31 March 2011

It’s Weird

Yesterday morning I heard over tv of another quake in Japan, a smaller one. The bottom of the sea must have gone crazy, cracking and sending vibrations through its mass of water. And here things are truly weird. Monsoon ended over a month ago. End of March ought to see calm sea ready for ‘sotong’ season. But the poor fishermen have not been out to sea for a couple of weeks. ‘Aroh derah’ (the current is strong) they told me. Indeed the sea is unusually rough for this time of the year. Look at the picture I took yesterday afternoon. With the grey looking sea, the dark clouds threatening, it was a frightening to stand on the beach by yourself.


What colour is the sea when it is angry with the sky threatening to crash down?


If that is not enough, we have had a few days of continuous rain. A few days ago we had the second flood in two weeks – floods in March? Yesterday, after hearing about flood entering a friend's Makcik and Pakcik paid him anf family a visit. What a sight to see the ground floor of the house located in a small housing area right in the middle of this beautiful city of the global fame Monsoon Cup. Makcik and Pakcik were invited into the house WITH our shoes on! What a sight it was when the beauticully tiled floor we were familiar with was still partly covered in patches of mud. My friends showed me the pictures he took of his house under water.


The road between the houses

In front of the entrance


The sitting room



In the kitchen


The famous city of Kuala Terengganu is a city by the sea and this friend’s house is just over a kilometer away from the famous Batu Buruk ( Rotten Rock ) beach fronting the vast, open South China Sea. And this city cannot find a solution to drain itself dry of a small flood! My friend and wife spent two days cleaning their house of the mud left by the mini flood. And to think this had already happened a few years earlier.


We can only hope and pray that we would not have to go through anything the like of what the Japanese have just gone through.


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P/S; A Note from Awang Goneng.


Just before posting this Pakcik received from Wan Ahmad Hulaimi a.k.a. Awang Goneng in London, an email, specifically personal but with a short note on the latest position of his second book which many have been looking forward to. Here it goes and enjoy the first 27 pages. "My second book on Trengganu, A Map of Trengganu, has come out in Singapore but Malaysians will have to wait until the week of the KL Bookfair end of April. If you'd like to read the first 27 pages, here's where to go: http://www.monsoonbooks.com.sg/downloads/ch1-0854317.pdf"


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Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanuiaan

26 March 2011

Terima kasih

I was about 500 km away from Kuala Terengganu when a call came through on my hand-phone. It was noon on 23rd March; the day SPM results were announced.

“ Ini Syami, Pakcik. Terima kasih Pakcik. Saya dapat semua A”, the boy’s voice came through. I could imagine a broad smile on his face. As if that was not enough I still put in a question, “How about the grade for GCE English?”

“Itu saya dapat 1A.” That satisfied me. ( Many would get A+ for the SPM English but not necessarily 1A under GCE marking, which is more meaningful to Pakcik )

This is the time of the year I can hope to share the joy of my ex Almanar pupils, those who have managed to take in all the scolding during their basic three years at secondary school level and strived forwards.


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I returned home yesterday. And this morning three boys stayed to wait in my house until I finished a class at Almanar, across the road. I was pleased to see the cheerful faces of these three boys.



Right to left: Syami (9 As), Faiz (4As) and Azrol (8As)

At least the few boys I have at Almanar can perform no less. The girls would probably come later to make merry or moan. But these three boys, from deserving families, give me enough reason to put in a quick posting. Syami is the first in his family to be tutored at Almanar, Faiz and Azrol the third in their respective families, their elders being undergraduates at various universities, one of whom is finishing dentistry in Bandung.

A note to my ex Almanar pupils:
I congratulate you all and wish you the best. This is just the beginning. To those who have not performed satisfactorily,Pakcik would remind you that this is not the end of the world. I will always offer you a shoulder to cry on. Come over and we will discuss what we can do next.


Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

20 March 2011

With a sigh ( Pt 6 ) – of different kind

It saddened me to no end to hear of the UN decision on the no-fly zone involving military actions in Libya, short of ground invasion. I am no political analyst, least of all of world affairs. Perhaps I should rightly be blamed for viewing the scenerio from one narrow perspective – Arab world’s inability to correct itself; and these countries are among the world richest in natural resources! America, France and Britain are the main players. Little is highlighted of the views expressed by Russia and China.

How convenient it is to act hastily just because the Arabs themselves have asked for it!

Have we forgotten that easily the Iraq invasion and the number killed? Have we forgotten that easily the number of Muslim Bosnians slaughtered and the length of time taken before a corrective action was taken? Have we forgotten that easily how many Palestinians have been killed and are continued to be killed? Do we put aside the problems faced by persons with Muslim names applying for visa into America, and how many have been denied? Do we forget that easily how the French made sure the Muslim women do not have the freedom to dress the way the want?

