Category: Family

Getting your feet wet in a new activity can be difficult at any age, especially if you’ve got to get the rest of your body wet too. But learning how to swim in adulthood is more difficult than in your youth, in part because you may have developed a fear of water.

Overcoming the fear is worth it though, any health and fitness expert will tell you. Swimming is a very healthy exercise, particularly for adults. It’s easy on their joints since the buoyancy of water reduces the impact on them.

“In water we only have to carry 20% to 25% of our body weight,” says Janina-Kristin Goetz, an instructor in the Department of Sport Science at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.

Consequently, swimming in warm water can even be relaxing, and in cold water it boosts the body’s energy turnover and causes metabolism to pick up. It’s a full-body exercise as nearly all of your muscles are used.

Also, you can control the stress on your muscles easily, so swimming is well suited to rehabilitation as well as physical conditioning. But, swimming isn’t a magic recipe for fitness since mastery of proper technique is important. This is especially true of the breaststroke.

“As it’s commonly swum, the breaststroke causes massive problems in the neck area and frequently in the lower spine as well,” says Ulrike Urbaniak, who heads the masters sport division of the German Swimming Federation. The reason is the awkward posture of your head if you want to keep it above water.

Especially for adults who are learning to swim, the backstroke is a good way to get started. Breathing, in particular, is easier – you can do it in your own rhythm since your mouth and nose are usually above water.

The first step in becoming a swimmer isn’t proper breathing rhythm or overall technique, but simply getting used to being in the water. Like kids, adults should accustom themselves gradually to being in contact with the element.

“Just splashing about is most important of all,” Urbaniak says, noting that adults need considerably more time to acclimatise to water than children do. Games or simple exercises, such as those done in water aerobics, can help.

Proper technique is also usually harder for adults. “Our motor skills improve from birth until the age of 20. After 30, they decline,” Goetz explains. This is why adults are often unable to master the finer points of swimming technique. An adult’s personal motivation is therefore more important than technique.

If you’re embarrassed by learning to swim at an advanced age or extremely afraid of water, you’ll likely have a rough time of it. You’d then best be served by joining a swimming club, many of which offer special courses for adults – even total neophytes.

“For adults, fear is indeed the main obstacle, and it can be overcome by special exercises and a step-by-step approach,” says swimming club instructor Christina Krusenbaum. So why not take the plunge?

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Nobody wants their child to be the one who takes 17 attempts to pass their driving test. And the good news is, there are things you can do right from the start to stop that from happening.

Introducing children to walkers and bicycles at an early age, for example, helps promote motor skills which, in turn, boosts the little ones’ potential to become better drivers.

That’s according to the German magazine Baby And Family, which also says that most children develop an interest in vehicles as soon as they can walk.

To train their balance and coordination, you can start with a walker. Babies as young as 10 months can use a walker, even if it’s just to shake their feet and start training their leg muscles. You can also try a scooter walker, which enables the child to move their legs from a sitting position.

The first time a child rides a bike is always a moment for the family album. But starting off on two wheels can be a little hairy, so it’s best to practise in carefully selected places to begin with, and to always stay close enough to the child so that you can intervene at any time.

You don’t need to be overprotective though, even when it comes to hitting the actual road. Children as young as 10 are able to assess traffic situations correctly, according to Sabine Huck of the General German Bicycle Club.

Still, a bit of off-road practice on the bike can’t hurt, such as building an obstacle course out of empty plastic bottles that the child can slalom through on their bike.

You can also try exercises to help children develop their sense of speed and braking distance. For example, lay two ropes on the ground and encourage the child to brake at the first rope and come to a complete stop before the second rope.

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A majority of sexual harassment cases in the workplaces go unreported. Research by the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US found that 99.8% of people who are harassed do not formally report the experience. This finding is common around the world.

One reason is that victims of harassment don’t feel safe or supported enough to report their experience to their superiors, let alone their company management. Victims, overwhelmingly women, are afraid they will be labeled as troublemakers or be victimized for speaking out against a colleague.

So they stay silent.

In Malaysia, activists have long lobbied for a Sexual Harassment Bill to be enacted. Though the government says such an act in on the cards, it is unlikely that it will be tabled in the next parliamentary seating.

“Malaysia is still in the early stages of progress in tackling harassment. Many people are not aware of what harassment really is, and that’s a conversation we need and want to have,” says LeadWomen CEO Dr Marcella Lucas.

“People immediately assume that harassment has to be sexual in nature, but it includes everything from intimidation, discrimination and bullying, to physical and psychological discomfort, all the way up to sexual harassment.”

Hoping to get the conversation going, LeadWomen is organizing a two-day conference titled #ItsNotOK?! on Oct 14 and 15 for senior decision-makers and policymakers of companies. Their aim: To facilitate discussions on creating harassment-free work spaces.

“To tackle workplace harassment, company culture needs an adjustment from the top down. Power dynamics is very much in play when harassment happens. We want to target key decision-makers in companies who can influence and create change,” Lucas explains.

“Oftentimes it’s difficult to draw a specific line when dealing with harassment, for instance the difference between a joke and actual harassment. It’s these shades of grey that we don’t talk about but need to.”

In a 2014 study by the Association of Women Lawyers Malaysia, 31% of lawyers surveyed in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor reported that they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the course of their employment.

Another survey by YouGov Omnibus found that 36% of Malaysian women and 17% of Malaysian men have experienced sexual harassment, with only about half reporting or telling someone about it.

“In any case of workplace harassment, there is the victim, the perpetrator and the observer. The observer is the key to creating safe work spaces,” Lucas asserts. “We have all been observers of harassment in one way or another. If observers are empowered, it influences the perpetrator and the victim as well.”

This statement was echoed by workplace harassment expert Patti Perez, VP of workplace strategy at the US firm, Emtrain. “Companies must train employees on how to stop workplace harassment. The only wrong answer when it comes to intervening is doing nothing,” says Perez, a speaker at the upcoming conference.

“Employers must drive this point home and encourage bystanders to intervene or object to the act at that moment, or they can report it to the management. The workforce must be educated on how to intervene effectively, in ways that do not increase tensions surrounding the issue,” she stressed.

Perez adds that companies must create a “culture of truth-telling”, so that employees feel safe to report their concerns, speak up for themselves, and speak up on behalf of others.

Women’s rights activist Betty Yeoh from Malaysia’s All Women’s Action Society agrees that not enough has been done to deal with workplace harassment. “There are still gaps in how corporations handle sexual harassment. These gaps need to be identified and rectified,” she says.

“Often, workplaces are more concerned with punishing the perpetrator, but it is crucial to ensure that there are adequate support systems in place for victims too. Ways on how to educate those found to be sexual harassers should also be looked into.”

The It’sNotOK?! conference will see Malaysian and international experts come together to provide participants with a 360° perspective of workplace harassment through the lenses of culture, gender, psychology and the law.

“I hope that through the conference, leaders of corporations will become more aware of the realities of workplace harassment, and are committed to creating a safe, non-toxic, harassment and discrimination-free work spaces,” says Yeoh.

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By the time she was 17, Mathura Kanan was CEO of a social enterprise she had started with her friends – Harsha Ravindran, Heerraa Ravindran and Sanadthkumar Ganesan. Their business: Empowering teens and youths to uncover their passions and go after their dreams.

The four changemakers had set up Ascendance, an empowerment group that encourages Malaysian youth from all backgrounds across the country to believe in their potential, through motivational talks and peer-to-peer sessions.

“When I was younger, I used to wonder how successful business people were able to chase their dreams, achieve success and happiness,” says Mathura, 23, who is pursuing a professional qualification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

“How can youngsters like me become as successful? I realised that the only thing stopping me was me myself. Often, we are the reason why we cannot move forward,” she says

Since they founded their group in 2015, the four have been invited to speak at schools, public forums and events around Malaysia. Ascendance has also been appointed by the Education Ministry to conduct their “Ace It Easy” programme at nine secondary schools across the country.

“We’re honoured to receive this award,” says Herraa. “We never expected it in our wildest dreams. It means a lot to know that our work is impacting students and it has inspired us to continue working.”

She adds, “Our target group is those aged 10 to 17. We were once like them, but we were lucky to have been given opportunities. We made full use of them. We believe that if we could do it, other children can too.”

“That’s what we hope to share with students,” says Harsha, 17, Ascendance’s chief marketing officer, who completed her International General Certificate of Secondary Education recently and is on a short break before pursuing a tertiary education. “I suppose it works better when they hear this from someone closer to their age.”

Meanwhile, Harsha’s sister Heerraa and Sanadthkumar are enrolled in a leadership programme with ET Boost, a video production company in Shah Alam, Selangor.

The four girls had met a few years ago at a social business incubator platform, ET Ideas. When they learnt they had similar aspirations, they decided to band together.  They believe no one is too young to achieve their dream and want to encourage other youngsters to go for it.

They also hope to encourage students to be leaders in their communities and help others in turn. “We want them to learn about themselves and discover what they love, and be the best possible version of themselves,” says Sanadthkumar, 19, and COO of Ascendance.

“We look forward to helping these kids establish their careers and even assisting them with any personal challenges they may encounter. We’re here to help them work on their happiness, health, education, as well as their passion,” she adds.

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In The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

This week, a reader got in touch to talk about their “conflicting feelings” towards their parents, asking whether it was “OK to feel angry and disappointed at some of the things they’ve done”.

Describing the emotional baggage that parents pass onto their children, the English poet Philip Larkin paints a picture of inherited trauma in his noted work, This Be The Verse.

For Larkin, parents were people who damaged their children, but he stresses that it’s not intentional on their part: our parents were, in turn, damaged by their own upbringing.

Dealing with this dilemma can provoke powerful emotions. For most of us, our parents gave us everything and they provided us with many of the blessings we now enjoy. In religious teachings, all the main traditions agree that to repay what our parents did (and continue to do) for us is virtually impossible.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that many of us have feelings that our parents let us down in ways that continue to affect us, and no doubt our parents will have felt similarly towards theirs.

In my own experience, I struggled for a long time suppressing uncomfortable feelings that I had towards my parents. To criticise or feel ill towards them to any degree just felt wrong. Everything I had was thanks to my parents, regardless of their flaws and faults.

But what I discovered in this struggle was a truth that applies to any discomfort we try to suppress: the longer we try to deny or ignore how we feel, the more those feelings fester, strengthen, and grow.

The psychoanalyst Carl Jung believed that, however hard we might try to suppress unpleasant emotions, they will always find a way to express themselves. This can be through our conduct and behaviour and, in severe cases, even manifest in physical symptoms such as skin rashes.

It’s important to recognise that it’s perfectly OK to feel any emotions that arise – to deny that we feel any other way than we do is simply going to compound the issue and potentially make it worse.

Of course, what we do with those feelings is also important. Acting out on strong emotions is rarely helpful, but what is useful is to process them in a healthy way that acknowledges, “OK, this is how I’m feeling, and this is the reason”.

When we’re able to process feelings in a constructive manner, for example, through doing a daily journal, talking to a trusted friend, or speaking to a counsellor or therapist, we also allow for a better understanding as well as seeing things beyond the strength of our emotions.

Let’s say we continue to suppress our anger and disappointment towards our parents (or anyone else). There’s a good chance that, as these feelings bubble beneath the surface, the focus will always be on the mistakes our parents made, how they let us down, and on our guilt for feeling this way. In short, we cling strongly to that sense of misery.

But when we deal with our emotions, we allow our feelings room to breathe and start to feel less constricted as the anger and disappointment starts to fade. Once we give ourselves that permission to express our thoughts and emotions, we can see the bigger picture that our parents are just as flawed and unsure as we are. No baby ever came with an instruction manual or a “first-year stress-free” guarantee.

Deep-seated inner conflict can take time to process and resolve, but we need to understand that none of us are machines. We should allow ourselves to feel – and be OK with feeling – uncomfortable emotions.

Our feelings exist for a reason. Of course, we should have understanding and compassion for others, and there is also room for us to be honest about how we are inside. Compassion for others needn’t be to the exclusion of compassion for ourselves, and nor should it.

We all have expectations of how we should act and be around others, and having standards helps to maintain the society we live in. However, when we allow strict standards to dictate how we think and feel, it often causes problems when we try to reconcile how we think we should feel with how we’re actually feeling.

