20 September 2014

With a Sigh ( Part 22 ) – Kertas Bocor!! Leak in exam papers.

Now it leaks ! What's next?


It saddens me that I have not in this blog written an entry crediting on our country’s system of education. I moan and sigh whenever the ‘gods’ of education speak with high praise for their endless plans and blueprints, to make our universities more of ‘taraf antara bangsa’(world class) than those in other countries. They talk about importing Indian English teachers, American peace corps etc. etc. to help in teaching of English. This reminds me of a conversation I had with then the director of a state education department. When I casually asked him why there had hardly been one scholarship given to  an outstanding student in the state to study English  at a university in England, he went to a great length to convince Pakcik that England was no longer the best country to study English language! Fortunately India was not his best choice either. I found no reason to waste my breath in arguing with that self-proclaimed expert. He must have been convinced by the ‘gods’ up there, those who found him deserving to be promoted to run the state education.


I have never heard of a suggestion from our wizards in education that, perhaps, it is of immediate advantage to the country to invite experienced teachers, those trained in Kirkby, Brinsford and locally. Many of them would be too happy to come out of retirement to help our failing system. In the local dailies several readers did voice suggestions to this effect without being given any notice by those in authority who were bent on listening to the expensive consultants from overseas. 


And now we hear about the leak (bocor) in certain UPSR question papers.


In my part of the world I have, over the last ten years, been hearing rumours of leaked examination papers just about UPSR examination time.  Many teachers are convinced of that and I am inclined to believe them, too. Deep in my heart I know there is some truth in the rumours. Coincidentally, over the years my state is proud of holding a record of sort in achieving the highest percentage of children obtaining all A-grades in UPSR examinations.  


I thought the current unfortunate situation (of leaked UPSR papers) would hasten the replacement of UPSR examination with the new system publicised  not long ago. On the other hand, the minister categorically stated that UPSR would stay.

What does an A grade in UPSR mean?


The three girls pictured above are from a small group of Form 1 children attending tuition at Almanar. Two of them achieved 5A’s and the third 3A’s in their UPSR examination last year.  They decided to join Almanar a week ago. All the three girls excelled with A-grade in Mathematics and two with A-grade in English. It is not easy for them to come to Almanar , about ten kilometers away from their homes. But they do with their elders’ support.


Nine months into Form 1 these children claimed to have completed their Form 1 Mathematics for the year. That is encouraging. But I cannot take it for granted. They are at a disadvantage learning Mathematics in Malay as Pakcik would want children at Almanar to learn technical terms in English.  


The first chapter of Form 1 Mathematics is all about numbers, the odd, even and prime numbers, factors and multiples, etc.  It is enlightening to these children to learn to say; Ali is an odd boy; he is at odd with so and so; the top of a billiard table must be perfectly even; Their score at half time were even; He did not even open the envelop, etc. When asked what they guessed a ‘prime number’ would mean they looked totally puzzled. When asked what ‘prime minister’ meant, their faces sparked with delight – perdana menteri! I do not wonder why people like our Dr Mahathir feels strongly for English to be used in science and technical subjects.    


Like in many cases, it is most disappointing to see what a calculator has done to these children. Pakcik cannot help recalling the years I was in standard 2 and standard 3 seventy years ago. We had to commit to memory the multiplication tables up to 12. We would get a cane for not being spontaneous in giving an answer to say, 7x6.  These children are good at using the gadget but failed to divide 69 by 3 without one.


Hopefully our standard of education will remain at ‘taraf antarabangsa,’ and I say it with a sigh.



Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

06 September 2014

Just a Reflection ( Part 13 )-Who am I?




What a creation that is -
The SAND , the SEA and the SKY.
In perfect harmony


And the boats are idling, peacefully on the beach.


Because their owners know


Soon, a STORM is coming, and their boats are no match to face the wrath of nature.


  I see this often.  And I reflect -
                                            Who am I ?



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25 August 2014

Pakcik Reminisces ( Pt 37 ) – My Hijrah

August, now and fifty years ago

It is August, possibly the month which carries memories of notable events in Pakcik’s family life.

If one sees Makcik busy about this time, year after year, fixing Malaysian jalur gemilang at the back and front of Nuri, on the tree house and at Almanar, one would admire her patriotic spirit. I would let people at large think so, why not?

At Nuri

At the tree house as well

And at Almanar, no doubt

On 30th August of each year we ‘celebrate’ ( with songs and dance?) my great lady’s very own birthday. To her the 31st August celebration is meant for her in the first instance. To Pakcik the 31st August celebration is in honour of Pakcik’s own birthday which comes at the turn of that month.      

If that is not enough, August brings Pakcik's family  back 20 years ago when  our only princess was married on 25th August, followed a day later, on 26th, by our elder prince’s wedding. If twenty years is not far back enough we move FIFTY years ago when it all started, as recorded in my last entry ( click here ). Indeed, in the shade of a large durian tree two young persons sat united – 50 years ago this August.

I am fortunate to have a WH Smith Diary of 1994 which carries records of certain events in my family.

WH Smith 1994 diary

Clearly, two pages dated 25th and 26th carry some records of the two weddings in our new home, Nuri. where we had barely settled down.

Page 25th August & page 26th August 

Those two weddings at Nuri have been blessed with one girl and five boys which give us the right to 'datukship' ( grandparents' status). And now two of these grandchildren have completed their secondary education. Their grandmother has started to dream of seeing more weddings at Nuri, and the beginning of yet another generation of great-grand …..

Flipping through the 1994 diary I found on page for 22nd April (equivalent to 11th Dzul Ke’dah 1414) an entry which began with “My Hijrah to KT” . 

My 'Al Hijrah' on 22nd April 1994

Reading what I wrote then of a simple event, I congratulate myself  today for having chosen to make simple entries on what happened.  That I chose to own and enter a dairy at 58 is not a common practice. 

For whatever degree of relevance to my life I chose to record as follows the event of that day, 22nd April 1994 :

“At 8am the two of us left KL for KT in our Proton which was packed with assorted essentials, crockery, pots and pans, suit-cases, my books of reference on tafsir and Arabic, laptop, Black-and-Decker tool box, mats, a piece of carpet. It was for all intents and purposes, my ‘Hijrah’ to KT. I stopped for Jumaat prayers about 50 km from Jerangau …………. etc.”

“Our house was by no means ready – but we were determined to move in – So we had our first  night in NURI……. Etc”

I am glad today to go back in time and read my thoughts. It has been twenty years since we moved (hijrah) our home from the busy KL city to a very quiet locality – semi jungle, fronting the South China Sea. There are still wild boars and pythons  today living in the neighbouring bushes.

It is hard to believe that some years ago we were forced to erect a low brick wall to fence our area (about two acres of land) after our tapioca and banana plants were mercilessly attacked by those dangerous brutes. It was only a week ago, one dark evening on our way home, I had to stamp hard on my foot brake of our Alza to avoid running into two black animals I assumed to be two black cats on the road. Instead  they were two young boars running across my path.


And soon, after having settled down at Nuri, we started Almanar, hoping the work I planned for needy children would keep me occupied and happy during my autumn days.  To HIM we owe all these twenty years and a very  pleasant life.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

15 August 2014

All in the family (Part 13 )

This day 15th August 2014


We thank YOU

That we’re still here
To see today’s sunrise
To have been given children 
And friends

That YOU never cease
To provide us
Everything we need
To have made us care
For others
As YOU care for us


We need no candles
No flowers
No cakes
No gold medals


We have YOU
Yesterday today and tomorrow


And in our silent prayers

Nasykuruka wa-nahmaduka
wa-IYYAKA naa'budu
Wa-IYYAKa nasta’iin



The beginning
 Just the two 

Under a large durian tree they chose to unite

Plus Three

It becomes Two plus Three

And now - the two + three ++ twenty +++? 
Wallahu aa’lam

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11 August 2014

What Pakcik received ( Pt 7 ) - Does it ring a bell ?

Thank you Prapa 

Such a long time ago – seems like yesterday

Has it been so bad all these years? Just hang on, darling. I will think of a poem to express my true love and gratitude.

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03 August 2014

End of the Tunnel ( Pt 25 ) –
From burger stall to MRI T.0 Tesla & beyond

Among the many who turned up to wish us Selamat Hari Raya is this young man.

Almost four years ago I wrote about this boy, Din and his plight to get into medical-related field of studies ( click here ). He joined Almanar class after passing his UPSR examination with grades 2A’s, 2B’s and 1C. Three years later he improved his performance passing his PMR with  5A’s and 3B’s. For his SPM he also obtained 5A’s and 3B’s. Strong in English, Maths and Physics he was accepted to do a three-year diploma course in Radiography at a premier university medical centre. With grit and determination Din ended the course at the top of the dean’s list.

Proceeding as planned, he started working at the university hospital for four years and joined the university academics on part-time basis to earn a degree by the end of next year. He has in mind to pursue a post basic course related to nuclear medicine which will lead to a master’s degree. Of his future he would like to have a career at a specialised  medical centre or a university, preferably back in Terengganu.

No, he cannot divorced himself from his home state where the rest of his family live. They are economically better. His mother no longer runs the burger stall by the roadside where Din used to help during his school days. His aged father, who was introduced to fishermen’s life at the unbelievable age of eight, cannot stop going to sea. “ If he doesn’t go he will be sick!”, mused Din of his father’s passion for the salt sprays of China Sea and the sun burning on his back.       

 Radiologist, teachers and dentist

Radiologist, MSc ( herbal research), Nursing

Like Din many of his ex-Almanar friends, have emerged from the end of the tunnel, convinced that there is future for everyone who is willing to sweat for it. Pakcik wishes him and the like of him all the best – and would like to think that they would not forget to serve the many deserving people around, with a sense of gratitude to Him.

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22 July 2014

Pakcik Remimisces (Pt 36) – The three we have

Over thirty years ago we were blessed with three children That, apart from the very life that we are still breathing today, is His most meaningful and invaluable gift to us.

Mother & her 3 children with father's favourite Pallas  

It was a real test of courage for the mother when those three babies were destined to come into this world through caesarian operations, which by today’s standard was primitive in those days. To put it crudely, a doctor would cut up enough opening in the mother’s abdomen for the baby to be taken out and the gap stitched close with whatever thread used at that time. That harrowing and traumatic part was replayed a week later when the thread that bound the wound had to be removed; what fear and pain accompanying it. To go through that traumatic experience once was enough but having to go through that same process the second and third time was psychologically a torture. Nevertheless, this mother surrendered herself to Him simply for the strong desire to have more children. The prominent gynaecologist of that era, Dr McCoy recommended a permanent stop against any fancy idea of going beyond three, let alone to go for ‘cheaper 
by the dozen’ !

Note on Dr Mc Coy

Dato’ Dr. Ronald Stephen McCoy was born on May 5, 1930

A past president of MMA (Malaysian Medical Association)
He was among the first group of students to be admitted to the University of Malaya in Singapore when it was founded in 1949.Dato' McCoy is currently a member of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a group of seventeen distinguished and eminent persons from 12 countries appointed by former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating to propose practical measures for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
From Straits Times on the occasion of 'Victorian of the Year 2004' - Victorian Indtituition, KL

Today with improved technique, a mother can go through such operation practically unlimited. Our own daughter braved through four operations with a smile. The dreaded and painful experience of unstitching the wound was no longer necessary with self-dissolving thread. Some mothers, we are given to understand, opt for operations for personal reasons; such as a desired birthday for a baby and in some cases, I am given to understand, to avoid any body damage to the mother.

n/b: We have our way of marking birth dates for the three children, encoded in the car number plates - the inseparable three.

7917 ?
The encoded birthday dates and mother's old favourite

Today, as an expecting father, I recall those harrowing moments when I sat saying my prayers for the safety of my beloved life partner.


Some years later when the three children reached their schooling age I was determined to start them learn the meaning of humility through the process of growing up. We had a comfortable life but the children had to learn that ours was not the norm. For that reason we decided on two schools in Brickfields, thirty years ago, a semi slum area where one would find homes of poor families and accommodations for general labourers of Malayan Railway and squatters as well.

One would not see a child being scheuffer-driven to those two schools. Makcik used to volunteer to prepare milk ( from milk powder donated by a company) and dispense it to poor children at the school. It was also not unusual for one of our children to tell us on his return from school that a friend borrowed five or ten cents to make up enough to buy something. Our advice was never to accept the money back, whatever was given was to be treated as a gift. In those days it was not uncommon for children to go to schools with 20 or 30 cents each. We wanted our children to realise how lucky they were in life. No one talked in those schools about having enjoyed holidays abroad.

Indeed, our three children survived well at those lowly-rated schools. But their father was a ‘tyrant’ at home making them work extra lessons. And today, that ‘tyrant’ has spent the last twenty years ‘terrorising’ the poor children at Almanar. And, hopefully, our children and grandchildren, continue to live with full realisation that there are others whose life is not as fortunate as theirs.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.