26 December 2009

DIA Sahaja Yang Kekal

Al fatihah

Novelist Ariffin Ngah Dies

KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 25 (ernama) -- A well-known novelist in Terengganu, Ariffin Ngah, 70,died at his house in Kampung Bukit Tunggal on Friday.

Ariffin, who was said to be suffering from various diseases since five years ago, died at about 1.15pm.

His wife, Zainab Muhamad, 67, said her husband had diabetes, kidney problem, and high blood pressure and was discharged from hospital last Sunday.

She said Ariffin, who used to work with Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka, had been writing Malay novels since he was a teacher and had won several awards, including the Terengganu literary award last year.

His works included "Anugerah Wahyu", "Tangisan Pusaka Bangsaku" and "Revolusi Kenyir".

Ariffin, who has 12 children and 50 grand children, was buried at the Kampung Bukit Tumbuh Muslim cemetery after the Asar prayer.


Last pose for Pakcik's camera
... eyeing with a smile ... not really seeing.

Pakcik have little to say but a lot to remember of the gentleman I dearly addressed as ‘Cikgu’. Indeed he was a very established writer with many awards, and a real ‘cikgu’ at heart, full of compassion for children and their education and well-being.

“ Hassan, tulislah riwayat hidup …..biar saya editkan….” I cannot help recalling his gentle voice urging me over and over. He was so sure he could make something worth reading of what I see as my simple life. A great writer made the offer and I kept on giving excuses. Pakcik only began to see his point of view too late, when his eyesight had started to fail him. I knew I had missed the chance of life time.

And now I remember Cikgu Ariffin with a lot of affection for what he stood for in life, but with regret because I had failed to live up to his expectation. Now I harbour the hope, oh, but just a dream, that one day I shall be able to dedicate a work for him. May Allah bless him.

Sinar Harian 6 months ago

.. Perjuangan yang belum selesai ..

- Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan -

13 December 2009

Whither Goest Thou?

By now all discussions and excitement over the results of UPSR examination should have petered out. For the children concerned and their families, it is still an unsettling time. It is so until the children are placed in their respective schools by mid-January. Strange enough, Pakcik have my concern that has nothing to do with my own family.


In April this year, Pakcik received an SOS from a primary school situated about 25 km away. The school serves a relatively poor community. There were just 40 pupils in standard 6. Could I help with a group of 20? UPSR results over the past years had been dismal, often a year without a single pupil with 5A’s; the best year on record was when 2 pupils scored that elusive result. How ironical it was when the country as a whole and the state of Terengganu in particular had been jubilant over great successes through the years.

Somewhat with a heavy heart but duty bound, Pakcik obliged the school. So the next five months saw Pakcik driving that 25km distance once a week. That was all I could afford. However, the sight of cheerful faces of about 20 small boys and girls, the age of my two younger grandsons in Kuala Lumpur, welcoming Pakcik, was reward enough. All the same as I watched the innocent faces I could not help asking myself, “Why should I do this for these children and not for my own flesh and blood?”

Finally, on the day the UPSR results were announced, an excited call came through just to tell Pakcik that THREE children from that school scored 5A’s. Of 40 candidates, this small number gives a success figure of 7.5%, a far cry from the state’s acclaimed performance of 15.3%. There was a celebration, nevertheless, as that was a new record for the school.

Yet away in Kuala Lumpur, the school headmistress of one of Pakcik’s grandchildren could not conceal her disappointment that only EIGHTY candidates of her school scored 5A’s, a drop from the previous NINETY; how ironical that was when in my corner of the country, a school celebrated over an increase of ONE pupil from TWO to THREE, a whopping 50% increase!


Who are the three pupils who jointly broke the school record?

1. A girl whose very poor father passed away barely two months before her UPSR exam. Without hard counseling and coaxing by her teachers the distraught girl would have abandoned school for good there and then.

2. A girl whose parents operate a small village food-stall.

3. A boy whose father braves the South China Sea in a small boat at the mercy of the weather – for a few ringgits a day or nothing.


One would expect the poor families to rejoice over the success. It came as a shock to learn that they would not allow the children to get into any boarding schools. They could ill afford the few hundred ringgits to prepare their children to join one. After all the village secondary school had been there for ages, within easy reach and for free. So what was the fuss all about? Their children and other children had been conditioned to accept this reality.

I was saddened by what I heard. Would the families concerned allow their children to go into boarding if there was a sponsor who would take care of all expenses, was my next question. The answer to Pakcik’s question came a few days later. Yes, in that case the families would allow the children to leave home. Accordingly, their teachers have helped to submit the necessary applications for the three children. .


It is Pakcik’s hope that the three children will get admission into a boarding school, giving hope for a better future for themselves and their families. It is strange that Pakcik have no such concern for my own flesh and blood. It is of no consequence that they do not wish be separated from their parents, but these three from this community do. Perhaps, this may be a prelude to Almanar starting the sponsorship/anak-angkat scheme, an idea that Pakcik have been towing with for some time.


Will 2010 promise another record-braking year for this school and its poor children? Pakcik have been requested to continue helping next year’s standard six but teachers see gloom ahead. I was horrified to be told that of the new group of about 40 pupils moving from standard 5 to standard 6, TEN pupils, or 25% of them, do not know how to read and write! “ Pakcik’d better believe this”, I was warned. I can only give a sigh – negeriku, tanah tumpah darahku, kebanggaanku.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

P.S.:For their past good performance the four boys of Pakcik’s clan earned a short trip ‘overseas’ early this month to see ‘Cat’.

21 November 2009

What A Smile!

( Note to Redline : This is the answer to your question – what were the two pictures of the previous entry for.)

Four months ago Makcik and Pakcik were given a clean bill of health. I went home with a broad smile.

When one gives a broad smile to Pak Cik I take it that he or she is pleased over something. What if Pak cik am given a half smile or a little smile? I take it a lesser degree of pleasure, not a cynical one. There is also a dry smile. I wonder what a wet smile is.

But there is a kind of smile which Pakcik experienced with discomfort and embarrassment. I went through that about six weeks ago. It all began early one morning when I looked at my handsome face in the mirror. I usually give myself a smile but that morning I failed to form a smile on my face. The right half of my face showed the smiling expression but the left half of my face refused to move, however much I tried. I tried a wink. It was OK with my right eye but the left refused to obey. I opened my mouth and to my horror it was a distorted O. “Have I got a stroke?” ran through my mind.

Over the phone a doctor I know assured me that I had what is known as Bell’s Palsy, a temporary loss of control over one side of the face. It was named after one named Bell.

Awang Goneng’s younger brother, a medical specialist who happened to drop in with his wife three weeks after the event, asked Pakcik whether I experienced bell ringing in my ear. According to him some people had that, or something bothering in one eye. No I did not hear any bell, but it was Bell’s, nevertheless, according to him. Those in London, I can imagine, must have started to hear bells ringing everywhere as 25th December approaches. To them, PakCik, an experienced Bell’s ringer, can assure that it is all OK!


Now that it is over, Pakcik can afford to take it light-heartedly, not during the first couple of days. The array of advice, suggestions, offers of help, prescriptions, comments and so on was impressive. At Almanar, the faces of the pupils displayed expression of horror and concern. I am very grateful indeed for the sympathy shown to Pakcik. No one smiled except for a nasi dagang seller (who is ever so grateful that her daughter was an Almanar pupil and is now a nurse, earning good money and driving her own little car). On seeing Pakcik’s failed smile, she gave a broad smile, exclaiming, “Pakcik dah dapat macam saya dulu. Lapan minggu, baik!” Her smile was a way of assuring me that all would be well because she had gone through it. Sadly I cold not return her smile except for a funny half, crooked smile!