This internal tug-o-war causes a lot of unnecessary suffering, which can begin to be resolved if we treat ourselves with the kindness, care, and understanding that we’ve been taught to offer others. If we can do that, then we might find that the emotional weight we’ve been carrying begins to lift.

When we stop struggling with our internal conflicts, this catharsis helps us to understand that our parents and loved ones were never perfect to begin with, and with that realization we are relieved of the expectation to be perfect.

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Teenager Anis Humairah Riduwan left school when she was 15, but she has not stopped learning.

From her home in Lubok Merbau, a village not far from Kuala Kangsar, Perak, the 18-year-old has become the face of her family’s business on social media.

Anis helps to market the telekung (prayer shawls) that she and her mother sew, on Facebook and Instagram by posting their new products and engaging with their audience.

But Anis’ mother, Roziah Mohd Raziki, is most proud that her daughter is also a skilled tailor – she can measure, cut and sew baju kurung, telekung and skirts. Anis is also good at needlework, especially in embroidery, applique and knitting.

She has certainly come a long way since being diagnosed with learning and hearing disabilities at the age of 10. Until then, Roziah had assumed her daughter didn’t do well in school because she was a daydreamer and a late bloomer.

Anis’ diagnosis galvanised Roziah into taking a different approach in bringing her up. She took her daughter’s challenges in her stride, and decided to make the most of the resources available to her family.

When Anis was 13, Roziah – who is a tailor – decided she would teach her daughter how to sew because it’s what she knows best.

“Anis needs an essential skill set that can help her earn a living. I am a seamstress so I felt it was a good idea to pass down this skill to my special needs child,” says 43-year-old Roziah who encouraged her daughter to complete a two-year creative sewing certification course at SM Pendidikan Khas Vokasional Merbok in Bedong, Kedah, after Form Three.

The path that Roziah helped to chart for Anis has led her to discover and develop her aptitude for needlework.

Anis’ talent was recognised when she won in the embroidery category at the Abilympics Malaysia competition this year, and she will represent the country at the International Abilympics competition in Moscow next year. It is an international skills-based competition for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). She is among 15 people with disabilities from Malaysia vying for gold at the the event, in 15 of the 30 categories, including floral arrangement, painting, embroidery, cooking and photography.

“Words cannot describe how happy I am. I never dreamed of representing Malaysia in any competition, especially with my disabilities. I thank my parents for all their support,” says Anis, who uses a hearing device but has no speech issues. She is articulate although a little shy.

To win the embroidery competition, Anis will have to beat the others in terms of speed, creativity and technical knowledge.

Anis will be representing the country at the International Abilympics competition in Moscow next year.

Anis is working hard to prepare for the competition, travelling to KL regularly for week-long embroidery training with UiTM fashion lecturer Dr Rose Dahlina Rusli since early this year. She is teaching Anis various embroidery techniques including chain stitch, satin stitch, French knot and Lazy Daisy. Dr Rose hopes to improve her speed and give her a bigger repertoire of skills.

“She’s a fast learner. She’s very capable and talented. Her skills are really good. It proves that a person’s disability should never be viewed as an obstacle to strive for greater things,” says Rose.

Anis was diagnosed as a slow learner and had never done well academically, but she has persevered and done well in needlework.

Roziah accompanies her daughter when she goes for her training as Anis is still not fully independent yet.

Building a future
Training for a gold Abilympic medal is important, but her mother has a bigger dream for her. Ultimately Roziah wants Anis to be able to use her sewing skills to attain self-reliance, and that means being able to earn her own income.

“My aim is to equip Anis with a skill to be independent and take care of herself when my husband and I are older,” says Roziah, whose biggest worry about her special needs child is her future. She has three other children.

Instead of despairing, Roziah did not only start teaching Anis sewing but she is now actively involving her daughter in her home-based telekung business, which she set up seven years ago.

The business is called Telekung Hannani, named after Roziah’s fifth child who died in 2012 due to heart complications.

“I’ve always liked to sew. From young, I used to help Ibu thread the needle and sew buttons. I’m happy Ibu has given me the opportunity to help out with the business,” says Anis, who appreciates her far-sighted mother’s faith in her.

“I am thankful for Ibu’s guidance. Because I can sew, I can eventually get a job doing beadwork at a bridal shop in Kuala Kangsar,” adds Anis, who of course harbours dreams of being independent.

Anis is happy to model her telekung creations on facebook and instagram.

However, Anis is happy to model her telekung creations on facebook and instagram.her mother has reservations because she is all too aware of Anis’ vulnerability.

“Even if Anis gets a job, she can’t earn much. I’m afraid she might be bullied and have to work long hours. She has problems with balance too. What if she tripped and lost consciousness on the streets of Kuala Kangsar? For now, I can’t allow her to work anywhere far from home.”

For now, Roziah believes it is best and safest for Anis to work with her at home.

“At home, I can look after Anis and provide her with a job. Anis needs to learn that running any business isn’t easy. Thankfully, she’s a good student. She never complains and is always willing to learn, despite my constant nagging and fussing,” says the businesswoman who makes and sells cotton and polyester telekung.

The 4m prayer pieces come in four designs: classic, with lace trimmings, mini (for children) and with zippered pockets. Items are priced between RM68 and RM95.

On average, they sell anything from 40 to 60 telekung a month. Business is brisk, with high demand especially for their telekung with zipped pockets to keep mobile phones and other small items.
Mother and daughter work seven days a week, between eight and 12 hours a day, depending on the amount of orders for their products.

“Sure, we enjoy our work but the hours can be long and tiring. Ibu and I joke and share stories while completing orders. I accept whatever Ibu pays me, which is about RM1,000 a month, that I keep in my savings account,” says Anis, who is also happy to be the face of their telekung business.

“These are our creations, so I am proud to wear them. So far, our telekung pieces are purchased by women who are going to perform their umrah or hajj. Hopefully, we can reach a bigger target audience via online sales,” Anis explains.

Roziah is pleased with Anis’ dedication and determination.

With a grin, Anis says: “Ibu is a strict teacher. Even though she scolds me, I know it’s for my own good.”

Roziah has noticed that her daughter’s confidence has grown in leaps and bounds as she becomes more involved in running their business.

“She is very committed and hardworking. These days, she isn’t shy to interact with customers and promote our telekung at bazaars,” says Roziah proudly.

Anis recognises that she is doing well because her mother believes in her and refuses to give up on her even though she was diagnosed as disabled.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without my mother’s support. My parents have always been my pillar of strength. They have encouraged me to be the best in everything. My advice to other disabled people is to never feel shy about your limitations. Strive for greater things in life,” concludes Anis.

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A netizen’s successful search for her long-lost siblings on Twitter proves just how powerful the Internet can be

“I’m trying to find/locate my long-lost siblings in Pahang. The last time I met them was when I was 8 years old,” @fdzhx tweeted on 5 August.

My oldest sister should be 24 years old, my second sister should be 23 years old,” Izah wrote.

The 22-year-old revealed that her impending nuptials in October motivated her to find her long-lost family.”I’m getting married soon and the only thing I want is them to be by my side,” she wrote.

The netizen explained that she had called JPN (National Registration Department) and looked for useful information from medical records, but that “nothing leads to them”.

Izah also included her siblings’ names – her sisters Ameera Najeeha and Nur Ellina, as well as her brother Muhd Izmi Haiza.

I know it’s hard and impossible but please RT to make it happen. InsyaAllah!” she added.

Over 5,000 people hoping for an Internet miracle retweeted her post.

In just 11 hours, the netizen received the response she was praying for.”I’m shaking right now. Is it you?” a woman replied.

I’m Ellina. Am I your sister?” @elynananana tweeted on, 6 August.

After a whirlwind day, the 22-year-old was ecstatic to announce that the family of four had been reunited

Not long after, her other long-lost sister @AmeraNajeha_ shared that Izah had been added into their sibling WhatsApp group.

Ameera explained that Izah was separated from them because of “family problems”. She also revealed that they attempted to find their long-lost sister on Instagram in the past, but had no luck.

Twitter users were thrilled to see that the family found each other in such a short amount of time, and all thanks to social media

Several netizens who felt particularly invested in the reunion were not shy to ask for more updates

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Scientists have previously warned against drinking too much soft drinks or juice.

Now they believe even one small glass can pose possible dangers, according to a new report.

