24 July 2012

Will I have a chance ( Pt 3) – Hindsight

All alone at Nuri "What lies ahead?"

When we first wrote on 19th April this year about the boy we conveniently call Arif (click HERE) it was meant to be a single entry about a boy who created history for Almanar. In his family he is the fifth of five siblings in a row attending tuition classes at Almanar. We featured him again on 10th July (click HERE) when his family encouraged him to participate in the NST Spelling It Right (SIR). His school, unlike many other schools, did not see it of any advantage to send a team to take part in such a competition. That should be the end of our story about Arif. But an unexpected event prompted Pakcik to write this Part 3.

About ten days ago Arif’s school had what they called a ‘ko-ko day’ (one day for co-curricular activities?) I think it was hindsight or a sudden realisation that spelling competition was not an activity to be belittled. So, one such competition for pupils of Form 1, 2 and 3 was included in the programme for that day. Of course I was personally quite pleased to know that this school could finally see the benefits of encouraging this kind of activity among pupils whose English is well below par compared to those in the urban areas.

What pleased me most was the news that the winner of that competition was none other than our gutsy Arif. It does not matter if we prefer to call him ‘jagoh kampong’. This boy had exhibited enough courage to make him stand out head and shoulder above many of his age group. It is good enough reason for Pakcik to get this entry written.

In the afternoon of the first day of fasting Arif turned up with two sisters, bringing along some ‘kueh buka puasa’ (something to break the fast) for Pakcik and Makcik. His elder sister also wished to bid farewell to us before leaving soon to continue her Masters degree in IT. Here is another strong-willed member of his family, fully determined to continue her favourite discipline up to Ph D.

Arif and two of his four sisters

When Pakcik questioned Arif whether it true about his winning the spelling competition, he sheepishly admitted. For that performance he earned himself a towel!

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.


17 July 2012

All in the family ( Pt 5 ) – Looking for a challenge

Today our No 3 turns forty. I would not call him, at forty, a young man any more. But he is still my boy despite him having three children of his own.

L to R - No 1, No 2 & No 3

I have to look so far back in time to get the feel of turning forty when I, too, had three children then. Just as he is today I had then served fifteen years with a multinational company but was struggling in the rat race. The challenge was tremendous. Perhaps I was not so good myself. My No 3 has done that long too with a multinational, but this month, at forty, he has said good bye to his first job, his first love. Somehow when he broke the news of the change he is making, I understood it fully well. This ‘boy’ needs a challenge.

When he was barely thirteen I had him go through a three-hour psychometric test by an expert, an Englishman of considerable experience in this field. Having evaluated all the responses from my No 3, he began to explain in great detail what he could conclude. He knew I would not be happy as a parent with his conclusion. The gist of what he explained was that the boy was intelligent but would not do well academically at a university. It sounded like sugar-coating a bitter pill.

The world is his university,” was a sentence I will never forget. Thence I continued to observe if indeed this boy would learn through life and prosper.

Over the years I watched my No 3 ’s progress and I began to notice the truth in that psychometric test result. In his final he obtained just a Third Class degree. I knew that a couple of his best friends, non Malaysians, were in the First Class; and he was among the minority.

In a way I was to blame for his laissez faire attitude ( sikap tidak apa) towards studies. I wanted him to acquire whatever useful experience (as his father did) while studying abroad. I told him that such experience was worth more than just spending time to get a First Class. So that was what he took literally!

I can say today that, putting the psychometric test aside, his academic performance could have been the result of him being too distracted with activities outside the confines of his lecture halls. Amongst others, he was a DJ at the university radio station, a tutor for the Pimlico Connection (a volunteer program to help local primary schools), spent hours at a time in the dark rooms of the university photography club, worked as a chef at a Mongolian restaurant in a posh area in London, picked up scuba diving, skipped lectures for the snooker halls etc. During a university vacation in summer he took a cheap flight which, for a minimal extra fee, flew him and a Chinese friend all the way from UK to Australia. From there he returned home to shock us all with his tale of his horror, bungee jumping down under.

From about 80 m high

Surprisingly, before the lack-lustre result of his final exam was known, he delighted us with job offers from three multinational companies. That was achieved on the basis of interviews only, making the ultimate lack luster final university performance of little consequence.

My next surprise was when he made his choice from the three job offers. He picked one which was most remote from what he learnt through the years at the university. I was somewhat disappointed as I expected that he would have selected a job to match his qualification.  But he proved me wrong. He prospered. Indeed, ‘the world is his university’ came clearly and strongly to my mind.

And this month of July, turning forty, my No 3 is holding a position in an establishment which is again totally alien to his primary qualification and working experience gained so far. He now says that after fifteen years he has had enough of it and he is looking forward to a fresh challenge. As parents we pray that his new challenge will be as rewarding as the first one.

As much as we wish him many returns of the day we pray that he will continue to accept that all the good things in life , and the life itself, are from HIM.