For my own record Pakcik must list down some of those remarks made by the concerned individuals. Here it goes:

Use of morphine ( sounds deadly )

Steroid pills ( sounds less deadly)

Warm baths

Acupuncture ( Awang Goneng had this in his well researched thesis on Bell ’s palsy)

Johnson’s Baby Oil for rubbing with lots of salawat

Olive oil (minyak zaitun) to massage he face with

Jampi-jampi to scuttle away the ‘uninvited’ visitor

Plenty of rest ( teaching Almanar pupils, no exception)

Gentle massage on the affected area ( the doctor who advised this gave a good laugh when Pakcik enquired whether it would be best done by a lady – I meant Makcik of course!)

A complete body massage

And other remarks and comforting words.

When Pacik entered a sundry shop for Johnson’s Baby Oil, I was conscious that the lady owner was curious why this not-so-young man wanted baby oil. So, I had my Johnson’s, my minyak zaitun and went through most of the items listed – including some other pills (in addition to steroid). Alhamdulillah, it was all back to normal three weeks later.


Bell’s Palsy over, Pakcik decided to tackle the next bothering condition, the cataract on my right eye. The problem on the left eye was successfully done two years ago. So on 11/11 (hence the Poppy Day entry), Pakcik went through a half-an-hour operation, by laser. I had the earlier experience, totally painless but scary. Imagine someone working on your eye when that very eye was wide open, seeing the spotlight overhead and vague shadows of moving objects working on your very eye-ball!

That too went well.

So I am as good as new with full control over the degree of a smile I wish to flash around, winking like mad, but, sorry, not driving with eyes closed.


So, now if any of you hear loud sound of bell ringing in any one ear and you are not anywhere near a school or around the period about 25th December, try a half smile in front of a mirror, or stand outside a shopping mall winking left and right at passersby. See the outcome!

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

09 November 2009

11 / 11 The Poppy Day

The occasion is not a good enough reason to close our Almanar. But, regretfully, Pak Cik will not conduct any classes from 11/11 to 14/11. For what is worth, let us say Pak Cik will be busy for my SPM exam!

To those associated with Almanar, who will be sitting for the dreaded SPM exam, Pak Cik can only hope and pray that you will do as well as you can. Please remember, how important we see the SPM exam, we, human, cannot dictate its outcome.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

26 October 2009

Pak Cik Reminisces (Part 9) – Pencapaian

Sifting through a not-so-old file of documents, Pak Cik spotted the copy of a letter dated 12th March 1994, fifteen years ago. The letter, a four-page of type-written, was addressed to my number three who was then 22 and a long away from home. He was struggling to prove himself academically. Pak Cik had just been released from serving a ‘sentence’ of 30-year of challenging working life ( not quite 'hard labour' catagory!). He was under ‘trial’, so to speak, waiting to see what kind of sentence would be passed on him. The long letter was a typical father-and-son communication, heavy on philosophy of life. The year 1994 was just before Pak Cik began my voluntary labour at Almanar.

Pak Cik chose to end the letter with the following poem which very much reflected what was going through my mind.


Ku sampai kemuncak gunung
Menyedut udara nyaman
Dada yang lega fikiran tenang
Tercapai hajat dan idaman

Keringatku mengering
Yang panas mula mendingin
Sang matahari yang terang
Masih tinggi dipandangan

Nun jauh di bawah awan
Yang ku tinggal di belakang
Tak ada yang kurang
Tak ada yang hilang
Di mana ada PENCAPAIAN?

Andainya langit tercapai tangan
Melangkahi bintang-bintang
Memerah awan
Mengeluarkan hujan

Ku tunggu bisikan angin
Ku tunggu liputan awan
Ku tunggu sinaran bulan dan bintang
Ku tunggu ilham

Yang hampa membawa harapan
Yang kosong minta penuhan
Yang kurang menunggu tambahan
Yang rendah mengingin tinggian

Dari YANG tak kekurangan
YANG memberi sinaran
YANG menghidupkan

Indeed I thought I had achieved something in life, yet so many around were seeking for help just to survive.

Today I look at this poem, holding back my tears for whatever reason it may be, and keep wondering ……

Apakah erti PENCAPAIAN hidup pada hakikatnya?

when " ................glory but leads to the grave" ( Wonder which English poet said this.)

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

04 October 2009

End of The Tunnel ( Part 5 ) – The Last Fisherman

“So this girl, Yani, attended English class at Almanar, did she?,” the lady was looking at Pak Cik askance. “That figures out,” she continued before I had time to reply. Her puzzled expression began to change as the answer began to dawn on her. She had just been transferred to this school as its Head.

That scene was in a room of a secondary school 11 years ago. Pak Cik had come to introduce myself to the new Principal in the first instance, and to find out the 1998 PMR results which had just been released. A small group of 12 Almanar pupils were involved.

“I’ve been puzzled by some odd results of this school. This girl, Yani, for example, scored grade A in two subjects only, English and Bahasa Malayu, Nor is another one like her. ” Now she knew the answer to her puzzle was the class at Almanar. In this locality, a pupil is more likely to get A grades first of all in any other subjects like Pelajaran Agama Islam, Sejarah, Kemahiran Hidup, etc. before an A grade in English. Furthermore, Yani did not show any flare in that subject in her UPSR exam three years earlier. She did not have a family likely to help her.

After completing her SPM, Yani gained entry into UITM to do a course in tourism following which she acquired some experience working for a couple of holiday resorts. Then came her break when she was given a job as a lecturer in tourism at a private college. After proving her worth, she is now the head of a department. Today, still determined to improve herself, Yani is pursuing a degree course in Food Service Management. Compared to the achievement of many high performers we often read about, there is nothing glamorous in what this girl has managed to do unless one understands her background.

Pak Cik can claim to know Yani and her family well enough. She and three others sisters attended classes at Almanar. Two elder sisters are working and her younger one is doing a nursing course. I call their father ‘Pak Mat’ although many villagers know him as ‘Pak Yas’ (for Alias).

The proud fisherman and his daughter

Pak Mat, now 59, came from a typical fisherman family. As a boy of 16 he started to follow his elders, going as far as Tanjung Dawai in Kedah to fish ‘ikan bilis’. Being a junior he was paid only half what others earned although he claimed to have laboured no less. It was years later when he was paid the normal share of an adult member. That was FORTY-THREE years ago. Today he still goes fishing. Pak Cik worked for THIRTY years, mostly in the comfort of air-conditioned offices – and I have had enough of it!

“I will never depend on my children for money as long as I have the strength to go to sea,” he responded quite firmly when Pak Cik suggested that, perhaps, his children would now support him and wife. I know his children do not fail to give him money, but Pat Mat is too good a father to sit back relying on his children and, above all, he is a proud fisherman, proud of his profession.

A year ago Yani dropped by our house. In her hand was an invitation card to her own wedding. It was not a surprise to Pak Cik and Mak Cik. She was ready for it. And it was no surprise too when Yani turned up at our house again a day before the recent Hari Raya, this time with a smart HUSBAND and a healthy BABY BOY hardly two-months old.

The bride and Makcik

Will Yani’s boy be following his grandfather’s footstep? No, not likely, and I doubt his proud grandfather will ever regret it either – that none in his family will ever go to sea again.

The proud mother

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

27 September 2009

A Special Note For Ex-Almanar

For the first time Pak Cik had a record book ready during the recent hari raya season for Almanar- associated pupils to jot down their phone numbers and e-mail addresses - a few having own blogs. Surprisingly enough there were about 60 of them arriving in groups at different times during the course of these few days. Some were on leave from their far-away places of work, such as the rural areas outside Tawau and Sandakan. But most of the sixty odds are still studying at various IPTA's and IPTS's. Only a handful of them were current pupils at Almanar - perhaps still too shy to muster their courage to show their faces; no doubt in good time they will.

One of your old friends proudly brought along her HUSBAND and a baby SON who was barely two-month old. Just like his parents and grandparents, the baby would have addressed me as "Pak Cik" too, if only he could talk! Of those who came around, Mak Cik and Pak Cik could hardly recognise a few girls ( young ladies, to be precise ) looking matured and beautiful, a far fetch from the shy little ones we used to see those years at Almanar - dengan hidung masih berhingus. Whreas the gallant boys, heavily outnumbered, were nearly swarmed to a swoon at the unexpected sight!

Some of you could not make it to Nuri this time around, simply 'kirim salam' through friends who turned up. Thank you for the thought. If any of you wishes to have contact numbers of your lost friends, check up with Pak Cik. I will give them to you - this time for a fee of course!

Apart from expressing our appreciations to those who remembered us through visits, salaams, SMS's, e-mail messages etc we must not forget to thank those who came along with ketupat, nasi dagang, nasi minyak, keropok, laksa, tapai, akak, cookies and so on and so forth - enough for the two of us to last till next Hari Raya had not our children, granfdchildren and our other guests helped themselves.

Thank you, children.

To those who will return to their work places, particularly schools and hospitals, please remember, it is now your contractual obligation to live uo to our motto:

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

18 September 2009

A Special Thank - for an unexpected gesture

Some 25 years ago a pretty girl with fair skin and curly hair was a friend of Pakcik’s daughter at an SMS (boarding school). Since then I have not seen her, now happily married with children. Pakcik was totally taken by surprise this morning when advised that a sizeable sum of money had been credited by her for Almanar.

“What triggered her to perform this charitable act before a Hari Raya?” I keep asking myself. But no, really I do not wish to know the answer. I pray that He will not just grant her what she dreams of but, instead, will bless her with whatever He alone knows is best for her and her family.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

10 September 2009

Tokens Of Appreciation ( Pt 2 )

Before this holy month of Ramadhan leaves us, Pak Cik should say a few words of thanks to many who have paid compliments in various forms, encouraging words, gestures and personal gifts, to Pak Cik and Mak Cik. For Almanar we have received, voluntarily and unsought for, cash, books and other materials. A local company has for the first time offered each ‘anak yatim’ associated with Almanar a sum of RM100/= as a Hari Raya gift.

As Pak Cik once wrote
Tokens Of Appreciation in January 08 of the simple gestures shown by parents. Likewise the two of us, Pak Cik and Mak Cik continue to receive these small gifts,

a small paper bag of duku (in season, costing about two ringgits)

some rambutan ( dari pokok sendiri),

a bunch of bananas,

cempedak (from kebun Tok Ki!),

a packet of keropok, and packets of kurma.

The real value is in the desire to express a deep-seated feeling, no matter what the monitory value of the gift is. They are invaluable tokens of appreciation, humbly and sincerely presented, for which words are never adequate for us to express our thanks.

A real surprise was when a girl handed Pak Cik a neat bag made of cloth, containing two boxes of good quality dates.

“ Pak Cik, ini buah tangan daripada Pengetua sekolah saya.” This came from a new principal of a fairly new secondary school which in the last three PMR examinations did not have a single pupil achieving 8As, mainly for weakness in English and Mathematics. Two months ago Pak Cik offered help for the first group of fifteen Form One pupils to be tutored at Almanar. Apparently the principal is very pleased with the initial feedback. Pak Cik do not promise grade A but I promise to give the children as good a foundation as possible in these subjects.

To all the well wishers please accept Pak Cik’s many thanks. To the Muslim readers Selamat Berpuasa dan Selamat Berhari Raya.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

04 September 2009

Another Son Commented – Tanah Tumpah Darah Ku

Pakcik’s No 3 , my second son, has sent me a comment related to Merdeka. He is a senior manager for a multinational consulting firm. What he discovered during a recruitment dialogue with a group of young Malay graduates was somewhat beyond his expectation. Pakcik would like to have it posted here, with the hope that readers can share what he had to say. I would certainly like to think that his is not an isolated case – the awakening of our young ones. Here is what he wrote:


Contributing to the nation – there is hope yet.

As an aside to Abang Nuar’s comment on Merdeka and nation building, I’d like to share what happened in the office last month.
I was asked to help recruitment with figuring out how to better attract good capable Malays into the firm, something which the firm has always struggled to do. As a way to gauge what makes the freshies ‘tick’, we organized a forum with a group of our newly hired to understand what were their career aspirations and why they had joined us.

I opened the floor to the young and energetic group for them to share their thoughts. Sure enough, it started with the ‘usual’ ideas of what makes a great career. They wanted an exciting job, something that challenges them, somewhere that allows them to learn, to build skills, to be paid (..and paid well!), to travel, to open up their minds. This is not going to help me very much I thought initially. Haven’t I read about all these things in our recruitment brochures somewhere before? However, as the discussion went on, another theme seem to emerge. It was about how they would like to give back, about contributing to society, about building the nation.

Was this just a ‘politically correct’ answer to my tired prodding of “is there anything else?”, or did they genuinely feel this way? Can I trust these young twenty somethings? What do they know about contributing back? Wouldn’t they at this age be more concerned about getting that first car, or that flashy new phone, or travelling or generally having a good time?

The answer was a heartwarming no. Pragmatically, of course they wanted these things, but somehow beyond achieving all that, real fulfillment comes when you have left behind a legacy, have touched the lives of others and have, ultimately, help build a nation. One even quoted Raja Nazrin’s speech “You don’t have to be in public service to do service to the public”.

I think we can sometimes get despondent when all we read about these days are how the young are selfish, how for Generation Y it’s all about me me me, how no one appreciates the struggles of the past and how society has become less and less caring.

Well, after listening to this group of ‘kids’, I feel a renewed sense of optimism. It’s not all bad, there is hope yet.


Amran “

Pakcik’s response to him would be:
During babah’s time in office there were occasions when I faced young graduates. Certainly babah did not detect your finding. Perhaps I was using different and ancient recruitment tools. If this is the prevailing attitude among the young graduates - and I would like to wish that to be a trend - there is hope indeed as you said. But of course we do not lose hope.

“ ……..and never lose hope of God’s soothing mercy ……” Yusuf : 87

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

01 September 2009

A Son Commented – Tanah Tumpah Darah Ku

This time Pak Cik’s No 2, Anwar, sent me a comment which I prefer to enter as a posting. Here is what he wrote:

I would neither be too embarrassed nor too proud to proclaim that being a post-merdeka child, I lived my formative years in a peaceful , staggering economic growth and politically rock solid Malaysia under Tun Mahathir’s stewardship. Digesting babah’s absorbing account of Merdeka, I cannot help but feel humbled by the contrasting thoughts that ran through our minds when I was around babah’s age. Yours was of hope for the community, Tanah tumpah darah babah, whereas mine was of self interest and an individual pursuit of happiness. Half a century of merdeka , of stability and familiarity, certainly bred contempt to many post-merdeka children who were emotionally detached from the struggles of Malaysia’s independence forefathers, myself not excluded.

Over the years, eyes wide open to the journey of this young entity called ‘Malaysia’, I began to realize that this God-sent peace, harmony and prosperity are not our rights, but ours to strive for. Nothing is guaranteed for my children, my grandchildren, and the many generations beyond that. The onus is on me, in my own, small, individual way, to contribute to nation-building.

Today, on the morning of Malaysia’s 52nd year of merdeka, I watched the black & white recording of Almarhum’s Tunku Abdul Rahman’s proclamation of Merdeka. His seven shouts of “merdeka” followed by the band’s heart rendering ‘Negara Ku’ finale brought tears of happiness, joy and hope to many Malayans on that day….. and across time, on 31st August 2009, to one much “enlightened” mid-aged person in PJ.

