Are children encouraged to protest?

Children are often perceived as our precious jewels of our future. Too precious that we shield them away from the realities of life.

Realities as in what is really happening in the world of adult life. The controversies, the politics and the problems that adults might have caused that might destroy their future.

Perhaps, adults feel that children is too young to understand what is happening in the world of adult. Or perhaps that they are innocent that they see the root cause of the problems too easily.

When children appears and participates in protest, certain groups will criticise that these people are misusing children in activism. That happens last week when a MBPP councillor criticised NGOs for getting children to participate in the advocacy against climate change.

That brings up the question, are children allowed to protest? If yes, what is considered a right cause for children to participate in activism? If environment and climate change is about the future of the kids, aren’t they allowed to protest?

Which is right for kids to protest, and which is not?

I grew up in an environment where I was taught to study well in school, make a good career and have a great family. I believe most of my generations do grew up that way as well.

Not to say that the environment that I grew up is incorrect or bad, but I believe it is lacking the lessons about the society and community.

Doing well in our education is mostly about ourselves, but lessons on the society is about the community as a whole. It is not only caring and developing ourselves, but the world that we live in.

Looking thoroughly, does our education system prepare ourselves to be adults? Malaysia is now debating and preparing the reduction of voting age to 18 years old. We might be prepared technically, afterall, it is just amending the voter list to more voters. But are the 18 year olds prepare in terms of understanding of the governance and political system.

It is of utmost importance when we are dealing with the problems of environment and climate change. Aren’t we supposed to have the mentality whereby the earlier a child understands about it, the easier we can prevent actions that destructs the environment.

Imagine, everything that a children would love to have, from toys to drinks to gadgets, things that they use might heavily affects the environment. Single-use plastics in foods and beverages, toys that were made using unsustainable products, simple actions that might pollute the environment. If the children understands the cause of the destruction of our earth, it would be easier for them to cultivate habits that prevents it.

We just look at the many children of the world who are well-informed. They can be nurtured and taught to be great leaders of the future.

Greta Thunberg, at age 15, begin protesting outside the Swedish parliament about the need for immediate action to combat climate change.

Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, spoke about the urgency of immediate action against climate change at the United Nations General Assembly at age 15. He said, “What’s at stake right now is the existence of my generation.”

At 11 years old, Mari Copeny is helping kids to embrace their power through equal opportunity. She said, “I’m 11. My generation will fix this mess of a government. Watch us.”

Teenager Sonita Alizadeh is an Afghan activist who has been vocal against forced and child marriages.

Melati and Isabel Wijsen has been campaigning against the usage of single-use plastics at the age of 10 and 12 respectively.

Many other children and teenagers like Jamie Margolin, Shawn DeAngelo, Asean Johnson, Katie Eder and a lot more has played an important role in the respective activism towards the betterment of our world.

These kids has put many adults to shame. Simply said, they are merely speaking for what they know, and what they love.

If we look into adults, many many doesn’t even understand what they have fought for, or they dont even bother to know.

Reverting back to the MBPP councillor that has criticised the actions of children participating in the protest, she must not forgot the current government leaders are the ones that was part of the Bersih protest who brought kids along.

They were also the ones who had kids in programmes that promotes Penang Transport Master Plan.

Instead of speaking against children, they should teach kids to walk their talk. And be fair towards their words.

As a matter of fact, kids already has access towards the many issues of the world through the powers of internet and social media. According to research, kids have been spending more than four hours a day looking at screens. We have already lost the ability to keep the anything away from them. Worst is, the internet is flooded of negativity and fake information. Instead of shielding it away from them, we educate them the truth.

Keeping activism out of children’s reach does not protect them. It shortchanges them, by underpreparing them for life.

If we want our children to grow up to be thoughtful and engaged citizens, we should help them be part of social change now.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 4th June 2019.

All Schools Must Be Maintained

For the past one month, there has been calls by various groups of people, including politicians, academicians, and even the grassroots to implement a single stream education system for the sake of unity in Malaysia. In fact, it is not something new and has been advocated on and off since decades ago.

Of the Concerns

By nature, the Chinese and Indian Malaysians are usually the ones that advocate maintaining the vernacular schools due to several obvious reasons. Throughout the years of reading articles and listening to the people; I noticed that there are two major concerns of the Chinese regarding the matter of the education system. The first is the fear of losing the mother tongue and vernacular schools are one of the main educational institutions that teach Mandarin. The second is the responsibility to preserve Chinese culture in schools including the name and origin of the schools. Of course there are also other concerns such as the ownership of the school, the management of the school, funding, and examinations.

Of the Unity

In a nation with different ethnics, “Understanding” is needed to achieve unity with different cultural backgrounds. To attain “understanding” among the people, I believe there are two key factors that we need to look at: language and communication. Most of the time, people argue or fight with each other is due to misunderstanding; and avoid it, we need to make people understand each other through communication. To have an effective communication, the basic thing that is needed is to speak the same language.

The Education Blueprint is for Vernacular Schools and Unity

In the latest Malaysian Education Blueprint for the year 2013 until 2025, it is obviously written that vernacular schools will be maintained and implemented. In achieving unity, the Education Ministry plans to ensure that the education system provides all students with the opportunity to interact with individuals from a range of socio-economic, religious, and ethnic background as well as geographical locations. This is to make the young people to learn to understand, accept and embrace differences. The measures to achieve the goal includes raising the Bahasa Malaysia proficiency; scaling up the RIMUP programme to encourage intergroup friendships through co-curricular activities; introducing a compulsory community service component; and revising Moral and Islamic education elements.

The current situation of schools

Although there are one major race enrolling in each school, however there are also other races who are studying in each type. For instance, in the SK schools, there are students from all ethnics in the nation. In the SJK (C) schools, although the communication language is in Mandarin, however there are still Malays and Indians children enrolling into it.

According to the 2011 Malaysia Education Statistics; in SK schools, there are 94% of Bumiputera students, 1% of Chinese students, 3% of Indian students while the remaining are from other ethnics. Meanwhile in the SJK (C) schools; there are 9% of Bumiputera students, 88% of Chinese students, 2% Indian students and 1% from other ethnics.

To put it short, it means that the Government allows any Malaysian to enrol in any type of school as they wish to. There are no barriers for anyone to enrol in the type of school that they wanted.

Why the differences?

The differences between a national school (SK) and a national-type school (SJK) is perhaps the language classes, medium of language used in teaching, the management, and the name of the schools.

I did not do any professional survey on the reason why parents enrol their kids to the respective schools; but parents generally consider the quality of teaching, languages that are taught in the school and also the medium of language when it comes to choosing the best for their sons and daughters.

What if?

At the very base, what if all schools will be maintained, no matter a national school, a Chinese-based school or an Indian-based school? What if the only amendment is the syllabus of the education?

What if Bahasa Malaysia and English language are maintained as the compulsory subject in every school while the students are compulsory to choose Chinese, Tamil or any mother tongue as the secondary language? By doing this, every Malaysian has the right to learn and educate in their mother tongue.

What if all medium of teaching used in every school is the same language? Certain people may worry that the children may not be able to cope with lessons not taught in their mother tongue. But our Malay and Indian friends have proven otherwise when they studied in a Chinese-based school. Some even excel in it.

By then, I believe all parents will only have to choose a school for their children to enrol in based on the quality of teaching and the geographical location.

Maybe it is the way that the suggestions were portrayed by some people has created a perception of closing down certain schools. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, no matter what suggestions that we may have for now, whatever is tabled in the Malaysia Education Blueprint must be continued until the end of its term before making any review. One of the weaknesses of the implementation of Malaysia’s public policies is that the policies usually changes with the change of the Minister. Let the education policy be implemented first, and then only analyse the results of the Blueprint for future considerations.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 9th October 2015.

Malaysia needs a Parliamentary Reform

In Malaysia, we have politicians saying and doing the darnest things. And that includes the Member of Parliaments and State Assemblymen.  We have seen the people’s representatives using vulgar words in ceramahs; representatives confiscating or demolishing illegal structures; representatives taking over the job scope of the enforcements; representatives discriminating other genders even in the Parliament; some making statements that don’t make sense; and some are just a proxy of certain political leaders that couldn’t make it to become the representatives.

What are the real tasks of a people’s representatives? Is the Parliament and the State Assemblies functioning as it is suppose to be? Do the people really understand what the roles of the MPs and State Assemblymen are?

In my honest opinion, I think generally Malaysians do not understand how a Parliament functions. And Malaysia needs a Parliamentary reform including the quality of people’s representative.

To put it simply, the main job of an MP is to make laws. They have to listen to the people’s voices and represent those voices to determine the laws of the nation. They have to bring the voices to the Parliament to debate and convince the prestigious hall to agree to any proposed law.

Unfortunately, the existing Parliamentary system and community’s mindset does not allow the Parliament to perform at its best.

Firstly, the people does not vote a candidate based on any individual quality, but based on a party. Hence, even people who have zero knowledge on legislation can be elected as the representative. People who act like thugs can even be elected to the Parliament.

Secondly, the system doesn’t encourage real engagement with the public on issues that can be tabled in the Parliament. Instead, most of the public engagements with the MPs are for reasons that are not related to legislations such as uncollected rubbish, damaged drains and even worse, family arguments. Although I cannot deny the fact that MPs in a certain way have to deal with the real local issues; but the main job of an MP should be about legislations. Therefore, an MP should be well-versed in the current issues of the nation; and they should know well what the people from their constituency wants.

Besides that, the Parliament doesn’t meet enough to allow for quality debates and decision making. In general, most of the Parliament in developed countries meets for about 120 days, while Malaysia’s Parliament meets for about 60 days per year.

The infrastructure and facilities such as researchers, assistance for public consultations and many others are limited to the MPs.

Researchers of the Parliament are very limited to assist all 222 MPs to research on information and facts before the MPs table in the Parliament and debate.

There are also other matters in the Parliament that needs to be reformed such as the debating system, public consultations, standing and ad-hoc committees to ensure in-depth debates and many others. The public should also be educated that they have the rights to voice out to their constituency’s representatives.

We need quality MPs and not those who creates unnecessary attention and publicity. That is only achievable by a Parliamentary reform from inside the Parliament and outside which is awareness to the public.

International Women’s Day – Make It Happen

Today, we mark one of the most important days for women; a day where we celebrate the respect and love towards women in appreciation for their social, economic and political achievements.

International Women's Day

Throughout my life, I have admired various famous personalities that has contributed to the world in different ways including women. And today, in conjunction with celebrating the International Women’s Day, I would like to give my utmost respect to them by mentioning them in this post.

My female family members

Throughout my life, the female family members of mine be it my mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin sisters; each one of them have played a specific role in building who I am today. They might not have ruled a country, invented great machines, fought for a cause. But they have loved me as a family member.

Catherine the Great

One of the most renowned and longest-ruling female leader of her country, has brought the golden era to Russia. She expanded the Russian empire, reformed the administration and modernised Russia.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Nobel Peace Prize Winner from Burma, she fought for the freedom of democracy in that country. She was named one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes.

Margaret Thatcher

The only women who have held the office as Britain’s Prime Minister. Also the longest serving British Prime Minister, she has challenged the status quo and ruled over men.

Helen Keller

Deaf and blind since the 18 months of age, she has defied the crtitics by learning how to communicate, earning a bachelor’s degree; becoming a famous author, political activist and lecturer. Myself as a Lions Club member, I am honored to be associated with the efforts of Helen Keller together with Lions Club to help and assist the blinds through our trademark SightFirst project.

Anita Roddick

The founder of Body Shop, I would give her the credit of founding one of the largest social enterprises in the world. Not only she has built a huge business empire, she has used the fame of her business to advocate human rights and environment.

Alicia Keys

Always been my inspiration, not only through her music but by her philanthropy works. She founded the Keep A Child Alive, a non-profit organization that provides medicine to HIV patient’s families in Africa. She has also contributed in various advocacy such as campaigns to raise funds for disasters, reducing poverty and many more.

To list all women whom I admired and respect is totally impossible, thus my list does not end in this post. Let us give respect and appreciation to all women in the world today and everyday.

Happy International Women’s Day!

UN General Assembly: Moderation

General Assembly, is the official meeting of the members of an organization or of their representatives.

Last week, people throughout the globe kept their eyes and ears on one of the largest General Assembly; the 69th United Nations (UN) General Assembly held at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

UN General Assembly

Many were inspired by the speech of Emma Watson advocating for gender equality and Leonardo DiCaprio  addressing the crowd on climate change. It is always inspiring to see influential figures campaigning for a good cause because people are more likely to follow their footsteps.

Apart from these popular figures in the world, one of the topic that has been discussed that has caught my attention is MODERATION.

This issue was raised none other than our own Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak. His popularity in the country or internationally is another issue, but let’s discuss about moderation which is far more important.

From his speech, there are several sentences that has caught my attention.

“The fight against extremism is not about Christians versus Muslims or Muslims versus Jews but moderates versus extremists of all religion.”

“By demonstrating moderation in the political process, we can ensure no one is left outside society.”

“By practicing moderation in religion, we can marginalize the extremists.”

“We must break the cycle where one group gains power only to wield it against the other. We should commit to more inclusive politics.

As far as I am concerned of all religions that existed in the world, there is none of any religion that teaches hatred and causing pain to one another. All religions teaches morality and showing respect to one another. It is the extremists that incites hatred into the people and eventually causes pain.

The pain, physically or emotionally caused by extremists might have caused them to gain power, but at the same time it creates hatred to the ones that are in pain and therefore seek for a revenge in the future. And thus, this creates a cycle that will never ends and both sides keeps on hurting one another until someone decided to become moderate and put it a stop.

As a youth and my peers which will have many more years ahead to live in the country, we should take the initiative to advocate for moderation among each other. Let us marginalize extremism.

I believe moderation is one of the major key to a stronger and better country. I believe in moderation. We believe in moderation.

 

“What is objectional, what is dangerous about extremists is not they are extreme but they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” – Robert F. Kennedy

The Voices of the Youth

Democracy existed in Malaysia since decades ago.

63 years ago, our forefathers witnessed the first local election in the George Town municipal council. 59 years ago, the first Malaya General Elections before the nation achieved its independence. The people of Malaysia have witnessed and conducted democracy at different levels; in the Government, in organizations, and even students in school. Sometimes, when family needs to decide where to go for dinner, they vote. Today, as a nation, we have achieved another new milestone, which is the election for Youth Parliament.

I am proud to be one of the generation that lived, not only to see the birth of the Youth Parliament, but to participate in it.

My fellow Malaysian youth,

I was born, bred and taught in Malaysia as most of us are. As typical Asians, we were always taught from young that we must listen and obey to our parents, our teachers and those who are older than us. We were told that we must not defy our parents words or we will be deemed as a rebel. Some parents even go to the extreme of deciding on their children’s education, job and even love for them. It is a norm for a typical Asian family that “adults command, children listen”.

Please don’t get me wrong. I totally agree that respect to the elders is one of the most important value of all and I am definitely proud that all Malaysian families teaches that. But at the same time, I believe in youth’s right to voice their thoughts and expression. Youth may not be right but so do adults, that is why there are lifelong-learning courses available throughout the world. It shows that adults needs to learn too.

Youth today, has the opportunity of experiencing early education; some smarter kids even have the ability to enter the university at a much younger age. With the advancement of technology and internet, youth can obtain extensive information and learn almost about anything and everything. And the Government accepted the idea. They accepted the idea by providing us an official platform to voice out our ideas and our needs; the Youth Parliament.

Today, I am proud to be nominated as one of the candidate to contest as the Youth Parliament member. And today, I say to all Malaysians across this great nation; I am contesting not to lead you. I am contesting to bring your voices, your ideas, your suggestions throughout the nation. I am contesting to bring all of us, youth – together to form a force to bring development for the nation. I am contesting for the betterment of ourselves – YOUTH.

My fellow Malaysian youth of today, we are better equipped with information to make better analytic decisions compared to the previous generations when they were at our age. Youth today does not necessarily need to be only a follower, we are able to lead. Let us do this together.

KITA BERSAMA!