Researchers from health institutions in France recently conducted a study, published in the British Medical Journal, to determine the association between cancer risk; sugary drinks, such as 100% fruit juice; and artificially-sweetened ones, like diet beverages.

To do so, they examined more than 100,000 French adults, who participated in the ongoing French NutriNet-Sante study.

The participants, who were followed for about nine years, had an average age of 42 and completed at least two questionnaires about the types of food and drinks they usually consumed.

The authors also considered factors such as age, sex, educational level, family history of cancer, smoking status and physical activity.

After analysing the results, the team found that just 100 millilitres of a sugary drink, which is about a third of a typical can of soft drink, increased overall cancer risk by 18% and breast cancer risk by 22%.

There was no apparent link between cancer risk and artificially-sweetened beverages.

In the study, the team said: “One hundred percent fruit juices were also positively associated with the risk of overall cancer.

“These results need replication in other large scale prospective studies.

“They suggest that sugary drinks, which are widely consumed in Western countries, might represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention.”

The scientists noted the assessment was observational and does not show cause and effect.

They also acknowledged a few limitations. They didn’t explore whether the relationship between cancer and sugary beverages was due to another hidden health issue.

This isn’t the first time sugary drinks have bee linked with health issues.

In early 2019, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the United States found sugary drinks were linked to higher risk of early death, especially for women

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How many parents are willing to pay RM 600 a year to improve their child’s education?

Truth is, I think most parents who could afford it would do it. But not every parent can afford it, and I know that because that’s what I discussed with LeapEd Services the other week.

If that name seems familiar, it’s because the company was featured in a recent edition of Star Educate (“Leap-ing ahead with quality”).

Owned by Khazanah Nasional, LeapEd improves Malaysian schools by “realizing the individual potential of each and every learner”. How they put this grandiose statement into practice is through several programmes. One example is the Trust Schools Programme that, to date, has impacted 90 schools in Malaysia.

Working with CSR programmes from the private sector, LeapEd taps sponsors who will guarantee the annual funding of RM600 per child for at least three years, although there is some leeway in which school the sponsors choose to help.

And they’re reporting some degree of success. One interesting statistic is that 88% of secondary school students and 91% of primary school students in the trust schools perceive the quality of teaching and learning in their school is “high”. The remaining believe the quality is “moderate”, with only 1% of secondary school students saying that it is “low”.

Now, just because a student believes the quality of education is high doesn’t necessarily mean that it is so. But research has shown that these results can carry weight if questions are asked in the right way.

On top of that, students who say the quality of teaching is high actually have greater learning gains (improvements in knowledge, skills and personal development). It’s like in these schools, students want to learn…

My interest in this stems from having worked on something called the Malaysian Smart School project. It was meant to drag the Malaysian education system kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but, long story short, there was a huge gap between what was in the Smart School Conceptual Blueprint and what eventually happened in reality. (This is the 1997 version of the blueprint I’m referring to, and not to be confused with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.)

Without going too deeply into it, basically, what should have been an education reform project to produce a “thinking and technology-literate workforce” turned into an exercise of building computer labs, which really was a different kind of project.

It’s not quite fair to leave it as such, since there were also teaching-learning materials being developed, as well as an effort to computerise school management. But I think computer labs are sexy and easy to understand, so that’s where the money went.

What we really wanted was better teaching from the teachers, to overhaul the curriculum to make it relevant to 21st century needs, and to re look at assessment so that it was no longer about memorization, and that even if you took all your notes into the exam, it still wouldn’t guarantee you an A because you would have to actually apply what you’ve learnt.

At one point, the question that kept floating around the team was this: Could a school without technology still be a Smart School? If we just armed teachers with skills, and picked the best headmasters, and gave them support from the Federal level, what could happen?

Our conclusion at the time was: “Not as much as we would like”. We felt that technology was really needed to do the heavy lifting, to alleviate teachers’ workloads so they would have time to treat students as individuals, for example. Or to provide quality learning materials online so students could study on their own and do what we call “self-directed, self-paced, self-accessed” learning (basically, students will learn how to learn).