Yes, we live and hope for another day. And to borrow babah’s sacred words, ‘berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.’ ”

My response to him would be:


That you have moved ‘ ….to one much ‘enlightened’ mid-aged person ..’, as you said, is an indication that you are capable of evaluating. Insya-Allah nothing will be very wrong with any of us as long as we do not fail to use the special faculties we have been endowed with, and we do not become what He says:

“ …………..men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle – nay they are even less conscious on the right way ……..” Al-A’raf : 179
With love,
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

30 August 2009

Pak Cik Reminisces (Part 8) – Tanah Tumpah Darah Ku

On the page for 31st August of my 1957 diary, my entry carries the following baffling line:

“Am I happy to see Malaya’s Independence?” – yes, MALAYA it was.

That was written 13,000 km away from where possibly the greatest national event of this country was being celebrated; Pak Cik at a young age, lonely and feeling being left out.

As I read and reread that line and try to fathom the depth of my feeling 52 years ago, I am convinced of one thing. I was being possessive. I did not want to lose MALAYA, tanah tumpah darahku. It did not matter who would govern it but I wanted that country intact as I had grown to love, enhanced by the distance that separated it from me at that very instance. I did not know whether Merdeka and Malaysia would carry anything meaningful to my future.

Today, my fortnightly lunch group consists of just four regulars, two Malays, a Chinese and an Indian. Not many years ago there were four Malays, two Indians and three Chinese in that very special and closely knit group. The number has whittled away. In time, like the ‘sepuluh budak hitam, there will be none. All of us would have been Malayans as much as Malaysians today. Nothing would change, needing no spirited slogan to keep us together with love and respect, drawing our spouses along.

And Pakcik would want my Almanar pupils to learn from that, patriotism in its essence.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

24 August 2009

A son commented – A clean bill of health - almost

The following comment from Pakcik’s son was the first received but withheld on purpose:

Babah and Mami,

Wow, look at that young couple, with all their hopes and dreams still ahead of them! I hope and am sure, looking back, many of the dreams have come true.

Happy anniversary Babah & mami. We are truly blessed that you are both still healthy. Last weekend was a little sad for my office because an ex-colleague who had just left the company passed away due to a heart attack. He was only 45. Many of us went to his house, and it was heart breaking to see his teenage children, robbed of a father whilst still so prime in their lives. Some had just met him a few days earlier, making golf plans and dinner plans etc. How something like this remind us of our mortality, and sometimes how insignificant all our planning are! I think almost everyone there (including me) vowed to go for a full medical check up soon.

Nadia hit 39.5 degrees a few hours ago. We rushed her to the doctor and after some drugs, her temperature has come down a little. We will be monitoring all night to be sure. The doctor said at ANY sign of breathing difficulty, head straight to Univ Hospital.

Please, Kak Enon and Abang Nuar, monitor the kids closely.




And here is Pakcik’s response:


You are right to say, “ – am sure, looking back, many of the dreams have come true.” That young couple have had their dreams answered. You are one them. The elderly couple can now sit back and watch how you worry and handle your problems. They have gone through it.

At about midnight of 17th July, 37 years ago that young man in the picture rushed his young lady from their Damansara Heights home to Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya, worried and hoping against hope that nothing untoward would happen on the way. He knew the young lady lying on the back seat could not deliver by natural birth. Adding to the desperation, Dr McCoy, the gynecologist, had to tell the couple, after exaimining her at Assunta, that he was sorry the operation could only be performed by him at Tock Seng Chinese Maternity Hospital on Jalan Pudu. Again the couple were on the nearly-deserted roads of KL, driving like mad. Adding to the agony, having located the hospital the young man took some desperate moments to find its entrance.

Then, at last, at 2.15 am you came out into this world. Now it is your turn to worry over one of your three "Charlie’s angels” hitting 39.5 degrees. The old couple share your worry no less, but in a seasoned way. They have given the three of you what they have had in their lives, and rest assured they are ready to serve in whatever way they can, as long as they are around.

From Babah and Mami - with love to all of you.

21 August 2009

A Clean Bill of Health - Almost

The two of us went over to see our regular doctor for our not-so-very-regular annual check-up. Of late a number of ex-Almanar pupils had been showing concern when, on seeing Pakcik, they asked, “Pakcik betul sihat?” So, it was not without some trepidation when the two of us sat in front of the doctor to get the verdict. For us, just about welcoming our 45th anniversary, we have little to worry, said the doctor. Alhamdulillah.

Pakcik have been avoiding telling my Almanar pupils my age. They are all a Nosey Parker when it comes to my age. I can bet my bottom ringgit they never pose the same question to their class teachers. So (watch this word ‘so’ which Dewan Bahasa will soon include in Kamus Dewan to replace ‘jadi’ and ‘oleh itu’ because everyone uses it on TV!) my answers over the years have been consistently ‘25’. But these children of Almanar will invariably respond with a chorus of laughter – without any show of respect! That is a typical example of familiarity breeds contempt. Not many teachers can claim being with any one individual pupil for three continuous years teaching him/her English, Maths and Science, breeding that kind of bond and ‘familiarity’.

Now that I am disclosing our wedding anniversary of 45 I will be able to prove my point to Pakcik’s ‘anak buah at Almanar’. This is how I will explain to them. 45 years has passed since Pakcik married Makcik. If I married Makcik at my age of 20, my true age now must simply be 45-20=25. If they still laugh at that, it would take them quite a while to figure out. After all they have never questioned my Mathematics! To those who find it hard to believe my age, they would have to take a close look at the anniversary photographs.

O, what a couple that is, never growing old – at heart if nothing else!

But don’t look now, says Daphne du Maurier (a book recommended for reading at Almanar)..

Now that 45th anniversary has come and gone what warranty period has the bill of health to offer Pakcik and Makcik?

“ …………….. and no one knows what he can expect tomorrow and no one knows where on earth he will breathe his last …………..” Luqman, 34

A sobering thought indeed that ayat gurantees us, an unquestionable certainty. For the infinite number of gifts we have been receiving and enjoying from Him over these many, many years we will carry on with Almanar all the way.

“ ……………and should you try to count God’s blessings, you could never compute them …………” Ibrahim, 34

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.


Did we celebrate the day? But of course we did. We had a romantic twosome dinner while a younger artist doing her songs softly. As if that was not enough, on the day itself we went for a lunch at a familiar restaurant. I had my choice and Makcik had her nasi berryani. Plus fresh fruit juice and all Pakcik had to fork out a whacking sum of RM11.50 (repeat, eleven ringgits and fifity cents), the tip one pays in a KL restaurant! How we laughed all the way home like a young couple. But of course we are, Pakcik being just 25! Our phones, facebook and e-mail were busy with messages from our loved ones in Kuala Lumpur.

16 August 2009

Apa Nak Jadi - further comment from Mekyam

Mekyam telah menambah ulasan tentang kedudukan masalah ketidak-seimbangan pelajar lelaki dan perempuan. Kali ini penulisannya dalam bahasa Melayu. Pakcik menyanbut baik ulasan yang boleh meluaskan pandangan tentang tajuk tajuk yang penting kepada kita. Beginilah Mekyam menambah:

"salam pakcik

amboi, komen saya yg tak seberapa telah diberikan sorotan! rasanya tak layak, tapi terima kasih banyak, pakcik. =)

tujuan saya menyampuk semata2 nak beritahu bahawa bilangan perempuan mengatasi bilangan lelaki di tahap pengajian tinggi ini bukan hanya unik kpd malaysia sahaja. tapi nampaknya ia telah menjadi trend seluruh dunia. merata2 situasi ini sedang dibincangkan.

tapi pada saya, ini hanya merupakan data umum. fakta yang boleh diterima bulat2 di sini hanyalah nisbah yg menunjukkan trend dan perbezaan dari segi bilangan sahaja. kesimpulan lain yang lebih khusus seperti adakah ia menunjukkan, misalnya, perbezaan antara keupayaan otak semula jadi antara lelaki dan perempuan, atau perbezaan sikap terhadap pelajaran antara lelaki dan perempuan, atau perubahan sikap ibu bapa terhadap menyokong pendidikan anak mereka telah bertukar menjadi lebih progresif, dsb, memerlukan banyak pembolehubah (variables) yang lain.

