Landmark science project to expand Sabah’s forests

April 23rd, 2017

CAMBRIDGE (United Kingdom): The Sabah Forestry Department has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), launching a landmark project that will harness world-class science to support the Sabah State Government’s target of increasing protected area coverage to 30% of Sabah’s land area by 2025.

More than 60 scientists from leading universities in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Malaysia witnessed the MoU signing held at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s David Attenborough Building.

Speaking at the opening of this strategic meeting on the science of tropical rainforest research, Chief Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan emphasized how forest conservation is a major priority for the State Government of Sabah.

“Over the past 20 years, we have worked to increase the extent of protected forests in Sabah by a factor of 5 to almost 1.9 million hectares today. This is equivalent to 26% of the State’s land area, surpassing even the IUCN and CBD’s Aichi targets” he said.

“I am pleased to confirm that the Sabah Government is committed to increasing the extent of protected forests from the current 26% to 30% of land area by 2025. This will involve the protection of an additional c. 1 million acres of rainforest in Sabah.

“The locations of these new protected areas have yet to be identified. This is the work that lies ahead of us,” he added.

The MoU marks the launch of a landmark science project supported by the Rainforest Trust and based on a strategic partnership between the Sabah Forestry Department, SEARRP, the Carnegie Institution for Science, PACOS Trust and BC Initiative.

Leading the coordination of this project, Dr Glen Reynolds, Director of SEARRP, explained that “between now and 2020, the project will generate maps of forest carbon, biodiversity and functional composition that will be integrated with archived and new field observations including narrow-range endemic trees, and state-of-the-art meta-population models that identify critical habitat connections for range-shifting species.”

The project will also consider other species, including those that provide important ecosystem services such as pollination and dispersal to ensure the efficacy of forest protection over time, especially resilience to climate change.

“Integrating the livelihood requirements of forest-dependent communities will be a vital consideration in the selection of new protected areas. Led by our partners PACOS Trust and BC Initiative, the project will consult with local communities and stakeholders to generate cost-benefit options and reach consensus on an optimal scenario for rainforest protection,” Dr Reynolds added.

Read more @

Over 50 schools sign up for OSH programme

April 23rd, 2017

SANDAKAN: More than 50 schools nationwide have so far signed up for the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) school programme—an initiative to help prevent accidents on school premises.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the high participation rate to the strong collaboration between Human Resources Ministry and the Education Ministry, and anticipates that more schools will join the programme.

“Since the Memorandum of Understanding between the two ministries was signed in 2015, several schools and institutions in Sabah have also participated in the programme.

“They are Kolej Vokasional Tawau; Institute Sinaran (Kota Kinabalu), SMK Benoni (Papar); MRSM Tun Mohamad Fuad Stephans (Sandakan); SM St. Patrick (Tawau); and SMK Merpati, which saw the programme launched today,” he said during the launch event at SMK Merpati here.

He said the Human Resources Ministry had advised all schools with at least 40 staff to set up an OSH committee, as required in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.

“The OSH committee could help reduce the number of accidents in schools, as they would practise the Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Risk Control (HIRARC) concept,” he stressed.

Based on the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH)’s records, 31 school-related accidents were reported in the past five years, which included fatal incidents in which football goal posts and ceiling fans fell on students.

There were also incidents of students coming into contact with chemicals such as mercury in science labs. Lee believes that the actual number of accidents is higher, as some schools might have not reported cases that they considered as small.

He believes most past incidents could have been avoided if schools had adopted good OSH practises and conducted regular safety audits, as promoted by NIOSH:


Read more @

PAGE voices concern at chair-throwing that injured Year Two pupil.

April 22nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The Parent Action Group for Education (Page) has expressed deep concern for an incident at a school in Penampang, where a Year Two student suffered a big gash on his head after a teacher threw a wooden chair out of anger.

Its chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said nothing would justify a teacher flinging a chair at a child, and wants the authorities to look into this matter very seriously.

She said that the teacher in question should be fired if found guilty, even if he or she shows remorse and regardless of whether the child’s parents initiate a case.

“We stand firm that teachers who assault, bully, threaten, or victimise students sexually, verbally or physically should be kept away from students immediately pending investigation.

“Once the teacher is found guilty, he or she should be fired,” Noor Azimah said in a statement.

She was referring to The Star’s report on Friday, where the Year Two pupil required eight stitches on his head after the teacher flung a chair in the direction of another student who was reportedly creating a nuisance in class.

The boy’s mother, who wanted to be known as Wanie, said she would not be pursuing legal action following discussions with the teacher, the school, and the Sabah Education Department.

However. Noor Azimah said that parents should not be afraid to take action against the teacher as “children have a right to be protected from irresponsible adults”.
Read more @

A fun way to teach

April 22nd, 2017
Teachers presenting their project during an NiE workshop by Dass (standing, far left).

Teachers presenting their project during an NiE workshop by Dass (standing, far left).

IT was a delightful day for SMJK Yuk Choy English teacher Chan Gooi Kam. The Ipoh teacher – along with 42 other teachers – had the opportunity to attend The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) workshop held for schools in Perak.

“I was lucky to be included!” she said. “The NiE workshop was excellent. It adds on to our teaching methods. Furthermore, the content is suitable and there is a variety of activities.”

As a regular reader of The Star, Chan said she was familiar with the daily and found it very user-friendly.

“I think using the newspaper in class is effective for promoting English. Not only that, students will read articles on current issues. They can get information and ideas to write better essays. Reading the news is also good for enhancing students’ vocabulary.”

The workshop, held at SM Poi Lam, Ipoh, recently was conducted by Star-NiE freelance trainer Lucille Dass.

Chan said that she had read about Dass in the newspapers and was fortunate to catch her in action.

“The trainer is very dynamic. I learnt a lot of activities within a short period of time — no time was wasted. I feel that the workshop was worth attending. No regrets going!”

These ready-made newspaper activities can be found in copies of the Star-NiE pullouts, which come with copies of The Star every Wednesday. Endorsed by the Education Ministry, the pullouts tackle syllabus-based topics with creative hands-on activities by incorporating articles, photographs and advertisements from newspapers. Not only is the English language syllabus tackled at three levels: elementary, intermediate and advanced, the pullouts also approach literature and character building issues through its NiE Literature and NiE Life publications, hence making learning authentic and real for students.

SM Poi Lam quality assurance department head Captain Chan Weng Kwai, who helped coordinate the session, said that he felt the teachers at his school needed training on different teaching methods. Having been a principal of five different schools, he has seen it being done in his previous schools and thought the teachers in SM Poi Lam would benefit from using NiE.

“The workshop is very good. It’s not theoretical; it’s hands on. I’ve learnt a lot of things myself and I hope the teachers will put them to good use,” he said.

SM Poi Lam English teacher Lee Chin Yin said that NiE was useful.

“We are able to adapt the activities according to our students’ levels. With NiE, it’s easy for teachers to prepare a lesson as each student gets a copy of the newspaper. It will also encourage them to read more,” she said.

In a regular class lesson, Lee said that students would usually just listen to the teacher.

“During an NiE activity, they have a chance to present their own ideas. This encourages improvement in their spoken language,” she added.

All the way from Kampar, SM Pei Yuan English teacher Veronica David said that the NiE workshop was a fruitful one.

“By attending the workshop, we teachers add to our teaching skills.”

Having used the NiE in class, she said that a majority of the students enjoyed it.

Read more @

Education D-G: International schools have to get prior approval.

April 22nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: International schools that want to increase their fees must comply with the Education Ministry’s guidelines.

Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said under the Education Regulations (Registration of Educational Insti­tutions) 1997, any private educational institution wishing to make changes to its approved fee structure must get the appro­val from the Chief Registrar of Education Institutions and Tea­chers.

“The school has to submit an application to make changes to its fees to the ministry’s Private Education Division.

“The application can only be made three years after the previous approval,” he told The Star.

Dr Khair said the proposed new fee must not be more than 30% than the current fee and the school has to provide justification for the increase.

He was commenting on the fees’ structure of international schools following complaints from parents.

Dinesh, who has two children in an international school in the Klang Valley, said parents believed the school had hiked its fees by 50%.

“The confusing fee structure led parents to think that the increase was 50% when it was actually in line with the ministry’s cap of 30%,” he said.

Dinesh said officials from the mi­­nistry’s Private Education Division visited the school on Tuesday.

“The officers told us the school has the necessary approvals to increase fees, and that parents are confused because the breakdown of fees was not clarified,” he said.

Taylor’s Schools president B.K. Gan said the ministry allowed international and private institutions to hike their fees once every three years.

Read more @

Rural schools to be transformed

April 22nd, 2017
Mahdzir speaking during the Education Ministrys Excellent Service Awards 2016 ceremony.
Mahdzir speaking during the Education Ministrys Excellent Service Awards 2016 ceremony.

DILAPIDATED schools in rural areas will be transformed into community centres under the Government’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS).

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the initiative, called My New School, will involve the upgrading and renovation of certain schools to equip them with modern learning facilities to benefit students.

“This will also turn the school into a community hub where social activities with the local community can be carried out,” he said in his speech at the Education Ministry’s Excellent Service Awards 2016 ceremony last Tuesday.

“The Civil Defence Force or the police can also organise social activities (within the school),” he said.

He also said that health clinics can be opened on school grounds.

“A lot of activities can be carried out inside the school compound,” he said, adding that the school hall can be used for talks and other community programmes.

He added that the chosen schools are those that are far from any clinics or community halls.

Last year, four schools were chosen in Sabah and Sarawak. This year, four more schools from Kedah, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Pahang are expected to be added to the list, while Sabah and Sarawak will contribute four more, bringing the total to 12.

Read more @

Life lessons from running long distance

April 22nd, 2017

I WAS an overweight kid. Growing up, despite my academic achievements or my efforts to be a kind person, “the weight” has always been used against me.

I ended up believing that as an overweight person I could not possibly be athletic, lithe and springy. I believed that one had to be skinny to be a success in life.

Then, I fell in love with running. It started innocently enough. I was writing my PhD thesis and was spending so much time in a chair that it started to have a physical toll on my overall well-being.

I tipped the scale at 100.5kg. Not only did I suffer from bad self-esteem, but I was also feeling sluggish and could not be as productive as I wanted to be to complete the thesis within the scholarship and visa deadline.

I began by taking small steps. I jogged from the college where I was staying to the riverbank, making it past five lamp posts that lined the Brisbane River.

The next day, I made it past another two lamp posts, making a total count of seven lamp posts. I kept going, adding a couple of lamp posts a day, until I could finally jog comfortably along the whole riverbank lining the St Lucia campus.

To cut a long story short, I left Brisbane with a PhD and a determination to run a mara­thon by the time I turned 30. I completed the latter in 2013, at the Penang Bridge International Marathon, a bittersweet experience where I managed to run a full marathon on my thirtieth year on the island of my birth.

Last weekend, I shifted the personal goal post and attempted a 50km run in Genting Sempah, known among runners as the Route 68 Challenge. I signed up for the arduous challenge as I was not getting any faster in my running goals, and with my increasing age, I could feel the kilos sneaking back on, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay. It was a humbling experience, despite a strong start in the first quarter of the race. I got to 43.5km and my body just refused to go any further.

It was my first bitter taste of failure. Despite all the physical and moral support from my many friends who turned up on the day and who have accompanied me during training, I failed to declare myself an ultramarathoner.

I was quite disappointed with myself, of course. I wanted to prove that a big woman, one who does not look like an average runner; can still be a runner.

I spent the past five months training for this particular marathon and invested money, time and effort only to be rushed to the medi­cal assistance tent in the end.

My only souvenirs from the race were chafing on my body, horrible sunburn and a badly bruised ego. After several good, long cries however, I sought inspiration from stories of other Malaysians, fellow runners and especially those who completed the 121st Boston Marathon over the weekend, to pick myself up and run another day.

Case in point: our celebrated cyclist, Azizulhasni Awang, trained hard for eight years to become world champion.

Countless Malaysians tried many times before qualifying for a spot at the elite and exclusive Boston Marathon, and many more Malaysians work hard every day to achieve dreams no one thought possible.

The key here is we dared to dream – regardless of the challenges we face along the way – and we attempted to make that dream a reality. It would have been worse if we had not dreamt at all. My experience proved that despite the best-laid plans, it can all go to nought; but the same experience has lit a spark in me to try harder.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t agree that Malaysians can only be successful when we leave the country. Those of us who are here matter; we all have to collectively strive for the best versions of ourselves, challenging ourselves with professional and personal goals every year.

I find my solace, my joy and my challenge in running long distances. Through my six years of running, I have experienced countless instances of street harassment, been body-shamed, told off for being too slow, had injuries, lost weight and gained weight.

But I am still running. It can be seen as a metaphor for life itself, wherein the marathon called life, we only fail when we stop running and we should cross that final finish line as strongly as we can.

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to have officially registered for the Boston Marathon and a fierce advocate of getting girls and women active in the sport, famously said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” I would go a step further and say, “If you want to believe in your own ability, go run a marathon.”


Read more @

Cops to probe school gangsterism after videos of rowdy youths go viral.

April 22nd, 2017

SHAH ALAM: Rampant gangsterism in schools is back in the limelight with the arrest of 13 schoolboys after a commotion outside a school in Klang.

Selangor police have set up a task force to investigate gangland activities in schools after videos of a group of motorcyclists creating a ruckus outside the school in Taman Sri Andalas went viral.

Selangor CID chief Senior Asst Comm Fadzil Ahmat said although the motive for the commotion was still being probed, the 13 schoolboys and five others had been remanded.

“The 13 students arrested were from schools in the area, while the five other youths were working as mechanics and security guards.

“We have remanded them for four days to assist in investigations,” he told reporters at the Selangor police headquarters here.

He said as soon as the video went viral, a police report was lodged and the task force was formed.

“Together with Bukit Aman CID, we launched a series of operations on Thursday night and arrested the youths, aged between 16 and 25.

“We are investigating the case under Section 52 of the Societies Act 1966 for using a triad ritual,” he said.

The arrests came after two videos of motorcyclists causing a commotion outside the school went viral on Thursday night.

In the first video clip, the group is seen shouting and revving motorcycle engines outside the school.

They are also seen holding up banners, one of which bears the letter “24”, “TD4” and a black swastika.

One youth swings firecrackers around as frightened schoolchildren scurry away.

The second video starts with a close-up of a cake with the words “SMK Sri Andalas”, “24” and “Apache” written on it.

At least one of the motorcyclists in this clip is seen wearing a school uniform. The location and time of the 24-second footage appear to be the same as the first.

Authorities have been fighting gangsterism in schools for years.

In 2010, The Star reported about drunken, foul-mouthed schoolboys attacking others and molesting girls in a school at Rawang.

The schoolboys also brazenly painted the school walls with their gang numbers. However, the walls have since been painted over and the gang activities have gone quiet.

At the time, teachers, parents and residents had opted to keep quiet as they were afraid of what these teenagers could do to them.

Molestation was said to be rampant, but almost all the cases went unreported as victims feared more severe “repercussions’’.

The matter came to light after a police report was lodged by several girls over the rape of a 14-year-old girl at their school premises.

The girl had been repeatedly raped by some of her classmates in various locations of the school over a three-week period.

Read more @

More calls for shark hunting ban after photo of fins on jetty surfaces.

April 22nd, 2017
Inhumane act: A fisherman laying out shark fins and tails at the Semporna jetty in Sabah.

Inhumane act: A fisherman laying out shark fins and tails at the Semporna jetty in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Yet another picture has emerged of shark hunting and finning in Sabah, known as a dive paradise for its idyllic islands.

The Danau Girang Field Centre has put up a picture of rows of shark fins being laid out to dry on a jetty in the state’s east coast of Semporna.

The picture, which has triggered dismay and shock among netizens, is stirring up fresh calls for a total ban on shark hunting in the state.

Many have expressed anger and disappointment that it is still legal to hunt sharks in Sabah.

Anti-shark hunting and finning activist Aderick Chong said it was shocking to see so many fins laid out openly in the district that was home to one of the world’s top diving spots.

“Some sharks can be hunted but there should be a ban on hunting certain species like the hammerhead and the stingray,” said Chong, who is heading the Sabah Shark Protection Association.

“(But then) if the state government only bans the capture and killing of certain types of sharks, it will be difficult to identify which species the fins belong to,” he said.

The fishermen, said Chong, claimed that the sharks sold at the markets were from their catch that was part of their livelihood and not hunted.

“(But) why do they need to fin the fish and sell the body separately? This clearly shows that the shark fin trade is real and continues to exist in Sabah,” he said.

Chong said although there were some positive moves during a public consultation for the inclusion of several sharks and stingray species in Sabah’s protection list, this would be pointless if there were no strict rules.

“Sharks will disappear from our seas.

“As it is, sharks are already so hard to find in our dive sites,” he said.

In July last year, pictures of sharks being finned and slaughtered in the diving haven of Pulau Mabul near Sipadan went viral on the Internet.

Read more @

Shorter stays at emergency unit.

April 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Health officials here are reviewing standard operating procedures to overcome congestion at the Emergency and Trauma Unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

The move came about after many patients had to remain at the emergency unit for days due to lack of beds at the wards.

Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min said they were looking at ways to resolve the problem amid public complaints that patients had to stay in emergency units up to a week at QEH and QEH II here.

He said there were standard operating procedures for emergency wards where a patient needed to be treated and transferred to a ward within a certain time frame.

“But the number of patients has increased, and this may have contributed to the problem,” he said after an excellence-in-service award presentation ceremony here yesterday.

Dr Chen said congestion at emergency wards was also a result of unsystematic arrangements.

Sometimes patients who were not categorised as an emergency were treated or warded at emergency wards, he said.

“We are trying to get clinics in hospitals to open later so that patients can get the medical attention they need instead of heading straight to emergency,” he said.

He said patients could also make use of cluster hospitals in their areas.

Cluster hospitals complement each other in terms of medical facilities, technology and specialists, and involve the sharing of medical specialists and improvement of medical facilities.

Speaking at the event, Dr Chen urged all medical practitioners to provide quality services to patients.

He said various incentives had been given to medical staff to boost their work ethics and offer better services to patients.

On recent reports of poor discipline among housemen, including absenteeism, Dr Chen said a contractual agreement had been introduced for housemen.

“We now have contracts for those wanting to work as housemen and those who do not perform according to expectation will not have their contracts renewed,” he said.

Read more @