Kita cepat lupa.

Members of Arab League want the Western powers to solve the problem within another Arab country – no matter what it takes because the Muslims themselves have failed!

Once, as a young boy, I was taught a saying of our great Prophet.



The greatest of all prophets drew an analogy of the relationship between a Muslim and another Muslim as a building in which different parts strengthen one another. The All-Knowing chose an Arab to be the greatest prophet and the holy Quran in Arabic. Do we not wonder why?

The long and short of it, we have failed.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

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P/S:

Nearly twenty years ago I had a first hand story, from a very senior European engineer working in Algeria, of a fantastic unground river project for irrigation purposes. A super power was trying to spin it as a underground atomic project! The hatred for that man in Algeria began long long ago. Orang mengantuk disorong bantal.

12 March 2011

Moment to Reflect (Pt 3) - The sea! What’s happened?

Yesterday morning when I opened our bedroom window the sight of the sea caught my attention. “ The sea! What’s happened?” I half exclaimed to ask myself.

The surface of the sea was very unusually dark, almost black, with strange formation of waves on its surface under the dark threatening sky. But I brushed what I saw aside, making belief it was just one of those things.

It was almost at the end of day yesterday when I happened to switch on Aljazeera and watched with horror the tsunami scene in Japan. Quickly I took a look at the sea and saw exceptionally heavy sea with wind blowing hard. That should not be so yesterday when the Chinese New had already signalled the end of our monsoon. Later I received a couple of calls telling me that the police had been advising people to be on the alert following the tsunami in Japan. With my other half away for a few days, here I was all alone in a house by the sea.


Second day




I spent the night, praying that I would not be awakened to hear the sound of water surrounding Nuri ( rumahku cahaya hatiku.)


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Regetting that I did not have the presence of mind to capture the sea ywsterday, I decided mkr good today. The sea has not quite turned to normal but nothing like it was yesterday. A fisherman hanging around the beach, unable to go out, remarked that yesterday’s high tide was exceptionally high. I do not think he knew what had likely triggered the condition. I made no attempt to explain.


Second day




/>

Back in my room with my lap top I began to draft this. Lines from AlQuran began to drift by - 'mauj; pl amwaj - wave, surge of the sea' . THey are quoted not less than seven times in Al Quran. In particular I am reminded of an ayat in Surah Hud ( Ayat 42 of Surah 11):



Abdallah Yousuf Ali had the following understanding: “ So the Ark floated with them on the waves (towering) like mountains …..” Yes, it relates to Noah’s Ark, the story that many of us have heard over and over again.

I wonder are ‘the waves (towering) like mountains’ reflect what we today know as tsunami? Wallahu A’lam. The Holy Book has many things way ahead of time and it is not subject to time dimension, one of its miracles. Stop for one brief moment to reflect - Subhanallah.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

09 March 2011

With a sigh ( Pt 5 – sec III) – Awang Goneng’s Comments

( C ) Of reading books Vs
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How right Awang Goneng is. He said ‘hold on tight’
‘They probably don't read a book in a week because of tiredness and minyak Cap Kapak (for the aching limbs
)’

I know, by comparison with children in other big towns, how much love for reading is among the children in my part of the country. I look at the library of a club in Kuala Lumpur and marvel at the large number of members’ children busy returning and borrowing books, each with more than one copy in hand. I visit the beautiful library of my famed bandaraya and can only draw my famous sigh at the pathetic scene.

The so-called ‘c-caf├ęs’ are found in all the corners of my neighbourhood. They exist even in the midst of low cost housing estates. There is money to be made and the operators have no qualm over the damage their private enterprise does to the young kids. It is a common sight to see children from primary schools spending whatever little pocket money they have at these places, sometimes during school hours. Here I would like to relate a case involving a young brother of a pupil at Almanar.

One day a Form 2 pupil moaned over his failure to persuade his Form 1 younger brother to attend tuition class at Almanar, being so hooked up on computer games with friends. Whatever few cents he receives every morning from his single mother, who worked as a helper in a teacher’s home to supplement the small monthly allowance from Social and Welfare Department, would be spent on computer games. Not enough, the boy worked part-time helping to do the dishes at a food-stall nearby, just to earn a few ringgits, all for the computer games.

And now this rich state is applauded for having started distributing computers to school children. I would have thought the students at the universities ( of ‘taraf anatara bansa’, no doubt) have greater needs for them.
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We have three desk tops at Almanar for children to work on. Of late I have to begin tight control over these computers after realising that, among other things, the computers were on to provide ‘music while you work’ - working indeed! Furthermore, seeing the many prohibited items sold at ‘pasar malam’, I fear other uses/misuses of our computers; these are not unlikely hearing what the children have been saying to Pakcik. They are a clever lot on the novel uses of computers and hand-phone with cameras. These young kids are one up on Pakcik on taking pictures and sharing them through friends’ hand-phones. I only know how to operate a less-than-one-hundred ringgit Nokia, which is complicated enough for me. One day a boy confided that he had just received a picture of xxxxx through his hand phone. The subject was a known pupil of the same school! In fact the pleasure of sharing such pictures is common among his friends, girls no exception. I shuddered at the disclosure.