satu drp faktor pembolehubah yg diketengahkan sebagai harus diambil kira ialah jenis bidang dan ijazah yg diperoleh oleh pelajar lelaki dan perempuan.

setakat ini bidang sains ilmiah dan fizikal, iaitu hard sciences, masih dimajoritikan oleh pelajar lelaki. sebaliknya, bidang yg dipenuhi oleh pelajar perempuan (hingga terjejas graf lepasan pengajian tinggi lelaki/perempuan... hehehe!) adalah sains2 social yang dianggap sebagai soft sciences.

di kalangan akademia, hard sciences biasanya dianggap sebagai lebih saintifik, lebih berdisiplin, yakni lebih mementingkan ketepatan. hard sciences juga memerlukan kemahiran matematik dan ketangkasan daya analisis.

walaupun banyak bidang dalam social sciences juga tidak kurang mementingkan kerapian akal, tetapi sekarang ramai berpendapat bahawa telah terlalu banyak bercambah bidang2 di dalamnya yg dianggap tidak langsung memerlukan ketangkasan daya fikir yang lebih rapi dan tajam. [saya yg bekelulusan sains sosial ini tentu sekali menyangkal habis2an dakwaan ini! ;D]

selain itu, ada juga yg mengutarakan perbezaan yg mungkin terdapat dalam cara pendekatan terhadap pembelajaran antara lelaki dan perempuan, terutama di peringkat umur sebelum belasan tahun, sebagai satu lagi pembolehubah yang harus dikaji.

perbezaan ini mungkin dari segi cara kanak2 dibesarkan dan disosialisasikan dan tidak dari segi biologi. namun keketaraan yang ada telah menyebabkan ada golongan yang mencadangkan persekolahan kanak2 di peringkat rendah diasingkan dahulu (seperti zaman dahulu) dan pendidikan secara co-ed (lelaki-perempuan bercampur) dimulakan hanya di peringkat menengah untuk menangani fenomena baru ini.

terpulanglah kepada individu untuk membuat kesimpulan sendiri daripada perkara2 yg telah diutarakan di atas. saya sekadar menyampaikan sahaja.

salam menyambut ramadan mulia kpd pakcik dan keluarga, termasuk keluarga al-manar"

Ribuan terima-kasih, Mekyam. Selamat menyambut puasa

11 August 2009

Apa Nak Jadi – mekyam’s comment

Pakcik’s ‘apa nak jadi’ has drawn a visitor,Mekyam, to write a comment which is interesting. It is explicit and informative. I feel it more appropriate to bring it to the fore for all to share. Here is what she had to say:

salam pak cik & fellow visitors of al-manar,

this is a worldwide phenomenon. it is not only happening in the teaching profession but in education in general.

data and reports from many countries all over the world show that girls are outperforming boys all the way from primary education to university. statistics are also showing that there are more females than males doing tertiary education.

in the US, for all levels of higher education, women have earned more college degrees than men in every year since the class of 1982, and the degree gap has widened in every year since then, and is expected to widen in the future through the 2016-2017.

there have been many theories put forth to explain this new reality. here are two interesting articles discussing this issue that provide facts and figures and some possible explanations:



note: if the links don't work because the URLs are too long, please cut & paste into a new window.

wrt the situation in malaysia where men do not seem to be attracted to join the teaching profession, i think perhaps the lack of incentive is not just monetary. i think it's a question of a shift in mindset.

the profession is no longer regarded as cool enough for the male of the species. i won't be surprised if many boys today would consider the teaching field as a field of last resort. every boy wants to join technology. esp IT, the industry considered the most happening, to use a modern jargon.

unlike yesteryears where teachers are held in high esteem and many good students felt a calling to join this noble profession, today the priorities of good students, both male and female, are elsewhere. many today view the teaching field as not offering any sort of exciting upward mobility. one doesn't get to be a corporate or technology hotshot in the teaching profession, not even as a lecturer in a university.

i suppose it's the attitude of the time. very unfortunate, but the only way to counter this is to make teaching the young something noble and sought-after again.

malaysian girls, i think, still do not have this mindset. but from the way they are educating themselves to populate all kinds of fields and industries, it won't be long now.

Mekyam, I thank you.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

10 August 2009

Apa Nak Jadi?

Tan Sri SM Salim asks that. Yes, indeed, what will happen?

The front page of the New Sunday Times dated August 2nd 2009 has the following to say:

"Men in the classroom face extinction in 20 years – going the way of the dinosaur ….

…….. Despite great efforts, it is a losing battle. From a ratio of 70:30 for females to males would-be-teachers, it has dropped to 72:28."

That was what the vice-chancellor of UPSI said…..

What a bleak picture has been painted for male chauvinism! Can Pak Cik help to defend it? Well, I have some data of sort. Let us have a look at it.

For a start, being where I am now in age, I would be exceptionally lucky to see the extinction of male teachers 20 years from now unless Pak Cik can improve on that figure to make it sooner.

In the case of UPSI, comparison is made between the total of new intakes in one year with that of the following year. Pak Cik will, on the other hand, will take one group of pupils joining Almanar early in 2008 and see how this group grows smaller in size a year later, a measure of their perseverance.

Early last year 45 pupils enrolled into form 1 at Almanar. There were 15 boys among them, giving a delightful ratio of 3:1 for females to males, slightly better than 70:30 of UPSI. Today, 20 months later, the number has shrunk to just 20, leaving only 3 boys in that group. The ratio now becomes 17:3 which is approximated to 82:18. More girls outlast boys.

The reduction in number is due to a number of reasons. Some choose to leave Almanar, having found out that it is not all fun here. Some find it too taxing to meet the expectation of Almanar. There are some who are dismissed for regarding the free-of-charge Almanar class as a place for a social get together. Pak Cik have done everything humanly possible to motivate and retain boys (and girls, too, no doubt). But I cannot tolerate ‘cancerous’ cells that can damage the rest.

Hence, the male percentage of intakes at UPSI reduces from 30 to 28.

At Almanar the perseverance figure of male pupils reduces from 30 to 18.

Pak Cik am sorry to see this. But that is a reality, more girls moving ahead. To comfort myself Pakcik must ask myself the question, ‘so what is wrong having all females in education?’ After all, if females are the ones who conceive, deliver, and rock the cradles, they are ‘natural’ at educating children. QED.

During a light moment in class recently Pak Chik quipped to the boys that they had better be prepared to take up diplomas in cookery or fashion design. We have chef Wan and Choo the shoe-maker. Leave all the mind-boggling jobs to the girls. And the girls, Pak Chik assured them that their future was assured. There would be enough husbands to look after babies, do the house-chores and all! There would be ample male ‘maids’ as well, cheap and robust. My Mak Cik at home laughed when I related the scene in class. At Almanar we have a fantastic ratio of 0:100, nil female teachers! How about that for male chauvinism?

Apa nak jadi?

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

26 July 2009

The End of the Tunnel – In Sight (Part 4)

“How can I accept this boy with 1A, 2C and 2D at UPSR?” I questioned and moaned.

English ----------D
Mathematics --- D
Science --------- C
Malay ( comp)-- C
Malay (writing)- A

On the basis of these results, after six years at school, what chances has he in the academic world? He is already on the alien rocky moon surface, not just a non-level playing field. For that matter can he qualify to compete in a feather-weight championship, if boxing is the game? These were the questions running through my mind ten years ago. Sadly, the same questions still run through my mind today despite several claims made that ours is a state having spectacular UPSR results for years and years. UPSR results such as shown above, and even worse, are still prevalent today.

The boy in question is generally known as Lan. Being somewhat lanky, taller than many of his peers, he is sometimes called ‘Pak Lan’. Now, two months after the UPSR exam results were known, a relative of his approached Pak Cik for his admission into form 1 class at Almanar. Almanar is never fussy over UPSR results. One with 3B and 2C is good enough to be admitted, but Lan’s performance cast great doubt over his ability to keep up with the rest. I expressed my reservation so. Just as I was marshalling more arguments to justify my turning down his request, he dropped the bomb-shell.

“Dia anak yatim (He is an orphan),” was a simple statement, an assault against which Pak Cik can never have a defence. Almanar, as a rule, has to bend backwards for an orphan, full stop.

It was a sad story. Lan’s father, a general worker, was killed when a lorry crashed into his motorcycle three years earlier. His mother refused to entertain the idea of allowing her son to have a stepfather, how hard her life might be to raise her loved ones. Perhaps, Lan’s performance in UPSR exam was a reflection of the hard life that followed.

Thus, Lan became a new form 1 pupil at Almanar. His withdrawn nature gave Pak Cik a cause to worry. But he followed every lesson diligently, getting from Pak Cik a bit more attention than the rest of the class in English and Mathematics. Over the weeks and months Lan grew in confidence, absorbing practically everything being dished out to him. His performance graph was climbing steadily. By the end of form 3 he must have committed into memory not less than 2500 new English words, as expected of Almanar’s pupils.

Then came the big surprise. PMR exam at the end of 2003 saw Lan getting away with the following results:.

English ------------- A
Mathematics ------- A
Kemahiran Hidup -- A
+ 5 other subjects - B

So Lan had done it his way.

Last week, after a long silence, Lan surfaced from nowhere at Pak Cik’s house, Nuri. He was a picture of confidence, wearing a thin layer of dark beard under his chin, a token of maturity, perhaps. His appearance was a reunion of some sort for the two of us. We had a lot to talk about of the years he was at Almanar.

“All has gone well, Pak Cik, and in November, God willing, I will get my diploma in Mechanical Engineering. What do you suggest I do then, Pak Cik?”

Yes, it is just a Diploma, nothing glamorous, a far cry from a degree in medicine, accountancy and so on. But he was a poor candidate to begin with, hardly qualified as a feather-weight competitor – yet a champion in his own right he will soon be. I am happy for him and his loving mother.

“Get a job first and look after your mother. She has waited long enough. Later on, with some practical experience, you can think of going further to be a full fledged engineer.”

“Thank you, Pak Cik. I think I will do that,” he responded. His grin began to fade as he picked up his hankerchief to dab his watery eyes. Was it the tender thought of his mother ? Blessed is a son who thinks so.

Having regained his composure he whispered,“By the way, Pak Cik, I top my class in English!” That was meant to be a reward for Pak Cik.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

23 July 2009

Many happy returns of the day

Encik Ramli of When Less Is More blog sent the following comment for Pak Cik’s posting.

“As I celebrate my 59 years young tomorrow, thank you for stating the fact that we were the young cyclists from Bkt Jelutung.”

I have not only known him but enjoyed reading detailed records of his cycling trips, and I never cease to wonder how he and his friends have the stamina and enthususiasm to do what I wish I were able to do. Since his last entry is on his cycling tour via Almanar I would seek his permission to have it copied here. I would want to have the pictures of his five gallant cycling friends recorded in my blog.



True to his National Geographic bandana he wore, he knew the nooks and corners of the East Coast. Even had a stake in a fresh-fish breeding project. His motto is "Ride to Eat". Rides a 26" Dahon foldable bike similar to Zaba's.


Our Mr Gadget. I was fascinated with his USB-driven external speaker hanged on the handle bar. Connected to his PDA, he had a medley of Hindi songs, old P Ramli songs and some hip-hops. Rides the Dahon 20" foldable bike.


The Rambo of BJCC. Before taking up cycling, he was a gym guy. He used to pump irons. Now he pumps tyres. Rides a Dahon 26" foldable bike.


The only non-Brooks guy in the team and now a full-fledged Brooks rider. Rides his Merida Hybrid, his first bike before upgrading to a racer. Slim and trim, the envy of other BJCC tourers.


The most "hardworking" tourer. He had 1 puncture and 2 slow-leaks and 18 visits to the toilet. Rides a full-fledged Bianchi tourer.


To En Ramli I would say this:

Happy birthday to you, Ramli.

When I was leaving my 59th I was kind of sad that so much time had been lost. I had then just started Almanar. When I was leaving my 69th I was equally sad that more years had gone by; but this time I was grateful that something worthwhile had been started and some success had begun to show from Almanar. Now I just look forwards.

I pray that many good things will be on your way.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

19 July 2009

It’s not for you

Looking straight into my eyes Ramli, the group leader said, “It’s not for you ……” In his right hand was a thick roll of crisp one-hundred and fifty ringgit banknotes.

The group of six tough cyclists from Bukit Jelutung, headed by Ramli (of When Less Is More), arrived at Nuri’s gate at about a quarter past six. They had leisurely spent about ten hours on to get here from Dungun. Indeed they had had their meals and rests on the way, but for the life of me I could never have done the journey. How I envy the joy of their ride. See BCJJ GOES EAST COAST - DAY 1

I had known Ramli for some time but not the rest of his great gang, hefty ‘young’ men of various professions. In this rural backwater it is a rare treat and so refreshing to be sitting with people with different backgrounds. It was rather unfortunate that my ‘mak cik’ was away in Kuala Lumpur occupied with her (mine, too, of course!) children and grandchildren. I was the host of the house and all. I could not very well prepare a dinner for these visitors beyond rice, boiled eggs and omelets. So I took them to a kampong restaurant. Fortunately they seemed to enjoy whatever was left of the food. But that was not all. Before they left the following morning the great Pak Cik had two platefuls of keropok lekor fried for them. I did it all my way.

How I wished they would stay longer. But their schedule was such that they had to leave early en route to Kuala Besut and thence to Kota Bharu. We shook hands bidding farewell and selamat jalan. It was then Ramli, the leader, surprised me with his ‘handshake’.

“It’s not for you. This is our contribution to Almanar.” Taken off guard, how else could I response other than a feeble ‘Thank you’?

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

19 June 2009

Chong's Response

Chong has responded to Pak Cik's comment. Here is what he has to say:

" Ini Chong lagi. Pakcik really honor me. Tak percaya bila Pn Murni (bukan nama dia) beritahu Pakcik respond macam ni. Pn Murni yang tunjuk blog ni pada saya. Dia 'terjumpa' blog ni masa nak cari info pasal matrikulasi. Saya kenal Pn Murni sudah lama. Sudah macam keluarga. Saya kawan dengan anak dia dari sekolah rendah. Dia selalu beri motivation pada saya. Yang paling saya ingat bila saya kena stop belajar sekejap sebab tak cukup duit, ini apa dia kata : Chong mesti selalu dengar org Melayu kata "Bersyukur dgn apa yang ada". Selalu org buat ini sebagai alasan tak mahu kerja kuat. Tapi sebenarnya ini bermaksud kita semua special. Tuhan beri kita macam-macam (akal, kesihatan, deria, duduk negara aman, keluarga, kawan etc). Kalau kita bersyukur kita mesti gunakan apa yang Tuhan beri - Maximize the gifts. Pakcik, selagi belum mati kita masih ada peluang. We must try our best sebab 'trying our best' ini kita boleh 'control'. Apa outcome our best itu kita tak boleh control. Kadang-kadang dapat yang elok. Kadang-kadang dapat tak elok. Tapi semua dalam dunia ada pairs i.e. baik/jahat, buruk/cantik, sakit/sihat..etc. Puan Murni kata kita mesti kerja kuat untuk dapatkan 'pair' yang bagus. Memang kadang-kadang kita mesti jumpa/dapat 'pair' yang tak bagus tu tapi kalau kita bersyukur kita akan gunakan apa gifts kita ada untuk dapatkan 'pair' yang baik tu. 'Pair' yang tak elok tu kalau kita terima, jadilah itu kita punya fate. Tapi kalau kita tak mahu 'pair' tak elok jadi kita punya final fate, kita 'gunakan' 'pair' yang yang tak elok tu sebagai'clue' untuk cari/dapatkan 'pair' yang elok. 'Pair' yang elok tu jadi kita punya goal. Saya tak pandailah nak susun ayat Pakcik. Harap Pakcik faham apa saya cakap. Saya salute apa Pakcik buat. Tak ramai orang macam Pakcik. Sebab itu saya tulis komen. Mungkin kisah saya bolah jadi salah satu 'clue' untuk dapatkan 'pair' yang baik."

To Puan Murni: Whoever you may be and wherever you are, Pak Cik would like to say this ; our community can do with more 'hamba Allah' like you - doing the da'wah your way.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.


17 June 2009

Chong’s Journey Through the Tunnel

Under the anonymous category and calling himself Chong, a visitor to Pak Cik’s posting, ‘Higher Education – I do it my way (part 2)’, wrote a comment that, to Pak Cik’s mind, justifies to be accorded a posting in itself as my comment. Chong chose to express what he felt on the subject of higher education. There seems to be a sigh of injured despair and a tinge of disappointment over injustice. What impresses me is the manner he expressed himself without being offensive. Above all Chong echoes Pak Cik’s constant reminder to Almanar pupils, that life is not a bed of roses. Out there one can expect challenges and what appears as injustice. Count your blessings and move on. Below is what Chong said:

Pak Cik. Saya Chong. Result SPM saya baik. Lebih baik dari kebanyakan kawan-kawan Melayu saya. Kerana saya China, saya tak dapat biasiswa walaupun dah dapat tempat di U. Duit nak pergi KL daftar pun tak ada. Bapa sudah mati. Mak jual makan dekat pasar. Saya teruskan ke tingkatan 6. Lepas sekolah saya kerja angkat simen, angkat batu dgn Uncle saya. Kumpul duit. Lepas habis Tingkatan 6, saya masuk U. Sekarang ada duit. Tahun 2 saya berhenti. Tak cukup duit. Walaupun saya kerja sambilan, tapi tak cukup. KL mahal. Saya cari kerja KL. Mula-mula buat sales. Kejar orang sana-sini jual buku. Tak boleh tahan. Kerja teruk, komisen sikit. Saya berhenti dan dapat jadi kerani. Siang saya kerja, malam saya part time belajar. Dekat 5 tahun baru dapat ijazah. Sekarang saya sudah kerja ada bagus sikit. Saya juga tengah part time buat Master. Ada org senang, ada susah. Kita kena lawan. Kerja kuat. Jangan give-up. Melayu susah, belajar pandai, ada biasiswa. Melayu senang pun ada biasiswa. China susah, tak ada kabel, sendiri carilah... Tapi saya rasa dengan cara ini saya lebih 'kuat'.”

Chong has honoured Pak Cik with a visit and some candid comments. Chong has left a strong message – “Tapi saya rasa dengan cara ini saya lebih ‘kuat.’” He outlined his plight and the manner he maneuvered himself to succeed, and is rewarded with added strength. He has shared with us his bitter experience, a lesson that our young should learn. Pak Cik am thankful to him. I wish he was at Almanar.

Pak Cik can only hope that some-how, some-day Chong will see that ours is not the only bitterness in life. It does not have to be any particular race. Almanar was founded with the hope of correcting some of the quirks of fate. It is suffice for Pak Cik to say that, despite all what we see as injustices, we all should be thankful to be living under the Malaysian sky. At least, not matter how hard it is, no one stops us from striving to a satisfactory end. Somewhere else there may never be such an opportunity.

Thank you, Chong, for the visit and the positive aspects of your comment.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

02 June 2009

Higher Education – I do it my way (Part 2)

How high should one go to educate oneself? Sky is the limit. That is if there is such a thing as the sky. Otherwise, be realistic with both feet firmly on the ground. That is Pak Cik’s philosophy.

Below the majestic blue sky, below the veil of white cloud, below the crossing paths of speeding jets, below the green casuarina and coconut palms stands the humble black-and-white Almanar, anchored firmly to mother earth

“Pak Cik, apa pilihan terbaik untuk saya?” is a normal question I am asked about this time of the year. I know many would say, “Accept metrikulasi. It is the best and you can save one year.” No, I see it quite differently. Metrikulasi runs last in Pak Cik’s list. I must beg to be different in my view, as some will not agree, that metrikulasi has done more harm than good to many pupils. I would have no hesitation to advise high achievers to take STPM, if they are living in big towns like KL, Ipoh and Penang where there are good STPM teachers, and compete with the many good non-Malay pupils.

In an environment where I am, Pak Cik have to be realistic. I have to ponder hard what a degree means to these children. Against my personal wish to see these children graduating from a university I cannot help picturing in my mind’s eye their parents’ faces expecting to see the day when there is some relief in their financial burden. Imagine the days when it rains hard and your small-time construction boss tells you there is no work to do. Imagine the days when you spend a whole day at sea and return home with hardly enough catch to pay for the diesel consumed by your outboard engine. There are mouths to feed. Fifty ringgits a month from a working child is meaningful.

Within the last one month I have counseled a few ex-Almanar pupils on their selection of courses offered to them. Invariably, I have to consider their strength and chances of success, not forgetting their family background. Here are some of the courses which Pak Cik have recently encouraged them to go for:

- Asasi pergigian
- Asasi medics
- Diploma radiography
- Diploma nursing
- Diploma engineering
- Diploma pharmacy
- Diploma catering

It was not a pleasant situation when I had to tell a father that his daughter’s chances of pursuing a course in radiography successfully were very slim.

There are a few who look down on ‘diploma’, preferring Metrikulasi on the advice of their families or some ‘learned’ individuals. Who am I to stop them?

I have no hesitation to advise high achievers to start with diploma courses at the end of which they can get a job, gain some experience, and earn some money for themselves and families. Some day, when the situation is more conducive, they can pick up where they have left off. With experience, their chances of achieving good degrees are even better. It brings to mind an ex-Almanar girl who started this way some years ago, getting herself a diploma in civil engineering. At the end of her long tunnel, she graduated with a first-class degree in civil engineering, and is now happily earning a living for herself and her aged parents.

Education must serve as a means to an end. It should never be one to satisfy and inflate one’s ego. And Pak Cik will continue to provide counseling my way.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

15 May 2009

Pak Cik Reminisces (Pt 7)- 13th May

13th May comes and goes every year. But 40 years ago one 13th May came and is gone forever, leaving an indelible memory of an event – the fateful 13th May 1969 and the few days that followed.

It was a tight 24-hour curfew in and around Kuala Lumpur following the worst racial conflict in our history. One risked being shot at not only by the enforcing miliatry but killed by either of the two warring factions. Kuala Lumpur was a dead city except for the military vehicles.

In those days, a petroleum depot existed strategically in Brickfields area of Kuala Lumpur, now part of the KL Central. Police and military requirements of petrol and diesel oil in Kuala Lumpur were sourced from there. Their vehicles would cease to run the city streets if that small depot stopped to operate. To maintain supplies of oil products from the depot, tank valves would need to be opened, pumps would have to be run, bulk meters to be set, bulk lorries to be moved into position and filled with products, and drivers to take the vehicles to the police and military depots, not to mention the necessary documentation to be prepared.

Pak Cik became a central figure to organise what was needed done. Escorted by police Pak Cik had to fetch a supervisor and a driver from their homes. They in turn fetched a skeleton number of staff. ‘All oil tanks at the police and military depots must never run dry’ was the simple brief Pak Cik had; and that I had to obey without question because the answer was so obvious.