Why did the project not work? I want to say “politics”, but honestly, politics is also what would have made the Smart School project work. If we were all on board with the idea, education in Malaysia would benefit from an overhaul, and not just by adding one tiny computer lab – so, yes, I believe we could have made a bigger impact.

So, some 20 over years later, I’m now listening to what LeapEd Services is doing, and thinking, well, “It looks like they’re being smart about improving schools without having to rely too much on technology”.

This team made a decision early on that teachers were the best place to invest the sponsorship money. Not technology, but people.
They encourage teachers to be facilitative, to have two-way communication in classrooms, where the students participate in class activities instead of just sitting back and listening to a lecture.

You know those films where inspiring teachers lead students in interesting classes, and there’s singing, and passionate discussion, and even standing on desks? Usually the teachers are railing against an outdated school system. With LeapEd, it’s behaviour that the principal demands from his teachers.

A team member recounted that one day, instead of seeing a teacher standing in front of a class discussing a book with the children, he saw two students do it with their fellow classmates.

He had decided to drop by the class and see how they were doing. To his surprise, the teacher wasn’t even in the class at the time. She had stepped out and the students decided to carry on with the lesson by themselves. That is what a 88% to 92% satisfaction with teaching in the school gets you. That’s what RM600 per child per year gets you.

Now, with about five million children in government schools, you’re looking at RM3bil per year. Assuming the private sector will no longer foot the bill, it’s still not vastly out of proportion when compared to the current Education Ministry’s budget of about RM60bil.

But it really isn’t about the money. Because you could buy every child a tablet AND upgrade it every two years for less money. Guess which move would make more headlines?

At the end of the day, it’s about what we really want. As with most things in this country, I believe if it’s something we are all serious enough about, there’s no reason we can’t get it.

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By CAPT (R) OO KWAN HUAT

I think what I am about to say is what every man who wants to be a househusband has to go through before making the bold decision to be one. I use the word “bold” as he is going against the norm of society and will most likely be thought of as a useless husband living off the wife.

I am writing of my own experience when I made the decision to be one, 20-odd years ago. I opted for early retirement as a pilot in the Royal Malaysian Air Force at the ripe old age of 40. I was lucky enough to marry a wife, a general practitioner, when I was 36. We had two young kids, aged three and one.

My wife’s income as a GP was comfortable enough for the family expenses as we lived a simple life and did not indulge in extravagances or tried to keep up with the Joneses. However it was not an easy decision to forgo my earnings as a pilot. Back in 1995, the salary of an aircraft captain was about RM20,000 a month; today, it is more than RM50,000 a month – not considering the perks and glamour that come with the job.

Another more important factor to consider is how our society perceives husbands who do not work. The first thing that comes to mind is a good-for-nothing, lazy person. Therefore a person who wishes to be a househusband has to be courageous enough to withstand all the verbal abuse hurled at him, most of the time behind his back. I am saying this from experience. I was a disgrace to my in-laws, certain relatives and friends. Of course, no one dared to say this to me face-to-face.

I sought the opinion of my best friend and he told me that as far as he was concerned, the man should be the breadwinner of the family. However, the most important input was from my wife who was concerned about the risky nature of a pilot’s job and the effect it would have on my health in the long term as my body had to constantly adapt to different time zones.

Another important factor was I would be away from home most of the time. But I think the real reason was she was worried that I would be swarmed by all the stewardesses.

I think the deciding factor for me to make the decision to be a homemaker – this is a more appropriate word for me, as the word “househusband” conjures up the image of me doing household chores, which I am adverse to, much to the chagrin of my wife – is the welfare of my children.

With both of us working, they would have to be put under the care of someone else and the thought of them growing up without us imparting our values and knowledge to them and missing out on their growing up years was not something I could accept, given the choice. I would not trade this for all the money in the world.

Many of my friends envied my non-working life and said that I could afford to do so as my wife was a doctor. I asked them whether they would have done the same thing if they were in my shoes, and the answer was no. I think the main reason is because the money was too attractive to forgo.

Do I regret the decision and sacrifice I made almost 25 years ago? I do admit there were times when I thought about what my life could have been if I had continued my career as an airline pilot. But regret, definitely not, as the time I got to spend with my family – especially my children, watching them grow to become responsible adults with the right values in life – was priceless.

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