In short, who wants to read books which takes ages to read and understand when a computer can give all the things one needs without having a stack of reference books to page through.
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Of ‘tiredness and minyak cap lapak’, I think ‘minyak cap rimaa’ is better.

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Sebagai akhir kalam, Pakcik would like to apologise if dear readers, especially teachers, do not share the views expressed above.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

04 March 2011

With a sigh ( Pt 5 – sec II) – Awang Goneng’s Comments

In this second section, as promised, I will express my personal opinion on three areas contained in Awang Goneng’s newspaper column and the comment he left for Pakcik.


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(a) Of methodology

It saddens me whenever I find teachers believing that, firstly, ‘methodology’ is the tool without which teaching is meaningless and, secondly, knowing ‘exam format’ is of necessity to score good results. The business of teaching by old methods and the use of old proven reference and text books are looked upon with disdain. For the lack of these necessities I was once belittled. I relish the thought of relating in brief the occasion I was spoken of as an individual unqualified to teach.

Some time ago a secondary school, headed by a new principle with brilliant ideas, decided to introduce an ‘elite group’ in Form Three. Naturally, the group was made up of the top performers of the previous year’s Form 2 exam. The aim was, of course, the typical number game, to achieve greater number of top scorers in the PMR exam at the end of the year.

Together with their parents, about fifteen pupils with potential to satisfy the thirst for excellent results were called for a special briefing by the principle to mark and publicise the launching of this special 'elite' plan. Among the many steps to be taken for this special group – (never mind the bulk of other Form Three pupils numbering not less than three hundred) – many extra classes and special ‘camps’ would be arranged. It so happened that most of these selected pupils had been attending tuition classes at Almanar steadfastly for two years. Many of them were average performers when, two years earlier, they began their Form One at the school.

During the question time that followed, a father of one of the pupils, the top performer in that group, stood up to make an appeal that, whilst the many extra classes planned for the 'elite' group were appereciated, he hoped that his son and his friends would still have time to continue attending tuition classes at Almanar as they had been doing so for so long. In response to that appeal a senior official of the school proudly declared, in the presence of his boss, that Pakcik of Almanar was nothing more than an x-x-x- , not a qualified teacher by profession, and as such, was unlikely to be familiar with the methodology and exam format required to help pupils perform well in the exam, full stop.

The above father was so disgusted with the derogatory remarks uttered that he decided to call on Pakcik at the end of the day to relate the incident, and to say how sorry he was over the stance shown against Pakcik of Almanar. He was more than convinced that his son with 2A,2B and 1C ( the 'C' was in English) would not have progressed that far over the two years without some help from Almanar. (Incidentally the boy continued to get ‘A’ in English, Maths and Science subjects in his PMR through to SPM.)

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(b) Of extra-mural activities

Of the ‘extra-mural activities’ mentioned by Awang Goneng I have to admit belonging to the old school. My advice to pupils is to enjoy whichever games they like but never at the excessive of their studies. If it is just reading they like, by all means, so be it. But these days one is almost literally forced to take up extr-mural activities under the threat of not getting into a university without the precious 10% points – a must even if one fails in all the academic subjects which account for 90%! Pakcik would probably be a fisherman today as a punishment for getting 0% points in extra-mural activities more than half a century ago when my buddies played soccer bare-footed.


Now let us see what has become of tuition class at Almanar on a sports day.

Yesterday was a record day for Almanar. It was sports day at school and I did not know it. Children were required to attend - or be punished, so I was given to believe. As a result we had a record of ONE pupil who turned up at Almanar for Form 1 tuition class! But that was not all because the one who turned up was a boy, hence another record , 100% male!


Now who is this boy, so brave to absent himself from the school sports?

He is the third, the youngest, of three brothers in a family. His two elder brothers attended Almanar, obtained all the As they wanted in their PMR and SPM exams and are now in universities. And this little brother, in my assessment, has the highest potential of the three. I found it my duty to teach him yesterday and I did it with great pleasure ; he was so much like my own grandchildren. I think, Insya Allah, this boy will perform no less than his two successful elders.
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To be continued.



Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

03 March 2011

With a sigh ( Pt 5 – sec I ) – Awang Goneng’s Comments

In the New Sunday Times of 16th January WAN A HULAIMI, better known as Awang Goneng, wrote ‘What use the newest when the method is flawed?’ copied below:

What use the newest when the method is flawed?
WAN A. HULAIMI
elsewhere@columnist.com


FEYERABEND at Sussex University in 1974 was a physical wreck, but his intellectual vigour remained intact. He walked into the lecture theatre hobbling on a crutch, and wrote three questions on the black board: What's so great about knowledge? What's so great about science? What's so great about truth?
That was classic Feyerabend. Now, just under a month to the seventeenth anniversary of his death, he is still remembered as the man who looked at method and pelted it with fruit, some ironic, some rotten, some soaked in his reductio that reduced them all to absurdum.

In conversation with a friend last week I mentioned someone -- a Malaysian -- whose skills in English language teaching was undisputed but who still remained largely ignored. "He is getting on in years," I said. "Perhaps we should tap his knowledge."

"It'll probably shine a ray of light," I said. "Now that we're wandering in a maze."

We both acknowledged that the person we were talking about had made remarkable strides. "But he may be a bit behind in his method," the friend added. "Methodology", he whispered before we both fell silent, for that was the buzzword.

Feyerabend wasn't against knowledge, or science or truth, however elusive the word. He was a philosopher of science, but when he was ill he turned to the "alternative", and it worked. Is there just one science, one way, one route to human knowledge? Or, apropos my friend, one method?

Looking at the way things are going it is easy to see the bandwagon on the road. People are always excited with this or that, the latest and the one that draws the crowd. And even that will soon fall by the wayside when a knight donning a new shining methodology comes a-riding down the road. We often forget that the business of teaching is to teach. Look at all those gleaming computers now in schools, and the Wi-Fi criss-crossing invisibly overhead. In some schools in Britain the teachers get less funding if they resist; and yet there's the Rudolf Steiner schools that refuse to have any of those newfangled gadgets and they are none the worse for that. They are probably able to know as much about Socrates as their counterparts, even if they may be lagging behind in the Facebook.

To be fair to my friend, he wasn't hitching a ride on the bandwagon but was merely stating a fact, that people can be awed by methods at the expense of results, even if it is proven again and again that old methods do work. We can have a pluralism, Feyerabend seemed to believe, even in days when he himself was clinging on to method.

In education or medicine, the dominant science dictates. The tyranny of orthodox medicine -- known pejoratively to its opponents as allopathy -- means that alternative remedies with different paradigms are attacked. There is a general disdain of learning by rote, but learning by rote carries subtle effects that cannot be measured by immediate results in terms of how the mind is shaped, how language is unconsciously absorbed. There are advantages too of course from the questioning method and the analysis of truths, so Feyerabend I guess would have set them both to the work.

"(Science) is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best. It is conspicuous, noisy, and impudent, but it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without ever having examined its advantages and its limits," he said in his book Against Method.

There is the danger of course in thinking that the scientific establishment, now or in the past, is neutral, and the danger of following blindly the mainstream of ideas because it is fashionable is all too obvious. Even Feyerabend's way that rejected method in favour of pluralism may be fraught, for he himself, when bemused by the criticisms of his disdain of method, said that people had failed to see the irony and the playfulness in his work. Still, it was a jolt, and a brutal reminder of how much we are taken in by the mainstream without even stopping to realise that sometimes the show, in Feyerabend's words, "has been rigged".

There are old ways and new methods. Each, as my friend the old English teacher would say, should be judged by results. For his part he has his lifetime's work to prove his worth, not bad for a man who was illiterate until he was about fifteen. He may be lagging behind as far as modern methodology is concerned, and this word came about when we were discussing English language teaching in Malaysia.

We are having problems now as we can all see and read. Our students are failing to articulate, our diplomats are at a loss for words and our teachers are using textbooks that are flawed. We are, forever, looking at what's new in the methodology, but what if the madness itself is in the method


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Pakcik read the article with interest because in a professional way he touched on a subject which would not be possible for me to express as well. Had he written it in his popular blog ‘Kecek-Kecek’ I would have left my comments there and then. That not being the case I had what he had written copied for keep in my laptop, never expecting to have a chance to comment until I read the following comment he left on my last posting ( Is it the end of the tunnel ).

“Perhaps you should extend your horizon and take people outside your catchment area too if they want to come.

Children are loaded with extra-mural activities nowadays, from navel-gazing to marching around with fake arms (wooden guns I mean).. There are more children at school so there should be more demand for coaching.

And do I hear that some schools are suspicious of outsiders who are interested in teaching for nothing?

Hold on tight, use the free time to watch the coconut trees grow or paint dry or to listen to the kampung folk doing the ratib awor. Or you yourself can do the marhaban, after all, you have many cucus who need their heads shorn (cukur ppala).”



Here I thought I had an opening to say what I had had in mind. Readers who missed Wan A Hulaimi’s article may read what he wrote before I have my say, which I will do so in three sections, this being the first. Insya Allah the 2nd part will follow soon.





Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.