Those were days when hand-phones and computers were no-existent. Using my two fingers I remember typing delivery orders. I remember helping to turn the tank valves and operate the pumps. All basic knowledge had to be put into practice, like it or not. With a few staff we managed to keep oil supplies going. Pak Cik was privileged to have a special pass to break the curfew. I became an unwilling key personnel, driving a company van with its logo (for safety identification?) along the deserted roads of KL, fearing that I would not be mistakenly shot at by the police or the ‘enemies’ whoever they were in those few initial tumultuous days.

I remember it too well the time I drove alone along the narrow end of the deserted Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, feeling eerie, fearing that an unknown 'enemy'would choose to take a pot shot at me from one of the upstairs windows. I had no wish to be a dead hero.

Pak Cik find it hard to forget the morning when a member of my staff came up to me all shaken up. “I was nearly stabbed to death,” he began to relate his frightening experience. He was a young Malay with very fair skin. He could pass for a Chinese. At one point along the Federal Highway his car was stopped by an angry Malay mob who wanted to kill him. He tried and tried in vain to convince them that he was a Malay. Only the utterance of ‘dua syahadah’, his last recourse, won him his freedom.

Pak Cik can carry on reminiscing about the 13th May 1969 but it is all mine, meaningful only to me. There are books written on this. Pak Cik would only want to leave you, ex-Almanar pupils with one question that I will ask and answer it myself.

“Do you want to go through all that over again, Pak Cik?”

“No, once is too many.”

P.S. Photos courtesy of May 13, 1969 - Truth and Reconciliation

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan

18 April 2009

PPSMI – I do it my way (Part 1)

“Apa pandangan Pak Cik tentang PPSMI? Setuju atau tidak?”

I have been asked that question by a number of friends and also a couple of my ex-Almanar pupils. It is a hot subject and Pak Cik am not about to be drawn to join the fray. After all, my interest is very simple. I started Almanar almost 15 years ago with a simple objective of helping the children in the vicinity learn three main subjects, English, Maths and Science subjects. It has been just that over the years.

All the children happen to be Malay. Even if there are a few non Malays from this area attending, I see no difference. They speak as good Malay as Malay children themselves. Let me digress a little here. When Pak Cik sat for my Cambridge School Certificate examination (the SPM equivalent of that time zone) there were 42 of us. Sitting for Malay paper three pupils opted to write in Jawi. One was a Tengku, a real blue blood. I was the second, a typical Malay boy, and the third was a Mr. Lee CL, a pure Chinese breed, a very close friend till today. He was raised in the area where Almanar is today. And, of course, all Chinese children in this vicinity went to the only school in this kampong, a Malay school. As a result, many were better off at Jawi than Rumi.

When I started Almanar, PPSMI was not an issue, but teaching had never been my profession. I was a green horn at it, but thinking big. Soon I came face to face with one problem. It was the children’s level of English, much worse than I bargained for. Communicating in Queen’s English would not help to improve the situation. So, Malay had to be the medium of communication. The second problem surfaced. The Malay terms used in Maths and science were a mixed basket of mind-boggling pseudo Malay terms, totally alien to me. All my life I knew them in English So I resolved to teach my pupils the original English terms – maintaining Malay as the medium of communication. That was a real win-win situation. I did it my way!

This went on and on until PPSMI was introduced. But the pupils were still the same, with their sub-standard level of English. It was fortunate that Almanar was beyond the reach of any school principles, school inspectors or the state director of education himself for that matter. I was not about to teach myself and my pupils the crazy Malay terms used in maths and science. So Pak Cik continued with the original English jargons like the following:


Now look at the equivalent of those terms in Malay. It runs like this:

Like Pak Cik, those familiar with the English jargons would certainly find it hard to adjust to the Malay equivalent. Likewise, our young pupils who are so used to the Malay version will be handicapped when they have to face the equivalent in English when they advance beyond school level. To Pak Cik, the switching over from one set of technical terms one is so used to, to a set of terms in another language, is the very crux of the problem we are facing. It is not the medium of communication. English version has an edge over the Malay. Very often the terms are linked; ray – radius – radian – radio – radar – radiate – radiation – x-ray - radiator etc. Similarly we have circle – circular - circumference – circuit etc. These are elements that simplify understanding,and that make the terms easy to be memorised.

Standard of English is an issue in itself. We ought to tackle the syllabus, upgrading it, allowing more time if needed. The standard is way below the minimum acceptable. For that Pak Cik totally disregard the materials and official format used in schools. I prefer it my way.

This was the problem that I saw at the start of Almanar and I have chosen a pragmatic way of dealing with it. Pak Cik’s teaching method may be termed unorthodox or unconventional but I am satisfied with the result so far. Whatever the outcome of the fate of PPSMI to be decided by the authority, Pak Cik will continue to do it my way.

When Pak Cik said ‘crazy Malay terms’ above I was trying to take a swipe at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. In my part II on PPSMI, Pak Cik will touch on why I believe “DBP ‘halalkan’ perkataan Inggeris jadi istilah Melayu” , the subject of Pak Cik’s article in Berita Harian five years ago. Then I was so dismayed watching how Bahasa Melayu, being brutalised by our ‘cerdik pandai’, some of whom have been fighting to abolish PPSMI in the name of ‘mendaulatkan Bahasa Melayu’. Yes, indeed, until DBP can produce a more credible and systematic technical terms I do it my way.

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.

20 March 2009

Well Done Cikgu

Maka berduyun-duyunlah datang yang berhormat dan yang tak berhormat memuji dan menunjukkan rasa takjub dan rasa belas kasihan – kerana Madihah cemerlang dalam peperiksaan SPM.

Nik Nur Madihah had lived for 17 years and suddenly all eyes have been focused on her and her family. Pak Cik admire her no less but I feel equally sorry for so many, many others like her, many of whom have never reached anywhere to be noticed, let alone to be given some tea and sympathy.

Last month, Pak Cik was requested to see a group of 20 ‘selected’ (top) pupils of standard 6. Half of them are fishermen’s children, like Madihah. The school has about 40 pupils in standard 6. During the last four years, only three students have scored all 5A’s in their UPSR exam. Can we say that over these years not one child from this school deserves sympathy and encouragement? To gauge their understanding in maths, I gave those 20 ‘selected’ pupils a test from STANDARD ONE maths. Surprise, surprise, a number of them were not sure of eleven, twelve and thirteen, and few did not know the meaning of 'near’ in ‘nearest to’.

What future will these innocent faces have without help today?

Last week I was equally astounded to find that none of my current twenty odd FORM One pupils could tell me the difference between 'we', 'our' and 'us'. Believe me, these are not children without brain. You, who have been through Almanar, know it too well how many of you have managed to get all A’s in your PMR exams. You are not of poorer quality in brain-power than many others, though you may be poor in many other aspects. You needed a chance, were given it and have pulled through, some with distinction.

Nik Nur Madihah is not a miracle and it should not be necessary for a child to have scored 20 A’s before a silent cry for help begins to draw attention. We should never forget that she is unlikely to have achieved her success without the school (Sekolah Menengah Arab Maahad Muhammadi, Kota Bharu, Kelantan) and its teachers. Pak Cik would want to loudly say, “Well done cikgu. You all have lived up to what is expected of your noble profession. Keep up with the excellent contribution to the community around you.”

Pak Cik will end this particular posting with a few lines quoted from an article written by the great Pendita Zaaba way back in 1927, more than 80 years ago:

“….. Kita sangat kekurangan orang yang berperasaan gemar pada faedah-faedah ramai (orang yang public spirit kata orang putih). Barangkali yang berperasaan demikian belum ada satu orang dalam tiap-tiap 10.000 orang Melayu melainkan kebanyakan masing-masing menilik kepada faedah diri, loba kempada tembolok sendiri, tamak ke perut sendiri ‘kalau kita sendiri tak dapat faedah apa guna?’ ………”

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan.