimp pond, for example, changes the mangrove root system as a carbon sink to a carbon source, liberating the accumulated carbon back into the atmosphere.

“Sabah’s mangroves need to be recognised as carbon storage assets” said Dr Benoit Goossens of Danau Girang Field Centre and Cardiff University. “They are one of the earth’s most efficient ecosystems to sequester atmospheric carbon. At a time when the latest UN reports tell us we have a maximum of 10 -12 years left to prevent catastrophic climate change and extinction crises, why are we even thinking of destroying such valuable natural carbon sinks and hotspots for coastal and marine diversity?”.

Despite their immense value, mangroves are in constant danger of being damaged and disrupted by infrastructure like roads, hotels and housing developments, shrimp farms and fish farms, and to a lesser extent from being cut for firewood, charcoal and posts. Pollution, including oil spills and sediment, and rubbish like plastic garbage, are also major threats.

And the threat is not only from clearance: disruption of river and tidal flows can destroy mangroves and the fisheries and life that they support.

As Cynthia Ong, Chief Executive Facilitator of Leap, noted “Fishermen know mangroves are essential for marine life. Tour operators know they are essential for tourism products like proboscis monkeys and fireflies. Marine scientists know they are essential for maintaining healthy coral reefs and helping to reduce greenhouse gases. But when it comes to development it seems many still think they can be destroyed at will”.

Coalition 3H recommends that any tourism and associated roads planned along Sabah’s coast should plan for future effects of climate change and, guided by the precautionary principle, preserve the natural coastal defense system that mangroves provide, not to mention maintain the very habitats that the tourism attractions, such as endangered proboscis monkeys, need to survive. “The Sabah Proboscis Monkey Action Plan (2019-2028) explicitly states the halting of loss and degradation of habitat as one of its priority actions to protect this iconic species” pointed out Dr Goossens.

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Addiction to social media

June 17th, 2019

SOCIAL media plays a huge part in the lives of today’s youth. Its role is so big that it can affect their mental wellbeing.

Universiti Malaya Centre For Addiction Sciences director Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid says that social media addiction can even lead to depression.

“It can also be that depression was already present in the individual before the addiction,” he says.

“Social media is used to sort of ‘self medicating’ (the depression),” he adds.

He adds that during the initial stages of using social media to “treat” their mental illness, people will feel better.

“They can alleviate their depressive symptoms or anxiety.

“But later on, their excessive use of social media and the negative comments (they might receive) and so on, can make their symptoms become worse.”

On the other hand, Dr Rusdi says people, especially youth, are at risk of mental depression when they compare themselves to their peers on social media.

“Everybody is trying to show off and they feel happy when people praise them, admire them and click ‘like’ or ‘share’ (on their posts),” he says.

When people give recognition or praise them, it increases the secretion of dopamine in the brain’s reward center, he says, adding that this is a form of positive reinforcement and makes someone feel good about themselves.

“They will want to seek more of this feeling and eventually, they will lose control of their social media activity leading to addiction.”

This can also work in the opposite way when someone receives negative feedback or comments and becomes depressed due to it, he adds.

Dr Rusdi says those who use social media to seek validation do not feel the same sense of happiness as real life interactions.

“This chronic sense of dissatisfaction may also give a negative impact on their emotions leading to major depression,” he adds.

Besides the big threat of suicide, Dr Rusdi says social media addiction also has a negative impact on one’s physical health and relationships.

He says that for youth, psycho-social intervention such as counseling is the first step in treatment.

“Drugs like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication are only used if the mental illness is very severe.”

If someone becomes suicidal, mental health professionals will normally advise that they be admitted into the hospital and be prescribed medication, he explains.

Medication, he adds, is not the preferred first form of treatment for children as it has been found to worsen their mental illness.

Last Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the incident involving the 16-year-old who committed suicide after conducting an Instagram poll showed that mental wellbeing awareness needed to be improved.

“It showed the negative influence and negative effect social media has on the younger generation,” she said after chairing the Mental Wellbeing Meeting.

According to Bernama, the committee also agreed for October to be declared a mental wellbeing awareness montha and for a national awareness campaign “Let’s talk Malaysia” to be organised, as part of the Government’s efforts to remove the stigma associated to mental health among the society.
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100 public varsity students to get real-world exposure thanks to Intel partnership.

June 14th, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: There is a new internship programme designed to increase the employability of Malaysian graduates by giving them real-world exposure in the constantly evolving electronics and microelectronics field.

The first batch of the MoE-Intel Elite Internship Programme will see 100 public university students gain exposure to industry standard chip-design software over 10 weeks.

This will include hands-on lab work to ensure the students are able to use the tools effectively and efficiently.

Intel Microelectronics (M) Sdn Bhd Malaysia Design Centre general manager Suresh Kumar said 12 lecturers from those universities will also be trained by Intel under the train-the-trainer programme to equip them with industry knowledge on silicon design.

During the launch of the programme, he said this is to ensure the sustainability of the programme once the pioneer batch has completed their internship.

“We want these lecturers to go back to the universities, share with their fellow academicians, as well as scale beyond the original 100 students,” he said during the launch of the programme at the Higher Education Department Friday (June 14).

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said the programme was specially tailored to equip undergraduates with the knowledge of industry-standard electronic-design-automation (EDA) software of Synopsys, focusing on the integrated circuit (IC) design.

“I would like to urge all students to grab this golden opportunity and absorb all the knowledge transfer in the industries,” he said during his keynote speech, adding that this is also the time for them to enhance their problem-solving skills.

“At the same time, it is hoped that this programme will increase the percentage of Graduate Employability (GE) among the graduates in the engineering field.”

Maszlee also said the selected students are currently pursuing their electronic or microelectronic engineering studies at six universities – Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia.

By Rebecca Rajaendram
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