As I write this posting I keep reminding myself that each child that comes to Almanar deserves to get appropriate guidance, not necessarily being judged by his/her academic potential alone. 

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

10 July 2012

Will I have a chance (Pt 2) ? – SIR, Spelling it Right

On 19.04.12 I posted (click here) about Arif. Being the fifth of his siblings to take tuition at Almanar he is special to me. Makcik and Pakcik have a special liking for this boy because he resembles Arif, one of our grandsons. For that reason we call this boy Arif (His real name Ermin).

All alone at Nuri "What lies ahead?"

Immediately after class at Almanar about ten days ago, he approached Pakcik to say that he would be joining the spelling competition (Spell It RightSIR) organised by the NST.

Having seen it advertised, his parents liked him to join the competition. It appeared that his secondary school with 2,000 pupils did not know or did not care to encourage, let alone to organise a group. His principle was surprised to hear from him about his intention. He would be the only one to volunteer, thus representing his school whilst many other schools in this state had organised teams to participate. (Is there any wonder why I have such a poor opinion of the management of his school?)

I knew Arif wished for words of encouragement from Pakcik and that he got without reservation from me. Subsequently, we sat down to discuss how he should approach the competition. But I knew it too well that he would not have an earthly chance, a mere Form 2 pupils among the giants of secondary pupils from other schools. Many contestants from SBPs (full boarding schools) were seen to arrive with supporters in bus-loads. 

I made it a point that I brought Makcik along to the competition and sat together with his mother and two elder sisters, ex-Almanar pupils. We were there bright and early, well ahead of others. 

Contestant No 162 between mother and Makcik
There were well over 100 competitors. And there among strangers sat our brave Arif.

Before the competition started the Master of Ceremony asked all participants to have the position of microphone adjusted to suit their height and the head phone properly fixed. They were also told to say ‘hello, hello’ to be sure that the system was working satisfactorily.

And finally it began. Arif must have been about number one hundred to be called to the stage. I was very pleased to see him walk up with confidence, with No 162 clearly displayed over his chest.

Having fixed the sound system he surprised the audience when he said, “Good afternoon, judges.” There were involuntary gasps from the audience. The judges responded with obvious surprise and appreciation on hearing that pleasant greeting instead of the expected “Hello,Hello” heard from a hundred other contestants.

Much to our expectation our Arif did not win anything; but he won the hearts of many. He will have his chance one day, hopefully, for a much bigger thing in life than winning a spelling competition. He is Almanar’s pride, Pakcik's pride, one with spirit and true guts.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

07 July 2012

In my mind’s eye (Pt 1)


Yang hijau rimbun tegak megah

Yang mencacak kering menanti patah

Ditepi pusara tangan ditadah

Memohon ihsan dari Allah

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

01 July 2012

With a sigh ( Pt 12 ) – English for Employment


This posting was prepared last week but a more personal matter took precedence. I regret for the delay.

                                       From NST 18-6-2012

 The front page of NST of 18th June carried an eye-catching headline, “Undergrads to boost their English skills”.

It seems that from September a new system will help to prepare local undergrads for the working world. According to the report, essentially, students will learn English according to three tiers –

English for Employment,

Intensive English and

General English

This was reported to be a ‘strategic plan to enhance proficiency in English among public university students’.

Then it went on to report that ‘university faculties can also opt to conduct theEnglish For Specific Disciplinesubject to enhance students’ comprehension of their field of study’.
It went on to talk about ‘classroom learning’ and ‘beyond classroom learning’.

And so on , and so forth ……..
Towards the end the report went on to say, ‘all these roadmaps are designed to boost students’ confidence in communicating in English.
“Subsequently, this will heighten their competency level and create holistic human capital.”
At the end I had to ask myself what I was reading about. Do we now realise the inadequacy of the standard of English in our education system? Must we devise ‘roadmaps’ like the famous ‘roadmaps’ towards peace in the Middle East?
This is indeed a very futuristic and fantastic plan which aims to prepare a graduate for the working world. I never knew there were so many parts and categories in learning English. I was never taught that English for Employment. During the thirty years of my working life I used the same English to say good morning to all levels of office colleagues, used the same language in conversation at the bus stops, and used the same in the board room – of course, minus the four-letter word and those associated with it. I was stumped only on one occasion when a fashionable English lady begged to excuse herself from our dinner table ‘to powder her nose’. That seemingly innocent phrase prompted me to give a furtive glance at her face wondering what had gone wrong with the powder on her nose! I should have attended a course in English for Social Occasions. That phrase is not unlike the Malay expression ‘ Saya rasa hendak kesungai ( I would like to go to the river).’
And here I am drawing a long sigh, unable to make head or tail of the newspaper report. Perhaps some enlightened visitors may be able to tell Pakcik in a simple English language what the ‘roadmaps’ are all about.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan