15 April 2014

Wedding we would never want to miss

Last Saturday was a good day for a pleasant drive to KL even for the sole reason of attending a wedding reception of a couple whose marriage ceremony had taken place earlier in London, where they work. Pakcik and Makcik could not possibly deny ourselves the pleasure of seeing the handsome groom, Hafiz. We have known him from his young school days, learning Arabic with Arab students in London. His parents are none other than the famed journalists/bloggers, Awang Goneng ( Wan Hulaimi) and Kak Teh (Zaharah).    

Hafiz and the proud mother (Kah Teh) with the beautiful bride (Nora) in between

And the proud Awang Goneng (Wan Hulaimi) with us

We pray for a marriage that will be blessed with lasting happiness, qualifying the couple the status of parenthood, and their parents the status of ‘datukship’. Ameen.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan  untuk kemanusiaan

05 April 2014

What Pakcik received  (Pt 6) – Would it ever come around?

Thank you Nik


Want it back. It Does work

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer.
One day, while tryiI ng to make a living for his family,
he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog.
He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy,
screaming and struggling to free himself.
Farmer Fleming saved the lad from
what could have been a slow and terrifying death

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up
to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings.
An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out
and introduced himself as
the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

'I want to repay you,' said the nobleman.
 'You saved my son's life.'

'No, I can't accept payment for what I did,
' the Scottish farmer replied waving off the offer.
At that moment,
the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.

'Is that your son?' the nobleman asked.
'Yes,' the farmer replied proudly.

'I'll make you a deal.
Let me provide him
with the level of education my own son will enjoy
If the lad is anything like his father,
he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.'
And that he did.

Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools
and in time,
graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London,
and went on to become known throughout the world
as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son
who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia.

What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill .
 His son's name?

Sir Winston Churchill.

Someone once said: What goes around comes around.

Work like you don't need the money.

Love like you've never been hurt.

Dance like nobody's watching.

Sing like nobody's listening.

Live like it's Heaven on Earth.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan  untuk kemanusiaan

29 March 2014

With a Sigh ( No 19 ) – No turning back for PBS

PBS forever

In my No 18 of this series I questioned whether I was being unjustly critical on the subject of PBS and, in general, on the education ‘blueprint’. When I was about to drop the issue from my mind two things prompted me to sit back to write this. First was the news splash on the endless PBS issue. There is no going back. It will be bulldozed through with a huge concession; teachers’ workload will be reduced by 80%.Isn’t that fantastic? Had no one ever thought through the implementation of a major project, or was there no one with his/her brain working outside the guitar box?  How could such a huge impact on workload was never thought of; pure nincompoop. Now do I hear, “Hurray!!” from teachers on hearing the recent discovery of reduction on their workload ?    

The second announcement made was the planned disappearance of the current PMR examination, making way for the emergence of yet another examination called PT3 – whatever that is, of world class, no doubt. I am surprised if we will not be told that before long the SPM will be called differently, like SP1M.

A Perfect solution !

As a rule, children join Almanar tuition class at Form 1, allowing sufficient time for us to give these children sound understanding of the basic knowledge in English language and Mathematics by the time they sit for their PMR examination three years later. This has proved successful. It is never our requirement that children are accepted on the basis of their good primary school records. Preference is given to those with poor family as long as the children are prepared to move at the pace we, taking cognition of the level of their knowledge, set for them,

Unfortunately there are instances when we get request for help from children at higher Forms. A typical example is the case of three girls of Form 4 who, ten days ago, approached Pakcik for help in English and Mathematics. They performed well enough in their PMR examination end of last year, gaining as many as 6 ‘A’ grades in subjects except English and Mathematics. Two of them managed to obtain ‘C’ grade and the third just ‘D’ grade in English. No one in that school obtained all ‘A’ grades in the examination. These three children are conscious of the need to get help but are not prepared to pay for evening tuition classes mushrooming around the area.

To have a very rough indication of the level of their English, I made them translate into English the following two Malay sentences:

Adam seorang budak bernama Ali. Dia mempunyai dua orang abang.

Girl No 1’s answer : “Have a boy name Ali. He has two brothers.”
Girl No 2’s answer  : "Have boy is name Ali. He have two elder brother.”
Girl No 3’s answer  : “There are boy name Ali. He have two brothers.”

Wouldn't I heave a long sigh when I am faced with this situation? Will the ‘blueprint’, PBS and so on, solve it all in future ?


Special request to my visitors:

I know a number of visitors to this blog are teachers with experience in general and English Language in particular. Bearing in mind that many do not wish to give open comments for other visitors to read, I sincerely seek their comments, (via  email to   almanar@pd.com.my ), on my thoughts related to education in Malaysia. I must admit that, entrenched in the system I was so familiar with half a century ago, I could have reflected a totally out-dated thoughts. I would not be embarrassed or offended to adverse comments which I am grateful for.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk keemanusiaan

12 March 2014

Pakcik Rminisces ( Pt 17 ) - The Road I Took (No 1)



Allah yarham Idris

That is my late elder brother, (Allah yarham) Idris who passed away last year at the age of eighty two (82). This picture of him, dressed like an Arab prince, was taken soon after his return from his Islamic studies in the Middle East, hence his attire.

I was then about to finish my secondary religious school, and, if all went as planned, I would be shipped (literally so, before the era of air travel) on the same course to the Middle East. Of this plan my brother had a suggestion which sounded logical. In his opinion younger sibling should first be allowed to learn some English. He saw that as an advantage; he himself planning to join a private school for some knowledge in English language before applying for a job. His words carried weight. After all I was relatively young, having performed two years ahead in completing the religious school. Yes, I was ready for that.

Today, I realise what happened then, was a landmark in my life. I was being led to a junction where Robert Frost’s famous poem said:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
  And sorry I could not travel both
  And be one traveler, long I stood
  And looked down on one as far as I could
  To where it bent in the undergrowth


It was not easy by any means for this boy to join the only Government English school in the state. I lacked sufficient knowledge in English (other than whatever I had managed to pick up from afternoon classes) and mathematics. But my family was adamant that I must join the government school, by hook or by crook. It was indeed by ‘hook or by crook’ ( of which I hope to write one day ) I found myself starting my proper education in English. I had to begin at Standard Seven, the equivalence of today’s Form Three.

Three years followed and I performed well in the Senior Cambridge School Certificate examination (SC), the equivalence (or not quite!) of today’s SPM. The choice of a new path began to emerge in the thick undergrowth, and I took it.

To end Robert Frost’s poem:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
   Somewhere ages and ages hence:
  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
  I took the one less travelled by,
  And that has made all the difference.”

The SC results were good beyond expectation, giving me an alternative route, equally attractive. And I took the road.

Indeed, ‘ages and ages’ thence, 62 years later, I reminisce and tell myself ‘with a sigh …. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled. And that has made all the difference."

What, otherwise, I would I be today had I taken the other road?

My contemporaries of that time became ‘mufties, kadhis’ and educators in Arabic and Islamic subjects. One of them has the satisfaction of having, among his tutelage, a champion in the Malaysian International Quran competition. One of them, Allah Yarham Abdul Malik, a graduate from Al-Azhar, passed away two years ago while serving as a respected Imam of a mosque in Sydney where he decided to settle down with his successful family.

School librarians of Sultan Zainal Abidin Religious Ascool.
Allah Yarham AbdulMalik sitting (left in picture) and Pakcik standing left and there friends (Yarhamuhumullah)    

I could be, today, enjoying my old age as one of them had I taken the other road in the wood. But this had not to be. That elder brother of mine, (Yarhamuhullah) was the agent of change chosen to steer my path to my presence, as happy as it could be. Indeed we are all entitled to have a dream of a perfect plan, but He is the Ultimate Planner.

That is one part of Ayat 34 from Surah Loqman, which according to Muhammad Asad : “  …whereas no one knows what he will reap tomorrow …”

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

02 March 2014

With a Sigh ( No 18) – Being too critical?

 Why, why and more why ?

Four days ago while the PBS issue was very much on my mind, I sat down to see what bloggers had to comment on that issue. Just then I found my streamyx line dead. It was the work of our ‘world-class’ copper cable thieves who have caused so much heart-ache and frustration to me in particular. The regular phone interruptions in this area are the work of these culprits
So, the next three days saw me driving some eight kilometers to where I could get a ‘free’ line. The current situation took TNB longer than usual to be put right as the thieves had removed the underground cables in three separate localities in my vicinity.

At the end of my fourth visit out for free wi-fi I stopped to buy Sinar Harian.  ( I have practically stopped wasting my precious ringgits on other better known papers which  seem bent on straightening my crooked way of thinking!.) Sinar seems to provide some colouful local news.

When I reached home I was pleasantly surprised to find my phone and streamyx back to normal. What a sigh of relief!

Now, I thought I could start a new posting after scanning what Sinar had for the day. I could hardly believe my eyes to see seven pages on the subject of mosques in Terenganu. I like this paper for that kind of reporting.

Sinar - 1st March, 2014 

Terengganu can boast of a state having the greatest number of mosques in the country. A figure of 495 mosques under two main categories was mentioned, but I could not find the number of smaller places of worships that we call ‘surau’ – as a conservative guess, the figure would not be less than  three times that number of mosques,.

I was particularly pleased to see the following statement : ….. kerajaan negeri bagaimanapun enggan dilihat sebagai juara masjid terbanyak tetapi kosong dengan jumaah …..( ….. the state government, however, does not intend to be recognised as the champion in the number of mosques but empty of worshipers …..)  

There was also mention of expensive mosques built more for show than out of need. Bravo!

Within the radius of three kilometers from my house I have three mosques (where gatherings for Friday prayers are permitted) and not less than twelve suraus; a few are, sadly, politically ‘coloured’. I must also point out that, my home being on a straight coastline, the radius can draw only half of a circle, the eastern half being tye South China Sea, except for the few islands. 

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

23 February 2014

Now I see better

 A gift of sight

Now she finally owns a pair of glasses ( See  the earlier posting - click here )

It is history - best forgotten

I could smile but I could not see that well

And now I can see you and smile as well - Thank you


Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

18 February 2014

With a Sigh ( No 18) – PBS, Oh PBS


No, that is not a new political party. It is the innovative scheme to improve school education which will ensure our pride in the “world class” position.   

But last week saw our dailies highlighting vocal resistance from teachers. So, now there is a need to review PBS – just a review? In the same week there was a press statement made by a person in authority. It was headlined as “Tiada pelajar tercicir menjelang 2020” (No pupils will be left behind by 2020. I congratulate our world-class thinkers and planners. What a brave declaration that was.

What matters to Pakcik, however, is how my humble Almanar centre fares when the situation seems less than satisfactory. Over the period of 20 years we, the invisible hands of Almanar, have done something tangible; starting with just an open space with roof over for a class-room, followed with a proper room within four walls, and followed with more rooms, termed as ‘syndicate’ rooms for children to sit in discussion or to have quiet forty winks, etc. We have computers, reference books,toilets and we have kitchenette to make a cup of tea or cook Maggie mee. Occasionally, we have children spending the night on the pretext of doing group study. Sadly, despite what appears progress in our facility, the decreasing number of children joining Almanar tuition class is most depressing to Pakcik. This,indeed,matters to me, PBS does not.

This year’s intake into Form 1 tuition class has greatly slumped from as many as over 40 children in the earlier years. Today, the number of new 2014 Form 1 tuition class, stands at less than 20. That includes the last group of 8 children, all girls, who turned up one day last week. The sight of them was an unexpected joy to Pakcik, a gift from heaven. I felt the urge to record their faces. Here is the outcome.

            Sweet and innocent kids

When they all had gone home and I sat to analyse their personal data, my heart sank. Have a look at the summary of the UPSR examination results in five papers the new eight girls sat for at the end of last year.The two grades for the two papers for Malay Language are given as BI i / BI ii  ( representing essay writing /objective questions ).

  Girl No        English    Maths   Science    BI i / BI ii

 1                   E           E            E            E   /   E
 2                   D           C            D           C    /   A
     3                   C           E            C           C     /  B     
 4                   D           C            C           C     /  B
 5                   D           C            C           C     /  B
 6                   C           C            D           C     /  B
 7                   C           C            D           C     /  B
 8                   C           C            C           C     /  C
         8 children and their UPSR results

How pathetic it is to see that there is only one A-grade among them and this girl has 2 C-grades and 2 D-grades. One girl obtained all E's!

Two days later I conducted my first English lesson for the Form 1 group. I had reasons to justify my early worry when one of the new girls gave me the meaning of the English word ‘man’. She was almost certain that it meant ‘ orang perempuan tua’ (an old woman)!  

Many years ago, I nearly refused accepting a boy with grade D in English and Mathematics in his UPSR examination. Fortunately it was quickly brought to my attention that the poor boy had just lost his father who was run down by a heavy vehicle while he was riding a motorcycle on his way home from work in a FELDA scheme. Orphans are our priority and each must be given a chance. Three years later this boy’s two D-grades in English and Mathematics at UPSR level turned to A-grades in his PMR examination; and today he is a married man, expecting his first baby. That was an early lesson I learnt. Accepting a challenge is not what we tell our children but what we must prove ourselves. After all, Almanar’s motto (Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemasyarakatan )  was not thought out for show;  for that matter, ‘Almanar’ for a name was not just a flash of fancy.       

Of the last eight new children one is an orphan and the rest have fathers who earn their living from fishing, do manual work in construction of kampong houses, drive a delivery vehicle; and one father is a specialist in climbing the tall village coconut palms to hand-pick the fruit - for a meagre daily earning to support his family.

On our first day last week, one girl in the front seat of the class, instead of copying from the white board, was seen copying notes from a friend sitting beside her. That was not an uncommon phenomenon. So, she has been promised a pair of glasses next week.

These are children who know they need help and have taken the first step to come to Almanar on the encouragement of a concerned teacher in English. Some local teachers do voice their support for Almanar but many of today's kampong children have no wish to waste their precious socialising time to attend free tuition classes. Many prefer to attend the mushrooming tuition classes in the vicinity - to socialise. It is widely known here that many parents believe what is handed out for free cannot be of much value! 

So when I read all about PBS and the great ‘blueprint’ in education, I sit back and smile at my Almanar 'children'. It is satisfying, in a devious way, to heave a long sigh that, by 2020, this is all but history! These eight girls will be among the first group to benefit from the improved 'blue-print' of our world-class education.   

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan