The Karyawan — Volume 13 Issue 3

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Long-Term School Absenteeism – Issues and Implications






EDITOR Mohd Anuar Yusop

Long-Term School Absenteeism – Issues and Implications by Dr Bibi Jan Mohamed Ayyub BBM (L) & Nasyitah Tan Wah Ling SOCIAL


Mr Masagos Zulkifli: Leading by Collaborating by Nazri Hadi Saparin


Cabinet Changes and the Future by Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim


The Importance of Political Activism Among Youths by Fadli Fawzi



Begging: A Scam or Lifeline? by Nabilah Mohammad


The Hidden Abuse – Elder Abuse and Neglect by Rasimah Jar




The Education of the Malay/Muslims: Sustaining the ‘Catch-Up’ Process 33 by Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim COMMUNITY 19

Bridging the Gap between the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots” in the Malay Community by Norman Sawi

Support of the Malay-Muslim Community in the Fight Against Drugs by Hawazi Daipi

Raising Twin Girls through Preschool by Nur Husniyati Husin

EDITORIAL TEAM Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim Nabilah Mohammad Nuraliah Norasid Nur Diyana Jalil Winda Guntor

We welcome letters, comments and suggestions on the issues that appear in the magazine. Please address your correspondence to: Editor, The Karyawan Association of Muslim Professionals 1 Pasir Ris Drive 4 #05-11 Singapore 519457 T +65 6416 3966 | F +65 6583 8028 E


An Audio-Visual Feast with Shaiful Bahree by Nabilah Mohammad


Syed Gulab Shah – A Forgotten Luminary of Singapore by Abbas Khan BOOK REVIEW


Community’s Diagnoses: Review of Souvenir Dari Angkasa Lepas by Hassan Hasaa’ree Ali by Dr Nuraliah Norasid

The Karyawan is a publication of the Association of Muslim Professionals. The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the Association and its subsidiaries nor its directors and the Karyawan editorial board. © Association of Muslim Professionals. 2018. All rights reserved. Permission is required for reproduction.


The issue of long-term school absenteeism takes centrestage in this issue of The Karyawan as a factor that has an impact on the academic performance of a student. According to the article by Dr Bibi Jan Mohd Ayyub and Ms Nasyitah Tan on Page 15, long-term school absenteeism happens when a student misses 18 or more days of school during the year. Research shows that long-term absenteeism or LTA is often linked to lower socioeconomic status and that some of the reasons why a student may be absent from school include neglect, homelessness, the need to care for younger siblings at home, and so on. However, there seems to be a lack of publicly available data on LTA and because of this, it is difficult for a more in-depth discussion or study to be done. According to Dr Bibi Jan and Ms Tan, if the issue of LTA is not addressed effectively and in a timely manner, it could have a negative impact on the students and community in the long-term. I hope that their insightful article on the issue will encourage further discussion and lead to in-depth studies into LTA that can evaluate its impact on students and their academic performance. Such studies would also help in developing practical solutions to manage the issue and prevent it from worsening. Happy reading.




Masagos Zulkifli:

Leading by Collaborating


More than a decade ago, some years before he entered politics, Mr Masagos Zulkifli was selected to receive a prestigious community award, presented by local Malay daily Berita Harian. Mr Masagos was then the Chief Executive Officer for SingTel’s Global Offices. Despite being based overseas, he was actively contributing to the community through local Muslim non-profit organisation Perdaus. I was then tasked to inform him about the award. I spoke with his personal assistant who promised to ask Mr Masagos to return my call. Mr Masagos was travelling at that time and could only afford me a quick phone call. However, in the short phone call, he must have uttered the word ‘thank you’ at least ten times. He was grateful to the newspaper for the honour, but politely declined the award. He explained that he felt his contributions were “insignificant compared to many others in the community” and that it was “too big an award to be won by one person”. Whatever success he achieved, he said, is not down to him alone, stressing that we can only achieve things if we do it as a team.

In May this year, Mr Masagos was "It has also, to some extent, succeeded appointed Minister-in-Charge of Muslim in eroding our cultural values as Affairs, taking over the reins from Dr Malay/Muslims in the region, and also our Yaacob Ibrahim, who retired from the Malay heritage that we should uphold and Cabinet after 22 years, including 16 years continue to preserve. It can also divide our as the Muslim Affairs Minister. What does community, even among our family Mr Masagos bring to the table, as the new members," he said in Parliament. Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs? In an interview with BH, Mr Masagos gave GETTING TO KNOW THE NEW MUSLIM examples of how couples are ending their AFFAIRS MINISTER marriages simply because of differences in opinion on how Islam should be practised. Mr Masagos is widely respected by the asatizah fraternity for his deep knowledge He thus vowed to strengthen the Asatizah of the religion. He knows many of them Recognition Scheme (ARS) to ensure that closely because of his background in local religious teachers are on par with Perdaus, which he led as president from foreign educators who are seen to be more 1999 to 2006. ‘glamorous’. Prior to assuming the post, Mr Masagos was already the deputy chairman of Yayasan MENDAKI, assisting Dr Yaacob, who was chairman. Since February 2017, he was also made adviser to the People's Association (PA) Malay Activity Executive Committees Council, better known by its acronym MESRA.

On the economic front, he stressed that shifts in the global economy and the emergence of disruptive technologies has challenged Singapore's strong position in the region. This has resulted in some jobs becoming obsolete and yesterday's skills are no longer needed for the jobs of tomorrow. Mr Masagos’ take on religious extremism is also noteworthy as he Thus, Mr Masagos has had a sound elaborated that it is “not only about footing with various stakeholders in the terrorism”. He explained that extremist Malay/Muslim community encompassing attitudes may push one to be exclusive those in the religious, social and grassroots thus causing Muslims to isolate themselves Not long after, in May 2006, Mr Masagos ran in the General Elections as a candidate sectors prior to his appointment as Minister- from other communities – a problem in-Charge of Muslim Affairs. Along with which is already happening, he added. for the People’s Action Party (PAP), and his extensive history in serving the won as part of a team in Tampines GRC. Mr Masagos’ approach in dealing with In a published interview after the elections, community, he was thus able to hit the ground running. these challenges gives a glimpse to his Mr Masagos said he had been asked on style of leadership. a few occasions to consider standing for Mr Masagos is taking over at a time when elections, but declined. In 2006 however, He has pledged to build up the collective the community is facing challenges that he could no longer decline the invitation are largely external in nature. strength of three institutions, which he as he felt duty-bound to give back and dubbed the 3M – the Islamic Religious contribute to the community at the In his maiden speech in Parliament as Council of Singapore (MUIS), MENDAKI, national level. Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, and MESRA. Mr Masagos underlined three external After winning the elections, on 2 June challenges – the erosion of cultural values He also cited how he will work with 2006, Mr Masagos was appointed Senior by foreign influence, economic disruption the Malay political office holders and Parliamentary Secretary, before rising up Members of Parliament (MPs) – including the ranks until he became the Minister for and foreign extremism. Senior Minister of State Dr Maliki Osman, the Environment and Water Resources in On the issue of foreign influence eroding Minister of State Mr Zaqy Mohamad, October 2015, a position he still holds cultural values, he warned that foreign Senior Parliamentary Secretaries Dr today. Throughout his political career, religious teachers have already changed Faishal Ibrahim and Mr Amrin Amin – he had stints in the Education, Foreign how some Malays lead their religious as a team in the 3M. Mr Masagos made and Home Affairs Ministries. lives here. JULY 2018




Mr Masagos is taking over at a time when the community is facing challenges that are largely external in nature.

Mr Zaqy deputy chairman of MENDAKI, weeks after taking over the chairmanship by virtue of his appointment as Ministerin-Charge of Muslim Affairs. His pledge in ensuring the community is able to capitalise on the collective strength of MUIS, MENDAKI and MESRA was not just a philosophical concept. He understood that while there is no doubt each organisation is committed to working towards the betterment of the community, the instinct to ‘guard each other’s turf’ is human nature.

In his maiden speech Thus, his recent announcement of a in Parliament as joint-office by MUIS, MENDAKI and at Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) Minister-in-Charge MESRA will go some way in producing better cooperation and synergy between them. of Muslim Affairs, WGS will also house several other Mr Masagos Malay/Muslim organisations thus enlarging the prospect of real, effective underlined three collaboration. external challenges – Dr Yaacob’s approach too had been the erosion of largely consultative in the past and through this, he had played a key role cultural values by in guiding the community towards a progressive path. Mr Masagos’ leadership foreign influence, will see this consultative approach taken economic disruption to the next level. In the first few months as Minister-inand foreign Charge of Muslim Affairs, Mr Masagos has begun deploying as many mechanisms at extremism. his disposal as possible – from Malay MPs,

to community leaders to organisations – thus giving each party a stake in the future of the Malay/Muslim community.


Perhaps it is driven by his philosophy that ‘we must work together to achieve things’ demonstrated in my conversation with him years ago when he declined the award presented by BH. What is clear is, Mr Masagos fully understands that the complex challenges and issues faced by the community today cannot be solved or managed by one person, or even a group of people. It needs the collective effort of the entire community.

Nazri Hadi Saparin is Ass istant to Editor of Berita Harian/Berita Min ggu. The views expressed in this article are his own.

Cabinet Changes and the Future





Minister Heng Swee Keat. There are speculations that Mr Chan is the one leading among the three but, if Mr Lee’s The presence of more females in the remark about 4G leaders needing to be cabinet and political offices is long tested is anything to go by, it can be overdue. It is not only a testament to the surmised that Mr Ong and Mr Heng ability of women to take on the highest arguably face the more daunting tasks. The Malay/Muslim community bade offices in the government but also adds to Education and fiscal policies are probably farewell to Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who the much-needed diversity in the cabinet. the most visible or felt by the masses served as the Minister-in-Charge of compared to trade and industrial policies Muslim Affairs from 25 March 2002 to VYING FOR THE PRIME SPOT that Mr Chan, as the Minister of Trade and 30 April 2018 and who also held various Industry, oversees. The ongoing debates Singaporeans who are hoping for a other ministerial portfolios including clearer sign of who will be the next Prime on education and the looming uncertainty Communications and Information, and Minister will have to wait longer. As Prime over the future economy have left them Environment and Water Resources. Incumbent Minister for the Environment Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said earlier somewhat in a bind. and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli in January this year, no new Deputy Prime Minister or First Deputy Prime Minister Mr Ong’s call for shifts in mindset with takes over as the new Minister-in-Charge was appointed. regard to what defines success in of Muslim Affairs. It marks the end of an education – the shift from the pursuit of era when there were two Malay/Muslim Controversy appears to be brewing over paper qualifications to the pursuit of deep ministers in the cabinet. the length of time taken to decide. skills – is likely to hit a major stumbling Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, block because, on the ground, it appears Are there prospects of seeing more than that parents remain bent on ensuring that one Malay/Muslim minister in the cabinet while acknowledging that every succession is different, argued that one their children do well in PSLE and tread in the longer term? 52-year-old Dr Maliki thing that ought to remain the same is the shortest and most prestigious pathway, Osman holds the next most senior that each cohort will have to nevertheless such as the Integrated Programme (IP), position based on the Singapore order of pick one amongst themselves to lead to higher institutions of learning. precedence after Mr Masagos. By virtue and to accord him due support. He further of his current appointment as the Senior Students who do not make the cut for the stressed the urgency of settling on a Minister of State, he appears to be a more elite schools or programmes tend to prospective premiership candidate from candidate for a ministerial position but, among the 4G leaders. Based on a timeline fit a familiar profile: lower socioeconomic if the Prime Minister is seeking to groom status. In relation to this, there were he has sketched, Singaporeans should younger political office holders as future questions about whether Singapore’s know who their next Prime Minister ministers, the more likely contenders education system can address a nagging would be by end of 2018. from the Malay/Muslim community social concern: inequality. In response to are 1978-born Mr Amrin Amin, who Mr Lee’s retort was that Mr Goh was Mr Ong’s remarks on the second day of the was promoted to Senior Parliamentary debate on the President's Address in May Secretary in May, and Mr Zaqy Mohamad, speaking with the privilege of watching things rather than being responsible to this year about the pressing need to tackle 43, who was given new appointments as make it happen. He added that the 4G inequality, Mr Masagos asserted that the Minister of State in the Ministry of leaders need time for Singaporeans to Singapore's education policies must National Development and the Ministry be familiar with the capabilities of the enable each Singaporean to pursue their of Manpower. potential candidates, their ability to carry aspirations and realise their potential, out and defend significant policies and to regardless of their family background. A historic significance of the recent make the policies work, thus justifying cabinet changes is the promotion of Ms However, Professors Linda Lim and Pang Indranee Rajah to full Minister. Appointed that they deserve to lead. Eng Fong, in a commentary written for Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, One aspect of the race that is becoming Channel NewsAsia, argued that family Second Minister for Finance and Second clearer is that it has narrowed down to background is a very important variable Minister for Education, she brings the three candidates: Trade and Industry affecting educational performance and tally of women full Ministers to three. Minister Chan Chun Sing, Education earnings of individuals. Thus, changes Two women now helm ministries: Minister Ong Ye Kung and Finance within the school system itself will not Ms Grace Fu remains the Minister for necessarily bring about more equal Culture, Community and Youth while The recent cabinet reshuffle was an eagerly anticipated one because it marks the ascension of the fourth generation (4G) leaders and the retirement of several long-serving ministers.


Ms Josephine Teo is the newly-appointed Minister for Manpower.

performance of students in school. They alluded to the separate research by NTU associate professor of sociology Teo You Yenn, and NUS associate professor of social work Irene Ng, which confirms the dominant impact of family circumstances on student performance in Singapore today. Mr Heng’s main challenge is in facing the effects of an ageing population. The toll that the greying demographic is exacting on government spending is likely to intensify in the coming years. To meet this challenge, there was a pressing need to strengthen Government revenue. In February during his Budget 2018 speech, he announced that the Government planned to raise goods and services tax (GST) by two percentage points, from 7% to 9%, sometime in the period from 2021 to 2025. It led to unhappiness among some quarters and queries over whether there are alternatives to raising the GST, such as relaxing the 50% cap on the long-term expected real returns (including capital gains), under the Net Investment Returns (NIR) framework, that the government can spend. Amid mounting concerns and ensuing debates in parliament, Mr Heng reiterated that the government had looked at all the different taxes that it could change, even non-tax measures that it could undertake. While each of these has its merits, Mr Heng said that, considering the overall scheme of things, the Government decided the GST is still the most appropriate.

sparked by Mr Chan’s comments about having a “global mindset and global skillset” and another by Mr Heng who spoke about striving for multiple ladders of success and multiple peaks of excellence in education during the debate on the President's Address. It prompted a response from noted journalist, The Straits Times Editor-at-Large Han Fook Kwang, who, in a commentary written for The Straits Times, urged Ministers to “speak plainly” to the people. He argued that the one worried about holding on to one’s job or a mother concerned about her child’s schoolwork are longing to have their anxieties heard and understood. The terms used by Mr Chan and Mr Heng, which Mr Han described as “abstract”, may not be what the average Singaporean can relate to.

It is also likely to discourage some Singaporeans from freely expressing their views when the 4G leaders kick-start discussions to engage all segments of society to solicit views on charting the future.

The 4G leaders face tough challenges ahead: a disruptive economy that is poised to destabilise the job market, an ageing population that is placing upward pressure on social expenditure and hence taxes to raise government revenues, net immigration to prevent working-age population from shrinking, a society that is divided along class lines, the spread of online falsehoods, and the threat of religious extremism. Their leadership qualities and tenacity will indeed be tested. It remains to be seen who amongst the To be fair, both Mr Chan and Mr Heng premiership frontrunners would finally were making well-founded points about muster sufficient confidence amongst his the future of employability and education 4G peers to be appointed Deputy Prime respectively but Mr Han’s feedback was Minister or First Deputy Prime Minister also no less valid in that a scan of speeches and, eventually, the Prime Minister. and remarks made by leaders does suggest that their speaking in terms that the man in the street can relate to is scarce. This is a significant segment of the population that should be engaged, thus imperative for leaders to couch their language in a way archer/ Kassim is a Rese Abdul Shariff Aboo e for ntr that will reach out to them. Ce the h wit ordinator

Another related issue that emerged was the response by Mr Heng’s press secretary Lim Yuin Chien, who described Mr Han’s commentary as encouraging pandering and populism. Former Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh and former Apparently, convincing the public that associate editor of The Straits Times Bertha raising GST is the way to go is still Henson expressed concerns that the letter work-in-progress for Mr Heng. It does not goes against the spirit of considering all help that, across the causeway, the new views with an open mind and listening Malaysian government kept its election with respect and humility, which Mr Heng campaign promise to abolish the GST as pledged during the debate on President’s Singaporeans looked on wistfully. Address. Lim’s reply is reminiscent of the days when the government was less CONFUSING OR COMFORTING? consultative and more top-down in its More recently, the ability of the 4G leaders approach towards policymaking. to connect with the common people came under scrutiny. One instance of this was

Projects Co s ic and Malay Affair Research on Islam idiary of the bs su rch ea res (RIMA), the (AMP). slim Professionals Association of Mu

JULY 2018






The Importance of Political Activism Among Youths

Historically, young people have always been involved in politics. What is meant by politics is a form of engagement and commitment to change society and its norms, institutions and structures outside of volunteerism and pursuing a career. Politics here is not limited to politics with a big “P”, namely politics within formal political parties. Politics can also refer to engagements outside of political parties via informal groups or associations. Often, a large part of youth engagement with politics does occur outside of formal political parties as many would otherwise feel constrained with the inherently hierarchical nature of formal party life. STUDENT MOVEMENTS AS YOUTH MOVEMENTS The “classic” political youth movement is the student movement. Like other youth, students occupy the liminal period between childhood and adulthood. This liminal period is often a time of exploration and experimentation with new ideas. In addition to this idealism, students bring a youthful energy to their engagement with the world. This combination of idealism and energy coupled with the lack of adult responsibilities is raw fuel for social change. In this context, university campuses are often the incubator of social movements. This is especially so as a key facet of intellectual development in such institutions is the ability to think critically. Universities also profess to be elite (some would say elitist) institutions which also nurture a sense of selfconfidence and independence in grooming future leaders of society. Student activism is also groomed by the academic staff who see the value of activism for both the development of their students and society in general. HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF STUDENT MOVEMENTS There is historical evidence that school campuses, especially the campuses of higher learning, are incubators of student

movements. One of the most famous examples is the student movement of May 1968 in France. This began when students at the University of Paris occupied the campus in protest of several students who had been expelled for discussing issues of class and social injustice. This movement eventually grew larger as the students were joined by various unions in France who went on strikes in solidarity with the students. The unrest rose to such an extent that the famous French general turned President, Charles De Gaulle, left the country. De Gaulle would return with a vengeance as his party won the subsequent elections decisively, and French society would be forever changed. The events of May 1968 are widely regarded as a liberating point where traditional hierarchies were upended throughout French society. Even Singapore in the ‘60s was a hotbed of student activism. The Chinese school students, long marginalised by the colonial government were involved in petitioning for a number of issues ranging from being forced to participate in National Service to organising and collecting money for the local university which would be known as Nantah. Amongst the English educated students, one epochal event which galvanised the student body was the sedition trial of the editors of Fajar, a student publication of the University Socialist Club. With the help of DN Pritt and one Lee Kuan Yew as junior counsel, the students managed to win the case. The underlying impetus of such youth movements is a sense of idealism for a better world and a better future that the youth of today will eventually inherit. This élan is captured in Wordsworth’s famous prose that “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive. But to be young was very heaven”. DECLINE OF STUDENT ACTIVISM However, the world today is older and more cynical than the salad days of the

youth of the past. The consumerist culture which pervades late capitalist societies incentivises young people to forge a career than forging a new society. This is reflected in the changing nature of the educational system. There is a shift from the classical humanist idea of education as moulding people to live fulfilled, self-actualised lives to education as a systemic tool of governments and businesses to create a compliant and productive workforce for the economy. Universities are expected to be yet another node of this system to be profit-making centres attracting overseas students (and their tuition fees) rather than institutions meant to address issues that afflict the society they are based in. The modern university is thus marked with precariousness and insecurity. The insecurity of students saddled with student loans and an uncertain future and the precariousness of the tenure of academic staff working in these institutions. Such precariousness does not create a fertile environment for activism as people become more concerned about their own individual welfare rather than thinking about the development of the common good. There are also various mechanisms of social control which diminishes the effectiveness of youth activism. While one may point to various laws which restrict publication, speech and assembly, arguably just as effective are various platforms which co-opt youths channeling their energies to either charitable or recreational pursuits. Youths in such platforms are provided with funding and organisational support, but the objectives are either predetermined or set within narrowly circumscribed boundaries. POLITICS AS FORMATIVE EDUCATION To their detractors, the decline of student activism need not be an unwelcome development. After all, young people are often said to be naïve about the realities of life, and untutored in serious topics such JULY 2018




as politics. Such issues are best left to this inevitably makes them reflect on their At a societal level, adults who have the experience and own situation. While cyberspace is maturity to adequately deal with them. being regulated, there is still a more engaged and However, there are very pertinent reasons increasingly far more space for alternative ideas and why youth engagement with political concepts to proliferate as compared to the energised youth issues of the day is important both on an older mediums of communication, such individual and societal level. as newspapers. is beneficial in At the individual level, involvement with However, the study also found that youth catalysing the political activism explores new ideas and participation in civic life was not merely necessary changes challenges old orthodoxies. It encourages limited to cyberspace. For example, youth youth to take ownership of their future involvement in various social groups rose to social norms, and their country’s future. As political from 53% in 2010 to 68% in 2016. activity is necessarily a social activity, it Singaporean youths generally strongly institutions and forces young people out of their own agree that they have a part to play in personal comfort zone to interact with developing Singapore for the benefit of structures so that people of different backgrounds and ideas. current and future generations. Thus, Thus at an individual level, engagement Singaporean youths do have the passion to they are better with politics should be considered as be engaged with the general development equipping youths with a practical wisdom of Singapore. It remains a question placed to address a in handling life as part of a healthy however, how such passion will translate maturation process towards adulthood. in terms of political activism. changed world. At a societal level, a more engaged and Thus to conclude, historically, youths have History is littered energised youth is beneficial in catalysing always played an active role in determining with once-successful the necessary changes to social norms, the course of their society. This role is a institutions and structures so that they are formative one and beneficial for both the societies that were better placed to address a changed world. individual and society. Today, one can see History is littered with once-successful the familiar youthful effervescence unable to adapt societies that were unable to adapt to simmer on the many platforms that change. By challenging settled conventions proliferate online. to change. By and giving a sense of ownership and youth activism in politics can challenging settled autonomy, play a pivotal role in ensuring a country field does not ossify into irrelevance. sing in the conventions and yer practi a w in la s a st is zi tere Fadli Faw . He has in religion, resolution e om ut fr g sp THE SINGAPORE CONTEXT in di of rang giving a sense of e of areas law. wide rang Despite the challenges stated above, one s and the ic lit po y, stor hi gets the sense that youth activism in ownership and politics, especially outside formal institutions is not dead. In a recent survey autonomy, youth by the National Youth Council in 2016, it was found that the popular forms of civic activism in politics engagement by youths today is online. can play a pivotal This is unsurprising as with greater access to information both locally and role in ensuring a internationally, youths today are presented with a veritable buffet of ideas country does not and events to gain inspiration from. Young in Singapore see what their ossify into irrelevance. people contemporaries in America, Egypt, Malaysia and Hong Kong are doing and 10 T H E K A R Y A W A N Š ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.


The Education of the Malay/Muslims: Sustaining the ‘Catch-Up’ Process





Earlier in March this year, the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) organised its annual Community in Review seminar. Themed Education Strategies in the New Era: Sustaining Progress, the seminar sought to discuss the strategies that can be pursued to sustain the progress that the Malay/Muslim community has been making in education.

make progress or you did not do work, but because the circumstances have changed and the other communities may have done better, may have done worse. Those are things which are not within the Malay/Muslim community’s control. So, it is better to concentrate on doing your best, the best possible you can do for yourself and aim for steady progress. Make it step-bystep, year-by-year and gradually from one year to the next do better bit by bit. But from one decade to another, you will do better dramatically. And I think if you look at the trend, if you look at the charts, you will see that. From one year to the next small improvements, sometimes down sometimes up. But if you look at it on a ten-year basis, I think we can in good conscience say over ten years each decade has been better than the previous one.”

HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE In other areas, for instance the economic one, catch-up occurs when following nations learn and adopt models or policies that led to the success of the leading nations, and the process ceases when the knowledge discrepancy between the leading and following nations becomes very small and eventually exhausted.

Singapore, as one of the East Asian Tigers, achieved developed economy status – along with the likes of Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – despite emerging from a region comprising predominantly of countries that to date remain developing economies. What probably helped was the standards used to benchmark its economic progress: those of developed economies or leading cities, which mainly are the more distant Western ones. Alluding to Mr Lee’s speech, these too are The concern with not comparing the a sort of “moving target”. It is worth noting educational performance of the Malays that, in the economics literature, there is with other communities is that the scarce evidence that catch-up occurred competitive mentality, the urgency and intense commitment which can be elicited with developing economies using their by the process of catching up with leading own starting points as benchmarks. communities are absent. It is hard to make the case that seeing how well one is doing The economic analogy has some degree from one’s own starting point would help of relevance to education because, as with uplifting educational attainments, it too to inculcate the values that would help has to deal with the human and social boost performance. Malay leaders, like attitudes and the contemporary challenges Back in 2012, Prime Minister Lee Hsien the late former President of the Islamic in the catch-up process. Loong, during his speech at the Third Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) National Convention of Singapore Muslim and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of It can be argued that benchmarking Professionals attempted to address the MENDAKI, Mr Ridzwan Dzafir, had educational progress against that of other absolute progress versus relative progress asked the Malays to relish competition. communities that are leading remains conundrum: In an interview with The Straits Times relevant if the historical, sociological as reported in March 2010, while and policy factors are factored into “I think there are some areas where you are acknowledging the progress made by consideration. For example, in PSLE closing, some areas where the gap is still the community, he noted wistfully that Standard Mathematics, while there has there. I think we cannot ignore them but the Malays can do much more to narrow been progress over the 30-year period we should not just focus on the difference the gap with other races in areas like as shown in Chart 1, the widening gap between the Malay community and the education and skills. between the Malays and other communities other communities because first of all it is a does provide some information which moving target. So, if you are measuring He said: would be perilous to ignore. how well you are doing, I think you have to “We must be more ambitious, more see how well you are able to do from where competitive, just like our forefathers who your starting point is because if the target were migrants.” moves it may not be because you did not During the question and answer session, a participant drew attention towards the term “progress” featured in the seminar theme. In his view, while there has been progress in absolute terms (the community’s educational attainments benchmarked against its own starting points, not against the progress of other communities), in relative terms, it is far less convincing as to whether actual progress has been made. This, he argued, is due to the Malays being overrepresented where “they don’t want to be”, and underrepresented where “they want to be”. In terms of educational attainment per se, this can be interpreted to mean overrepresentation in the ‘lower’ streams in secondary schools; and, at post-secondary levels, overrepresentation in ITE and private education institutions and underrepresentation at university levels.



100.0% 90.0% 80.0% 70.0% 60.0% 50.0% 40.0% 30.0% 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Another example is the stark contrast between the performances of Malay pupils in PSLE Standard Science and that of other communities. Not only is there an overall decline over the 30-year period but also a jarring gap between the attainments of the Malays and other communities, which tended to widen post-2000. CHART 2: PERCENTAGE OF PSLE STUDENTS WHO SCORED A*–C IN STANDARD SCIENCE

100.0% 95.0% 90.0% 85.0% 80.0% 75.0% 70.0% 65.0% 60.0% 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16







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At the community level, a more nuanced approach to facilitating catch-up is needed. The lagging community’s self-help organisations should seek to differentiate its programmes and schemes from those offered by schools and government agencies so that they address unmet needs. Inculcating the catch-up mentality This is probably best achieved if the requires a certain level of anxiety to be self-help organisations work in partnership created, as the two charts above are with the public and even private sectors to capable of. The same effect cannot be deliver their services. For example, if they produced if a chart depicting only the offer tuition programmes, rather than community’s progress is shown. The provide those that replicate the school comparison with leading communities classroom or its learning support also helps the lagging community to programmes or private tuition centres, visualise where it ought to be. they may wish to collaborate with schools and private tuition centres so that their TAKING A MICRO VIEW OF THE resources can be channelled towards CATCH-UP PROCESS identifying and bridging the gaps, thus The challenge in catching up stems mainly from oversimplifying the possible fulfilling unmet needs. Alternatively, they can focus on improving their outreach causes of the lag. Leaders often speak of the need for mindset change, which can be strategies as many students from problematic because it tends to downplay low-income families tend to miss out on available education schemes or are the significance that structural factors plagued by absenteeism problems. constitute in impeding progress in the education and social spheres. A student CHALLENGES IN CATCHING UP from a dysfunctional family may need time to level up with her peers. Before she The path to catching up is riddled with could catch up, streaming in school, which challenges. When comparing with leading communities, it is worth acknowledging occurs at an early age, gets in her way, lumping her in the lower stream together the factors that contribute to the leading community’s socioeconomic position. with other students ranging from Taking another minority community as an underperformers to late-bloomers to the example – namely, the Indian community hands-on oriented. It further strains her – one can argue that figures on the coping mechanism: the stigma, a longer performance of the Indian community in pathway and the lack of networks with education are enhanced to a noteworthy better performing students in higher streams. In such an instance, catch-up can extent by immigrants from India, many of whom in recent times are better be better facilitated if the complexity of educated professionals and entrepreneurs. her situation and her strengths are In the span of 20 years between 1997 and recognised: she may be a bright student 2017, the share of Indians in the resident who is underperforming because of the population rose from 7.6% to 9.0% (while less-than-favourable conditions which that for Malays declined from 13.9% to deprive her of time, networks and a 13.4%). In contrast, such immigration has conducive space for her schoolwork. As barely taken place in the Malay community. the participant pointed out, educational performance should not be seen as a PM Lee said in his Malay speech of “standalone” issue but in relation with National Day Rally 2010 that it is not easy other social realities with which it is to attract Malay or pribumi talent from closely intertwined. Southeast Asia but the government will continue to try. The inflow of talent and Neglecting the widening disparities between the Malays and other communities, as are observable in both charts (particularly from 2000 onwards), can have implications on the resolve to arrest the slides.


wealth that the Indian community enjoys, and similar advantages enjoyed by other communities, is hard for the Malay community to reproduce, thus putting a damper on the catch-up process. Nor can this issue be addressed simply by harping on mindset change. While government policies cannot favour any ethnic group, the Malay community can flag the class-based issues within it. The ongoing national concern with social class divide, as the Institute of Policy Studies' (IPS) study on social capital found, and which has also been discussed by academics, most notably in the book by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) academic Teo You Yenn, This is What Inequality Looks Like, presents an opportunity for rigorous discussion that hopefully would lead to policies aimed at further levelling the playing field, thus accelerating the catch-up process. The future is likely to see radical shifts in the social and economic realities in Singapore. There are some developments that a lagging community can capitalise on: the lesser emphasis on grades and more on skills and talent development, the broadening of the definition of success, the challenge mounted against elitism, and the disruption that will permeate job markets as technology advances, which may be scary but may also be the panacea for job woes as it offers a whole new range of possibilities. Whatever the circumstances may turn out to be, the lagging community should not lose sight of its goal of catching up and continue to build on the efforts made over the last three decades.

Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim is a Researcher/Projects Coordinator with the Centre for Research on Islam ic and Malay Affairs (RIMA), the research subsidiary of the Association of Musl im Professionals (AMP).


Long-Term School Absenteeism –


According to a recent report by Mercer, dated 27 October 2017, Singapore productivity loss due to sickness absenteeism may reach S$3.3 billion by 2030. This is based on a study released two days earlier. The study reveals that an ageing workforce and medical cost inflation in Singapore are projected to drive up average medical costs per employee by 108% to S$1,973 per year in 2030, representing a mounting financial burden for employers. Mercer, together with Marsh & McLennan Companies' Asia Pacific Risk Centre (APRC), issued the report on Aging Workforce: Cost and Productivity Challenges of Ill Health in Singapore1. Just as how sickness absenteeism creates a negative impact on economic performance, absenteeism from school creates a host of issues that have shortand long-term implications. While there are research statistics on the impact of absenteeism on the workforce, there appears to be a lack of systematic study and data on the increasing number of students absent from school for prolonged periods, a limitation the writers experienced while researching for this paper. This non-academic article attempts to gather and present basic information



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about the issue of extended absence from school and the impact this negative educational trend exerts on students across all levels on the personal and societal fronts. The writers wish to posit through this article that it is crucial to commence conversations and studies about this shift in attitudes towards school and education.

Irregular attendance in school has proven to be an early warning sign of academic risk and premature school withdrawal. In a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education identifying “chronic absenteeism” as a hidden educational crisis, long-term consequences cited include a population that is less educated, less healthy, underemployed and less financially stable. A study that looked into WHAT IS LTA? the relationship between health and According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, chronic absenteeism also revealed that the absenteeism is defined as chronic absence less education adults have, the more likely from work or school. The concept of they are to smoke, be overweight, have Long-Term Absenteeism (LTA), also diabetes and die prematurely of certain known as Chronic Absenteeism (CA), in chronic conditions3. schools is not a new development nor is it unique to Singapore. It is a universal LTA IN SINGAPORE SCHOOLS phenomenon that cuts across developed LTA is anecdotally observed by educators and developing nations. According to and counsellors to exert severe negative literature on students’ chronic absenteeism, impact on the psyche and development of a student is considered a CA or LTA case children and youths. Poor attendance in if he or she misses 10% or more of school school affects mastery of core subjects and days for any reason, excused or unexcused. relevant competencies needed later on in In the Singaporean context, this translates life. Long periods of absence from school to 18 days of school, a number which can result in juvenile delinquency and many parents are not aware of. premature withdrawal from school as students fall further and further behind in Research findings across developed and their studies. For students from developing nations have linked LTA or low-income families exhibiting CA to socioeconomic status (SES). It is behaviours of LTA, education ceases to be observed that students from lower SES an effective social leveler. This in turn will families are more vulnerable to this likely bring about a further widening of worrying trend. According to Tyrone the social divide in Singapore. Howard, an associate dean of inclusion and an education professor at the University At the pre-primary level, while 99% of of California, Los Angeles, “chronic children in Singapore are enrolled in absenteeism is typically one of the most schools by the age of six each year, reality ardent signs that something serious may on the ground paints a different picture. be happening with a student and his or her Preschool educators and social workers say family.” He noted that students who skip it is a challenge getting the children of school may be caring for younger siblings, lower-income families to attend school experiencing neglect or homelessness. In regularly despite the readily available Singapore, a 2015 newspaper article financial support. Based on personal reported educators, social workers and interviews with some early childhood school counsellors flagging the high educators, many children who stay away school absenteeism rate of children from from school are from the Malay low-income families as a concern2. community4. Some of the reasons cited for this are the lack of exposure as well as a weak grasp of the English language, the

3 4


Irregular attendance in school has proven to be an early warning sign of academic risk and premature school withdrawal. In a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education identifying “chronic absenteeism” as a hidden educational crisis, long-term consequences cited include a population that is less educated, less healthy, underemployed and less financially stable.


school’s main language of instruction, at home. This causes children to be handicapped in their learning and their self-confidence affected when they find themselves lagging behind their peers. The problem is aggravated if their families face issues such as domestic violence or incarceration of a parent5.





Poor school attachment

Poor family health (mental, physical, financial)

LTA at the preschool level is alarming for its snowballing tendency. Children who are chronically absent at kindergarten and Primary 1 levels are much less likely to be reading and more likely to become academically weak at Primary 2 or Primary 3. With an inadequate foundation, learning gets compromised at the upper primary levels and these students are four times more likely to drop out of school post-primary education.


High family mobility (not having stable home)

REASONS FOR CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM Oftentimes, student absenteeism is an indicator of challenges occurring within the family, school, community or even the student himself or herself. Researchers categorise the underlying causes into student-specific factors, family-specific factors, school-specific factors, and community-specific factors as illustrated in Tables 1 to 4. The causal factors are typically dependent on the student’s age and social context. Kindergarten absenteeism is most strongly related to family factors, for example, children whose parents suffer from substance abuse, or whose work schedules make it difficult for them to get their children to school each morning. For teenagers, absenteeism is usually associated with student or school factors such as fear of being bullied or disengagement with school.


Emotional well-being School phobia and anxiety

Academic difficulties Lack of resilience Lack of sense of belonging Low self-esteem

Low socioeconomic status

Low education level of parents Large number of siblings Not living with both natural parents Family disruption


Domestic violence

Physical disability

Inadequate food and clothing

Chronic illnesses and trauma

Substance abuse

Language impairment Poor transportation


Low cognitive functioning

Low educational expectations

ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia

Poor parenting style

Autism or other developmental/ learning difficulties

Sibling has dropped out Low contact with school Lack of conversations about school Parental attitude towards education Low parental press Absence of positive role model Victim of abuse or neglect Incarcerated parents


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Incidence of bullying Poor school culture/ethos Poor teacher-student relationship Low quality teaching staff Weak home-school link Lack of safety in school Lack of peer support


Lack of reliable transportation Availability of jobs that do not require formal education Unsafe neighbourhoods Lack of social and education support services

A CASE FOR NATIONAL STUDY ON LTA drop out of school”. Khoo also said that Recognising the detrimental effect of LTA, “early guidance and support would give efforts have been made at both grassroots the child a better chance of (fulfilling) and governmental fronts to address the his or her potential.” issue. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), preschools and voluntary Be it methodologically collecting and welfare organisations (VWOs) work with analysing data to derive policies and the community to take on the problem. strategies, increasing parents’ awareness Care Corner is one community resource of the importance of education especially while Beyond Social Service’s Healthy in the early years or reviving the spirit of Start Child Development Centre is another. ‘gotong royong’ between community The centre ropes in neighbours to help partners, social service professionals, bring children who often miss classes to educators, volunteers and families in need and from the centre, reducing the to improve the future of their children, frequency of absenteeism. In schools, everyone has a part to play in ensuring no social work-trained Student Welfare one child is left behind in the pursuit of Officers investigate and assist with the knowledge and a better life. LTA situation. They work with families in a bid to reduce chronic absenteeism of students from these households. Despite the measures, it is uncertain if the number of LTA cases is lessening or if the programmes are effective. It is therefore imperative that the authorities launch a national study to probe into the numbers, causes and repercussions of chronic absenteeism so that targeted strategies and policies can be formulated to address attendance issues. If the issue of LTA is not addressed effectively and promptly, it may lead to longer term devastating effects on individuals and the community. CONCLUSION LTA or CA is not a trivial issue. It has long-term impact on one’s success in life and development of an inclusive society. Education can only fulfil its promise as the great social equaliser – a force overcoming differences in privilege and background – when we work to ensure that students are in school every day and receive the support they need to learn and thrive. As early childhood expert Khoo Kim Choo aptly put, “Investing on services in the early years...will save a lot of economic and social costs subsequently when the child fails to catch up in the later years (and)


Dr Bibi Jan Mohd Ayyub, BBM (L) has been in the education service for 38 years and is currently a school counsellor. As an educator and counsellor, she has worked with many children, youths and their families to address a variety of issue s. Nasyitah Tan is an educator, social entrepreneur and sustainable textile artist who believes a more equal world is possible.




Bridging the Gap

between the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots” in the Malay Community BY NORMAN SAWI

JULY 2018




The spirit of giving, it seems, is alive and thriving in the community and this “There’s greater wealth in the community. Greater realisation that they play their bodes well for both part. They give enough resources for MUIS community and to run programmes,” said Dr Yaacob. Speaking in Parliament recently, newly appointed Minister-in-Charge of Muslim country. Affluence These indicators, while not exhaustive, Affairs Mr Masagos Zulkifli said that point to the fact that the Malay community, the monthly household income of the while perhaps still lagging when compared and a Malay middle Malays has increased sixfold in the span to the other races in Singapore, has made of 35 years. class may no longer good progress in the past three decades. In tandem with this increase in income be an aspiration, is the improved educational profile of the But building a resilient community requires more than just dollars and cents. but a reality for an Malay workforce. Today, only 1% of Malay/Muslim children do not complete CLOSING THE GAP ON INEQUALITY 10 years of education, and 94% of them increasing group The recent parliamentary debates on now have a post-secondary education, inequality in Singapore is a stark reminder within the Malay he added. of the double-edged sword of progress. There is an increasing number of ‘haves’ The profile of Malay workers is also community. However, increasingly diversified, with more Malays and ‘have-nots’ in Singapore and these two groups are increasingly wedged apart achieving affluence working in various sales and services through no fault of either side. A stratified and other related jobs in the office, alone cannot be society will be detrimental to perhaps its as compared to in the 1980s where 65% very existence in the long-term. of Malay workers were employed in the the end point in areas of production and related activities, Indeed, United States Senator Bernie and as cleaners and labourers, as shared Sanders once famously said that: “A nation community building. in the Convention Journal published by will not survive morally or economically the Association of Muslim Professionals Moving forward, an when so few have so much while so many (AMP) in conjunction with the Third National Convention of Singapore Muslim have so little”. Of course, in this regard, important step is for Singapore is in a much better situation Professionals in 2012. than the United States or many other more from this developed countries. In a media interview with Berita Harian earlier this year, shortly before he stepped affluent group to Singapore’s Gini coefficient is 0.36, which down from his position as Minister-inis equal to that of the United Kingdom and help others on their Charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim reflected upon the progress made better than that of the United States (0.39). way to affluence as The Gini coefficient is used to measure by Singaporean Malays. inequality in a given area and the closer well and contribute AN EMERGING MALAY MIDDLE CLASS the figure is to zero, the less inequality Sharing the latest zakat figures – an annual there is. Countries like Japan and some in Europe, with a substantive welfare system, to the wider society. tithe that Muslims contribute towards The Singapore Malay is now more affluent, according to various statistics. While this is an admirable progress for the community, reflecting the trend in the larger Singaporean community, there are still sections of the community who are lagging behind and require some form of help, as acknowledged by Malay/Muslim leaders.

community. According to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) – the statutory board which, among other things, administers the affairs of Muslims here – it collected $44 million in zakat last year.

those in need – Dr Yaacob said that a Malay middle class is slowly emerging – an ‘important component’ in any

tend to have a low Gini coefficient.


Singapore’s next generation of leaders are also aware of the need for the government to play a proactive role to tackle inequality by helping the underprivileged in society. Alluding to this fact in his speech in Parliament earlier this year, Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung said that inequality is a problem that Singapore has been tackling since the early days and this has continued to the present. He also mentioned that in contrast with other developed countries – where the economy has stagnated and created a widening group of economically disadvantaged people – the median income in Singapore has been steadily increasing. “Low-and middle-income families continue to experience real income growth and social mobility. Singaporeans have been enjoying a rising standard of living and are motivated to do well. This is both a result of our culture – who we are – as well as public policies,” said Mr Ong. At present, there are no readily and publicly accessible data equivalent to the Gini coefficient which we can use to derive an idea of the inequality that exists in the Singapore Malay community but it would be naïve to assume that the Malay community is immune to this social stratification. That is why, it is heartening to hear the leaders in the Malay community call for the ‘haves’ to play their part in helping the ‘have-nots’ get a foothold in the economy and play a part in their social mobility.

In the same debate, Mr Masagos called for the three main institutions in the Malay/Muslim community – MUIS, MENDAKI and the Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (MESRA) to build up its collective strengths, while also reiterating the importance of these institutions working together to help the community achieve progress.

respondent with Norman Sawi is a Cor Minggu. The views ita Ber / Berita Harian are his own. cle arti expressed in this

More importantly, he urged more successful Malays – the ‘haves’ – to give back to society. He said: "It would be unfortunate if we build a community that is merely rich in material wealth." National indicators are encouraging in this respect. A survey by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) in 2017 showed that one in three Singaporeans gave their time to volunteer in 2016, compared to one in ten in 2000. The number of volunteer hours nearly doubled, from 66 million in 2014 to 121 million two years ago. More recently, a straw poll by Berita Harian showed that the number of volunteers aged below 35 in mosques and Malay/Muslim organisations is increasing annually, especially in the month of Ramadan.

The spirit of giving, it seems, is alive and thriving in the community and this bodes well for both community and country. Affluence and a Malay middle class may A CALL FOR THE “HAVES” TO no longer be an aspiration, but a reality for REACH OUT an increasing group within the Malay In parliament recently, Nominated community. However, achieving affluence Member of Parliament (NMP) Mr Azmoon alone cannot be the end point in community Ahmad called upon more professionals building. Moving forward, an important and successful members of the community step is for more from this affluent group to to contribute their time and ideas in help others on their way to affluence as various organisations to further the well and contribute to the wider society. progress of society.

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Begging: A Scam or Lifeline?


interviews. We found out that beggars often fall into three main categories: the truly needy,; the ‘lackadaisical’, and the ‘professional’ beggars. Imagine you’re enjoying a meal at a café by the street when a man in tattered clothes comes alongside your table with eyes downcast and hands outstretched holding a disposable cup containing a handful of small change. What do you do – avert your gaze and disregard the beggar? Or fumble in your pocket for a dollar or two? For some, giving money to panhandlers is a natural thing to do. They let their innate sense of charity triumph over their skepticism and urge to judge. There are also some who lash out in disgust, and some who are caught in the middle, torn between good intentions and suspicions. Are beggars here really as destitute as they seem?

THE TRULY NEEDY The truly needy are those who turn to mendicancy because they genuinely have no way of sustaining themselves. This would include those who are physically disabled, mentally challenged and those whose circumstances make it tough for them to hold a job. One such individual is Rashidi (not his real name). The Karyawan team met Rashidi outside Joo Chiat Complex where he approached us and asked if we would like to donate any amount or buy a keychain for $10. When the Karyawan team asked if we could interview him, Rashidi was really keen to share his story.

For five years now, Rashidi, 29, travels from his home in Bedok to different locations around Singapore with a bag of keychains on his motorised wheelchair. The Karyawan team went to the ground to Rashidi has cerebral palsy, where part of the brain controlling motor functions has observe some beggars among the Malay/ Muslim community and conducted several been damaged. As a result, he suffers from 22 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

article by The Straits Times titled “Upset over Foreign Tissue Paper Sellers” dated September 2015, Singaporeans interviewed said ‘direct sellers’ such as Rashidi can earn $20 to $100 in a few hours. In addition, people with disabilities can earn more than $100 a day. In another article by The Straits Times titled “Begging an 'easy way out' for some S'poreans” on August 2015, the Ministry of According to his brother, disabled people Social and Family Development (MSF) like Rashidi who go around approaching mentioned that beggars can sometimes pedestrians with trinkets, prefer to be viewed as ‘sellers’. However, they continue fetch up to $200 in just a few hours. to be stigmatised by some as beggars. According to the Destitute Persons Act, begging is illegal in Singapore and “I am not begging. I prefer to call it ‘direct repeated offenders can be fined up to selling’. I get the keychains myself and I $3,000 or jailed up to two years. Individuals sell them. The organisation that was with no visible means of subsistence are helping me previously had posted me to admitted to welfare homes where they other jobs in the past, but I don’t earn undergo rehabilitation programmes to much from there so I decided to turn to this. Most of the time, people will help and prepare them for independent living, whenever possible. The number of support me,” Rashidi explained. destitute persons admitted into these Despite receiving generous handouts and homes was 250, 251 and 207 for 2014, 2015 positive response from the public, Rashidi and 2016, respectively. Consequently, the implementation of this Act seems to have shared that he also had his share of produced a community of unlicensed unpleasant encounters. peddlers who are technically, not begging. “People are generally nice to me. There are rare cases when I get mistreated. There was The National Environment Agency (NEA) once, I was asked to stand up because they imposes a nominal fee of S$120 a year and thought I was faking my disability. There stringent eligibility criteria to individuals who wish to sell goods on the street. were also people who doubted my Enforcement actions are taken against condition when they found out I have a repeated unlicensed offenders, and those mobile phone. Can’t handicapped people in genuine financial difficulty will be own a phone too?” Rashidi said. referred to social service agencies, voluntary Rashidi shared that he can earn up to $180 welfare organisations (VWOs) and selfhelp groups for appropriate assistance. per day on a good day. Most people will give him money without taking his keychains. Rashidi explained that he sells Rashidi added that the existence of ablebodied street peddlers is upsetting the on the street because he does not want to elderly or disabled Singaporeans who are be a financial burden to his family. earning a living this way. Some have even attempted to exploit him for monetary gains. When the Karyawan team asked how welfare organisations could help, he “A Chinese guy, whom I believed was part mentioned that he is not seeking any of a syndicate, approached me once to ask financial assistance as he prefers to be independent. Rashidi’s brother added that if I wanted to work for him. I declined. Rashidi bought his motorised wheelchair They often look out for people with disability and send them out to beg on the and mobile phone with the money he collected from his rounds of ‘direct selling’. streets. They will then take 70% of what we earned for the day,” Rashidi said. Indeed, earnings can be substantial. In an multiple disabilities from his waist down. He can speak, but with difficulty. Rashidi was accompanied by an able-bodied man who identified himself as Rashidi’s brother. His brother was there throughout the interview to help us communicate with Rashidi effectively.

TISSUE PAPER PEDDLING: A LACKADAISICAL ATTITUDE OR A JOB? If you frequent the mosques for Friday prayers, you would have likely seen groups of able-bodied panhandlers loitering outside the mosques, waiting for prayers to end. They are often ‘stationed’ at the entrances of the mosques and some will hand out packets of tissues for sale. Although they are sometimes ignored by the busy crowd, most people regard them with compassion. The Karyawan team approached a few ladies who were seen lingering outside a heartland mosque during Ramadhan, after the terawih prayers (nightly prayers during the fasting month), with tissue packets in their hands. However, compared to Rashidi, they weren’t as eager to talk to us. The team eventually managed to persuade one of them by the name of Azean (not her real name) who eventually agreed to spare a few minutes when the crowds thinned. “I’m a single mother who needs to feed six kids. You think I want to do this? I have standards, you know. I was a property agent last time. I worked in an office, I wore nice clothes. Then I met with an accident and things took a turn. I couldn’t work. My ex-husband got incarcerated. I have depression. Don’t be too comfortable in life, things can change in the blink of an eye,” she explained in tears. When the Karyawan team asked if she has approached relevant organisations for assistance, she nodded. “I have gone to a number of government agencies and self-help groups to request for help. I can bake. I wanted to start a baking business so I’ve asked for financial assistance from various organisations for a startup aid but nothing came out of it. They asked for documents to prove my situation, but it was very troublesome for me, so I left. Anyway, I am not begging, I am selling tissue papers,” Azean claimed.

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The Karyawan team also spoke to Mr Zul (not his real name), an officer working at the mosque, who has met Azean before. He shared that he had seen Azean outside the mosque for years – from the time her teenage children were still toddlers. Mr Zul also claimed that Azean’s daughters are now joining her in her ‘trade’. According to him, some of the congregants and mosque officers have seen a car dropping Azean and her kids off, a few metres away from the mosque, only to pick them up again when they were done. “They come here every week. We pity her children. It is not a good environment to grow up in. We fear that this will lead to an intergenerational problem. They will grow up to beg and then make their kids beg too,” Mr Zul said. The Karyawan team also spoke to Mdm Aisyah (not her real name), a mosque officer in a different mosque that is also facing similar issues. According to her, these panhandlers frequent the mosque weekly to beg. The number of beggars and their frequency swell up every Friday, especially during Ramadhan, and in the days leading up to Syawal. “They are usually the same faces. There’s a lady who looks like she is in her late 40s, who often come with her children. She has one daughter continuing her ‘trade’. The lady was once a zakat recipient but refused to continue, as begging allows her to garner more income. When we approached her, she argued and claimed that she is not begging but selling tissue papers instead. I offered her a booth to sell her tissue papers, but she refused,” Mdm Aisyah continued. Interestingly, Mdm Aisyah and her colleagues at the mosque have seen the lady driving off in a car. They also found out that she actually runs an online baking business on Facebook which has over 3,000 followers.


Based on our conversations with the people we interviewed, a great When the team asked how the Malay/ Muslim organisations and the mosques deal of these can help this community, she mentioned that the mosque officers consistently offer ‘professional’ beggars social assistance to these individuals but may be richer than they repeatedly decline it. some of their The practice of tissue peddling extends beyond the conventional understanding generous givers, of a job or an act of begging. Rather, it is a composite of the two. It is a job which yet, they remain incorporates elements of begging. While tissue peddlers view the act as beggars on the a job no different from the usual commodity exchange, it also entails the streets. This is commodification of emotions as part of the process. because most of In an AsiaOne article titled “Disguised them find begging Form of Begging?” dated October 2015, to be very lucrative, Dr Michael Loh, a retired organisational psychologist said that “the selling of tissue even more than paper is a disguised form of begging and with so much help available these days, begging is not by compulsion, it is by choice.” some jobs, consequently Selling tissue papers may not always be the best solution for someone capable of making it difficult making a living. In the long run, such persons could be better off picking up new to quit even after skills through the various governmentfunded training programmes and seeking gathering enough employment. resources to seek THE ‘PROFESSIONAL’ BEGGARS While many beggars are honest enough proper employment.

“It’s either a habit or she knows begging is the fastest way to make money. There is also another case of a lady who comes here to beg in a wheelchair. We’ve seen her walking normally without her wheelchair a few times,” Mdm Aisyah said.

simply to beg you for your money without pretext, there are others who utilise a variety of ploys designed to gain your sympathy or allay your doubts. These are people who beg as a career simply because they are good at manipulating the philanthropic feelings of the community. Their tatty dresses, simulated physical disabilities, and unkempt looks are

enough to elicit pity and money from many well-intentioned pedestrians. The Karyawan team had the opportunity to trail an elderly-looking couple who were begging at a coffee shop in Bedok North. The man had his arm bandaged and walked with a limp. We later saw them a few kilometres away and discovered that they were actually able-bodied young adults. By appearing old and frail with a limp and a bandaged arm, he managed to elicit a lot of sympathy (and money) from the patrons.

street. While one-off donations can help from time to time, perhaps it is better for them in the long run if we were to empower them and enable them to get help through a comprehensive social assistance scheme.

Nabilah Mohammad is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Specialist Diploma in Statistics and Data Mining.

Based on our conversations with the people we interviewed, a great deal of these ‘professional’ beggars may be richer than some of their generous givers, yet, they remain beggars on the streets. This is because most of them find begging to be very lucrative, even more than some jobs, consequently making it difficult to quit even after gathering enough resources to seek proper employment. TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE? There is a complexity of factors that may lead people to beg: low wages, limited access to decent-paying jobs, lack of awareness of assistance schemes, education, preference to beg because it’s lucrative, and so on. The issue of whether we should give to beggars can be a complicated one, but giving money to the able-bodied can sometimes be the least helpful option, as it is a temporary solution. Unless we’ve had personal encounters, it is definitely tough and time-consuming to differentiate between the truly needy and those who are out to exploit people’s generosity. Whatever the motivation that leads them to beg, the best option is to refer them to the relevant organisations that can better assess their circumstances. There is also the ComCare Hotline if you happen to come across any destitute persons on the JULY 2018




The Hidden Abuse – Elder Abuse and Neglect BY RASIMAH JAR


While family violence is more often • Neglect understood as domestic violence focused Deliberate refusal to meet the elder’s mainly on women and children, much basic needs including financial support. less is known by the public about violence committed towards the elderly in • Sexual Singapore, now more commonly known It includes, but not limited to, as elder abuse. Elder abuse is the most unwanted touching and all types of under-reported type of domestic abuse sexual assault or battery. worldwide, with its victims and witnesses often staying silent, says the World Health • Elder self-neglect Organisation. It estimates that for every As more elderly people opt to live on reported case in 2016, 23 others went their own, one of the most recent forms unreported. According to the Ministry of of elder abuse is self-neglect. Physical or Social and Family Development (MSF), mental impairment or diminished Singapore sees an average of 200 reported capacity can mean that an older cases of elder abuse every year from 2012 adult is no longer able to perform to 2016 but these numbers may well be essential self-care. They may lack basic the tip of the iceberg, given that there are personal hygiene, appear dehydrated, more than 400,000 people aged 65 and malnourished, or underweight, live above here. in increasingly unsanitary or dirty conditions, and be unable to pay bills or TYPES OF ELDERLY ABUSE properly manage their medications. AND NEGLECT Elder abuse can be described as any action Self-neglect can be a sign of depression, or lack of action, by a person or a caregiver grief, dementia, or other medical in a position of trust, which puts the problem, and in many cases, the older health or well-being of an elderly person person will refuse to seek assistance. at risk. Elder abuse includes physical, They may be in denial, feel ashamed emotional, psychological, sexual, about needing help, or worried about abandonment, financial exploitation, losing their independence. medication abuse and neglect of their welfare by people who are directly Elder abuse tends to take place where the responsible for their care. senior lives and their abusers are often adult children, main caregiver, or other • Physical family members. Elder abuse can also Infliction of physical pain including occur in institutional settings, especially bodily assault and physical long-term care facilities. confinement. WHAT ARE SOME RISK FACTORS FOR • Emotional and Psychological ELDERLY ABUSE? Verbal aggression like intimidation, A study has found that elderly victims humiliation, deliberate ignoring and with mental illness or failing cognition are making unreasonable demands. This especially vulnerable to psychological also includes instilling fear of violence, abuse, abandonment and financial isolation, harassment, threat, insults exploitation. and feeling of shame/guilt. Meanwhile, abusers who are mentally ill • Financial or dependent on the elderly for income or Exploitation and/or misuse of funds shelter are especially likely to abuse them and resources including theft, financially and also subject them to misappropriation of money, valuables psychological abuse by hurling taunts or and/or property. insults. Madam Rohana (not her real name),

a victim of elder abuse, described it quite clearly. Her unemployed son and his wife live with her in her three-room flat. In a teary interview, she spoke of how her daughter-in-law knocked her head against an iron gate till it bled. She also had her front tooth knocked out and fractured a finger. She said her son and daughter-inlaw harassed her constantly for money. The Abusers As older adults become more physically frail, they are less able to take care of themselves, stand up to bullying, or fight back if attacked. Mental or physical ailments can make it challenging for those who live with them. Abusers may be: • Experiencing frustration due to the reversal of dependency roles • Facing caregiver stress – this can lead to mental and physical health problems that leave caregivers burned out, impatient, and more susceptible to neglecting or lashing out at the elders in their care • Lonely and cut off from society • From a family with a history of violence • Poor at communicating with elderly victim • Financially burdened or dependent on the elderly victim The Victims Victims of elder abuse may refuse to admit that they are being mistreated. Some reasons are: • They don’t know what to do • They are often reliant on their abusers • They lack the capacity or knowledge to reach out to social workers or the community

JULY 2018




• Shame & Self-Blame – Abusers tend to blame themselves, believing that they are not good parents

Emotional abuse warning signs: • Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behaviour

• Worry that legal action might be taken against their abuser (unconditional love for family)

• Behaviour from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to themselves

• They may not even recognise that they are being mistreated and/or may not be able to report the abuse

Sexual abuse warning signs: • Bruises around breasts or genitals

Common characteristics of victims of elder abuse include: • Highly dependent on their caregiver • Socially isolated • Physically/mentally impaired • Vulnerable/naïve The vast majority of cases go unreported. Because of denial, dependence or unconditional love, many elderly victims cover up signs of abuse and protect the perpetrators. WARNING SIGNS AND GETTING HELP If you suspect abuse, but aren't sure, you can look for the following warning signs. Physical abuse warning signs: • Caregiver's refusal to allow you (helping professional/neighbour/ relative/friend) to see the elder alone

• Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing Elder neglect or self-neglect warning signs: • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores • Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes • Being left dirty or unbathed • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather • Unsafe living conditions (no running water, faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards) • Desertion of the elder at a public place

• Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists

Financial exploitation warning signs: • Significant withdrawals from the elder's bank accounts

• Unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises, welts, or scars

• Sudden changes in the elder's financial condition

• Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations

• Items or cash missing from the elder's household

• Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more medication remaining than it should)


• Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies • Financial activity the elderly couldn't have made, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden

Elder abuse is the most under-reported type of domestic abuse worldwide, with its victims and witnesses often staying silent, says the World Health Organisation. It estimates that for every reported case in 2016, 23 others went unreported. According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Singapore sees an average of 200 reported cases of elder abuse every year from 2012 to 2016 but these numbers may well be the tip of the iceberg, given that there are more than 400,000 people aged 65 and above here.

• Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions

• Seek help for depression. Family • If you are unhappy with the care you’re caregivers are especially at risk of receiving, whether it's in your own depression, but there are plenty of home or in a care facility, speak up. Tell • Healthcare fraud or abuse warning signs things you can do to boost your mood someone you trust or call any of the and outlook and overcome the problem. organisations or agencies that can help. • Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device • Find a support group for caregivers HELP – of the elderly. Sharing your concerns BE THE VOICE OF THE ELDERS • Evidence of overmedication or and experiences with others facing the under-medication same challenges can help relieve the Elder abuse is likely to continue to isolation you may be feeling as a occur and the sufferers often suffer PREVENTING ELDER ABUSE AND caregiver. in silence. No elderly person should NEGLECT have to live in fear. If you or someone If you’re a caregiver to an elderly person • Get professional help. If you can’t seem you know is experiencing elder or and feel you are in danger of hurting or to stop yourself no matter how hard family violence, get help immediately. neglecting them, there is help and support you try, it’s time to get help by talking You can also visit websites such as available. Perhaps you’re having trouble to a counsellor. controlling your anger and find yourself for more information. lashing out at the person in your care? Or If you’re a concerned friend or family other people have expressed concern at member, the following can also help to your behaviour or the tension between the prevent abuse of an elderly person: two of you? Recognising that there’s a • Call and visit the elder as often as you r Rasimah Ja problem is the biggest step to getting help. can, helping the elder to see you as a and Coach s of ar ye 25 Book author an th trusted confidante. t her more in has brough d expertise perience an ex ip As a caregiver, the following steps can sh er lopment to lead ve de an m and hu tions help you prevent elder abuse or neglect: • Offer to stay with the elder so the psychology als, organisa of profession erseas. thousands ov d • Take immediate steps to relieve stress caregiver can have a break—on a locally an and families write in her and burnout. You can help reduce your regular basis, if possible. mah loves to Coach Rasi a weekly and is now stress levels by regularly practising spare time p hi ns latio stress-relieving techniques such as • Monitor the elder's medications to Resident Re ngapore Expert for Si o channel meditation or deep breathing exercises. ensure the amounts being taken di ra rp MediaCo correspond to the prescription dates. a strong of 89.7FM with y nership ever • Request help from friends, relatives, or 30,000 liste 17. 20 y ar nu Ja local respite care agencies or find an • Watch for financial abuse by asking the week since adult daycare programme. Every elder if you can check their bank caregiver needs to take regular breaks accounts and credit card statements for from the stress of caring for an elder unauthorised transactions. and to attend to their own needs, if only for a couple of hours. • Identify the warning signs of abuse or neglect and report them without delay. • Learn techniques for getting your anger under control. HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AS AN ELDER • Take care of yourself. If you are not • Make sure your financial and legal getting enough rest, you are much affairs are in order. If they aren't, enlist more likely to succumb to anger. Have professional help to get them in order, a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and with the assistance of a trusted friend or take care of your own medical needs. relative if necessary. • Keep in touch with family and friends and avoid becoming isolated.

JULY 2018




Support of the Malay-Muslim Community in the

Fight Against Drugs


DRUG SITUATION Drug abuse is a complex issue that affects all communities. Malays, however, are significantly over-represented in the abuse of drugs. In 2017, Malays formed 52% of drug abusers arrested. This has increased compared to 10 years ago when the proportion of Malay drug abusers was 47%. Similarly, the proportion of new Malay drug abusers has increased from 36% in 2007 to 50% in 2017. Last year, 38% of drug abusers arrested are new, first-time abusers. 10 years ago, it was 18%. It has more than doubled and gone up in absolute numbers – new Malay drug abusers arrested per year increased from 187 in 2007 to 627 in 2017. The issue is compounded by the growing movement overseas to trivialise the drug problem. Our youths read about how drugs like cannabis are legalised overseas, how it seems to have medicinal benefits and may be less harmful or addictive. A survey conducted by the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) in 2016 found that young people below the age of 30 were more open-minded towards drugs, as compared to three years ago. Cannabis is the third most commonly abused drug in 2017.


It is evident that drug abuse destroys many lives beyond just the abuser – innocent young lives and families are harmed as well. We have also seen addictions affecting families inter-generationally.

NCADA’S ROLE IN ANTI-DRUG AWARENESS NCADA was formed in January 1995 to serve as a citizens’ advisory council to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on national anti-drug strategies and programmes. NCADA’s key roles include The claim that cannabis is not harmful is advising the Government on national not accurate. A team of psychiatrists and anti-drug strategies and programmes, researchers from the Institute of Mental harnessing community support for Health conducted a literature review on anti-drug programmes and promoting cannabis in 2015. Based on their review of Preventive Drug Education programmes to more than 500 papers from reputable educate the public on the dangers of drug international medical journals, there is addiction. Since 2012, NCADA’s additional clear evidence that cannabis is both mandate includes conducting research and harmful and addictive. For example, supporting Singapore’s international prolonged cannabis use can lead to serious anti-drug advocacy efforts. mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. To promote ground-up anti-drug initiatives and encourage community groups to assume a greater role in the fight against drug abuse, NCADA administers the NCADA DrugFreeSG Fund to provide

funding support for individuals and groups to organise anti-drug projects and events. Since its launch, an average of three projects are funded annually under the fund. In December 2016, NCADA launched the Anti-Drug Abuse Advocacy (A3) Network to leverage persons-of-influence to correct misperceptions of drug abuse and drug policies, and more importantly, to positively influence Singaporeans to lead drug-free lifestyles. NCADA will also be launching a NCADA social media campaign as part of the National Campaign Against Drugs in the later part of the year to encourage the community to play their part in supporting NCADA in the anti-drug advocacy. Together with the community organisations, NCADA plans to reach out to more young people and parents, so that our youths stay away from drugs and harmful lifestyle. We will also be reaching out to the family and children of drug offenders. NCADA, together with the Central Narcotics Bureau and MHA, works with multiple partners on our engagement efforts and programmes. Close partnerships JULY 2018




with the Malay-Muslim community are also formed to tackle the issue of offending and re-offending, and key community partners have come forward to contribute to this important cause.

Muhammadiyah Welfare Home, Riders Group, SimplyIslam, and Muslim Youth Forum, launched the Dadah itu Haram campaign. The campaign’s objective is to appeal to the Singapore Muslim community, with an NEW INITIATIVES BY MALAY-MUSLIM emphasis on the youths. This is a groundORGANISATIONS up, community-led initiative to spread In early 2017, the Association of Muslim the Islamic prohibition on drugs. The Professionals (AMP) developed and piloted outreach is focused on people-to-people, a counselling and aftercare programme to grounded on daily living experiences and ensure inmates have continuity of care invites collaborative partnership and from prisons to aftercare, to prevent them taking ownership of the issue. from re-offending. A major component of the programme is the case management of Since the campaign was launched, families of the inmates to help them be the coalition has reached out to 60,000 financially stable and economically individuals and recruited 200 volunteers. independent. The programme will cover More than 250 shops support this 150 first-time Muslim drug abusers from initiative, including 50 barber shops with the Drug Rehabilitation Centre. a reach of over 10,000 customers each week. The barbers are helping to spread In the second half of this year, PERGAS anti-drug messages by displaying Dadah will implement a second pilot run of the Itu Haram stickers at their shop entrances Insan Mukmin programme. The Insan and mirrors. Mukmin programme is the first evidencebased Muslim counselling programme NCADA is encouraged by the strong and was piloted in 2015 with a batch of support from the Malay-Muslim community, 24 first-time Muslim drug abusers. The particularly the youths and students, feedback received from the first pilot was who have been supporting us in the fight positive and PERGAS will continue a against drugs. NCADA will continue second run of the pilot involving a to collaborate with Malay-Muslim different group of inmates. organisations and the Dadah itu Haram coalition to step up preventive education In April 2017, Senior Parliamentary engagement efforts, and continue to reach Secretary Amrin Amin, together with the out to more individuals to spread the Dadah itu Haram coalition led by PERGAS anti-drug message. and partners from Safinah Institute,



CONTINUED COMMUNITY SUPPORT NEEDED The efforts to address the overrepresentation of Malays in drug abuse will require the community’s support in coming forward and volunteering to play a bigger role in the lives of Malay-Muslims, especially those who may be susceptible to crime and drug abuse, as well as to support Malay ex-offenders and their families. NCADA will continue to support the community’s preventive drug education efforts such as the Dadah Itu Haram campaign. We will also work with Malay-Muslim organisations such as Jamiyah, Pertapis, AMP, Muhammadiyah and PPIS to strengthen families and ensure that the children we love are protected from drugs. We envision a drug-free Malay community. From our Home Team officers, to our community partners, volunteers, and citizens, each of us plays an important part in making Singapore a drug-free nation. I am confident that if we work closely together, we will definitely achieve this.

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Raising Twin Girls

through Preschool BY NUR HUSNIYATI HUSIN JULY 2018




Our twins will be turning seven next year. 2018 is going to be their final year in preschool and frankly, it has been a long time coming given the fact that they have been in four childcare centres since 18 months young. Nazri and I are working professionals; he works twelve-hour shifts in a synthetic rubber plant in Jurong Island while I teach students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Yishun. In the second quarter of 2013, our then domestic helper Tim, needed to return to her homeland due to family commitments. My husband and I found ourselves in a quiet frenzy searching for a suitable childcare centre. Facing with the reality that we were going to enrol our twins in a 7am to 7pm childcare centre, our requirements had been rather simple. Their centre had to be primarily located within walking distance to home. Secondly, the centre must serve halal meals for our twin girls. Being 18 months young, we barely looked into the centre’s curriculum framework. This was because, at the unyielding advice given by their neonatologist months before, we had already signed up for their library cards and buying and borrowing books to read to our pre-term babies before bed. Being the young parents we were, we were quick to introduce them to swimming and getting our toddlers to be physically active with a preschool gym instructor who incidentally was their aunt. Many hands were needed to raise a child; what more twins.

teacher-in-charge of the Playgroup class took precedence over curriculum. The centre was newly established, was spacious and air-conditioned with an adjoining infant-care but did not have a halal kitchen. Thankfully, its manager was willing to accommodate to me packing slow-cooked porridges from home. Nevertheless, Nazri and I had been pleased to attend their first Parent-Teacher Conference with their new teacher to learn that they had developed sociallyacceptable group skills and were able to cope with the centre’s in-house early literacy, basic Mandarin, early numeracy, gross motor development skills as well as play skills curriculum.

When we relocated, we found that our requirements barely changed when we looked for a new centre except that we were more selective in looking for centres offering Malay Language. As our choices streamlined to two, we settled for the one which was approximately four feeder bus stops away because this centre seemed more established with courteous and professional staff. It also offered plenty of opportunities for parental involvement. Nazri and I happily attended all their festival-based celebrations, witnessed our first and second born run their toddler hearts out in their annual Sports Day and took part in weekend parents’ workshops such as chocolate-making and baking with our twins. By the end of their nursery years, we were most grateful to this centre as its staff painstakingly helped wean our Given their young age, we had been more twins from bottle-feeding (although this was mostly initiated by us), assisted us in concerned about possible abuse at the centre – then, there had been reports in the toilet-training them and soon, the twins were able to dress themselves at the tender media about a childcare teacher who was caught on CCTV abusing a child under her age of four. It was also a plus that the twins charge. The childcare centre was going to continually had a fixed group of friends to share lots of good memories with them. be an interim one anyway because Nazri and I were waiting to move into our own Outside of weekday preschool, we were home in the northern part of Singapore. Our twins’ social emotional well-being and bringing them to local places of interest like the nearby Yishun Park, Mandai Zoo, getting them used to the routine of Science Centre and River Safari as well as dropping off and fetching and the entire attending affordable children’s plays with emotional rollercoaster of separation them at the Esplanade and theatrettes in anxiety coupled with a twice-changed 34 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

community centres. One could say that as parents, we allowed them to engage in active learning in their preschool while encouraging them to be cultured and well-rounded through our weekend activities. As soon as they turned five, travelling four bus stops to and fro grew increasingly taxing and work too became more demanding for the both of us. It came as a blessing that we were able to enrol our twins into the new kindergarten just opposite our block; its partner childcare functioned next to it and its curriculum was congruent to that of the kindergarten. This meant that the twins attended childcare in the morning and were brought to their kindergarten class in the afternoon before returning to the childcare until either parent fetched them. This third centre had very driven staff and a robust curriculum; one which focused on the child’s active learning in exploring the environment, and for them to have strong interpersonal skills and a good foundation in thematic literacy and numeracy learning corners. Given that our twins were due to enter Primary One in a couple of years, this centre seemed promising. However, it was not meant to last. Months later, we pulled them out of this centre in order to accommodate a new living arrangement. Our family of four was about to welcome a new addition. Due to circumstances we had faced then, we saw ourselves moving out of our own home and relocating back to the eastern part of Singapore in the comfort of my parents’ double-storey terraced home. Thankfully, we were still able to place our continued focus on our twin girls’ preschool education. Our pre-term babies were ahead of all their peers in their class (according to their class reports), able to form and speak in sentences more eloquently than most five-year-olds, they were curious, and willing to learn and pick up new skills like cycling and playing the violin. One thing that was lacking though

Being actively engaged in our children’s preschool education seems to have had a positive impact on us; it has enhanced their preschool experience by allowing us to engage in more common topics to talk about at the dinner table and also provided us a platform to network with other parents from their preschool.

was the connection to our Muslim faith. In relocating back to the east, we felt compelled to find a kindergarten which was able to provide introductory lessons for preschoolers to learn more about our Muslim faith. As per the past, we were at the crossroads between two centres but ultimately, we went ahead with the one which was well-established and provided a dynamic and holistic Islamic integrated curriculum. Within months of them being enrolled in that centre, we noticed how much more inclined they were to receive education both in mainstream topics like comparing sizes of the different types of rhinoceroses to more Islamic teachings such as memorisation of Quranic verses. This centre had been the only one to send in weekend assignments focusing on a home-based reading programme which would get the twins to read books either from the class library or the occasional Molly bus library. Subsequently, they were to produce an artwork for the upcoming show-and-tell session the following week. Being brought up in secular schools from our preschool days, Nazri and I were pleasantly surprised at how this centre managed to get our twins to be energetic learners and self-motivated to be ready for primary school education. Needless to say, like in all their previous preschools, we remained true to our involved parenting styles and religiously attended their Sports Day, helped out with parent volunteer events and continued our weekend activities in ensuring that our twins were not only bookish but also street-smart.

either set of our parents to look after our children (his parents are too elderly and caring for twin toddlers were not physically possible for them) was not made available for Nazri and I, right of the bat, we resorted to enrolling them in a childcare centre. Being actively engaged in our children’s preschool education seems to have had a positive impact on us; it has enhanced their preschool experience by allowing us to engage in more common topics to talk about at the dinner table and also provided us a platform to network with other parents from their preschool. We also stood to gain by having a more open communication with their kindergarten teacher with regard to curriculum and academic plans for our twin daughters.

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If asked whether parental involvement in the education of preschoolers has increased over time, I would unquestionably agree to a large extent. When my own parents were asked if they recalled any involvement during my formative years of life, their response was a stark contrast to what I had put in as a parent myself. Like us, my parents were working professionals but they had relied heavily on my maternal grandparents for child-minding assistance. As the option of depending on JULY 2018




An Audio–Visual Feast with


Humans have always been fascinated with creating art or illusions that trick our eyes. From perspective tricks in murals to the exhibits at Trick Eye Museum Singapore, we delight in deceiving our senses.

turn backdrops or objects into projection surfaces. The software spatially maps a 2D or 3D surface and interacts with the projector to fit the image onto a physical object and align with its features. Using stunning high-tech visual effects to As more becomes technically possible, transform a brand space including technology and human creativity are skyscrapers, sculptures or any ordinary constantly pushing the boundaries of what objects into glowing, kinetic art, each can be achieved to leave spectators in awe. performance is spellbinding, engaging, Projection technology for instance, has and creates a whole new league for been used for decades to project films or communication and an incredibly exciting presentations onto white screens. Today, visual experience. projection mapping is one of the fresh media of this grand tradition, and is Projection mapping has firmly entered the available to paint our world in ways that public consciousness in Singapore are only limited by our imagination. through major public events such as the Gardens Extravaganza at Gardens by the Projection mapping is a spatial augmented Bay, the i Light Marina Bay and the reality created by a highly skilled team of Singapore Night Festival at the National projection technology professionals to Museum of Singapore. 36 T H E K A R Y A W A N Š ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

This spatial augmented reality technology adds extra dimensions and optical illusions, to turn static objects into a dynamic animated display. The audio visual presentation can be personalised to incorporate branding, logos and messages, making it perfect for advertising, product launches and more. If you are looking for both a large-scale and breathtaking spectacle, projection mapping performance should be at the top of your list. When executed correctly, projection mapping will undoubtedly leave spectators in amazement, which makes projection mapping one of the most desired services any event company can deliver. The Karyawan team was fortunate to interview Shaiful Bahree who has been in this field for six years. He has been involved in various projects that utilise

this technology and is now technical director of A Creative Concept Pte Ltd, a company that offers projection mapping services.

A typical day at work runs from 9am to 6pm for offline jobs on weekdays. However, depending on the event itself, sometimes a work day can drag into the late night on weekdays or over the Q: Could you tell us more about weekend. At times, the job will require yourself? me to travel. The longest I've been away was for a three-month overseas stint. Shaiful: I am 33 years old and have been I had also attended a four-week course happily married for two years. My wife is a in Los Angeles once to have a better Motion Graphics Artist whom I met while understanding of the Mapping Server working in the same industry. We also technology. It was definitely an rescued a furry kid named Oreo (a Scottish eye-opening and fun experience learning fold kitten, to be precise) so that we can from the specialists there. share our love with her. I am the eldest child and only son in a family of four. Q: Could you briefly explain what I have a younger sister who works in the projection mapping is about? medical industry. Shaiful: Projection Mapping is currently I graduated with a Higher NITEC in a medium that is gaining popularity and Computer Technology. Soon after exposure in the media industry. graduation, I did some freelance work in a technical position right until I completed Firstly, lights from the projectors are used my National Service. After that I took up a to map onto a surface, turning a common part-time diploma course in multimedia 3D object into an interactive display. It at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts comprises a storytelling narrative through (NAFA). Sadly, after a year, I dropped out a synchronisation of audio (sound) and of the course due to financial difficulties. video (motion). Hence, motion graphics But that did not hinder me from continuand creative coding are used to display a ing to seek knowledge elsewhere. After a highly engaging content, so that it creates few years of working here and there, I experiences in terms of look and feel to the secured my first full-time job and once I viewers in a 3-dimensional reality. was financially stable, I decided to take on a part-time course at The Media Academy. This process however, is not a simple task I eventually graduated with a Diploma in as many factors must be taken into Media and Television. Although I have account for the process to begin. Firstly, now been working in this industry for 12 the projection area can be indoors or years, I still try to keep myself relevant outdoors. The most important thing before through lifelong learning by taking other beginning any project is that each part-time courses on various software that individual needs to understand the process are job-related. in applying the brightness level, the view angle of the audience and the type of Q: Could you share with us what the animated content. company does and what a typical working day for you is like? The process usually starts with scanning the surface to be projected on, then Shaiful: The company specialises in with a special software, we skew the Event Concepts and Technical Services. 2-dimensional content from the projector My team and I will brainstorm on the to make it appear as a 3-dimensional theme and storyboard to create and reality. This is where optical illusion can produce an unforgettable show experience also be applied in projection mapping. for our clients.

Q: What are the tools or software used in a project that incorporates projection mapping? Shaiful: We use tools such as high over specification PC desktop, servers to produce 4K content and multiple outputs. I have used many different software over the years to find the right tool for the right job. You can research online for the various software suitable for your different needs. Q: What are some of the major events in Singapore that utilise projection mapping? Shaiful: Earlier this year, the National Gallery Singapore had a “Light to Night Festival 2018: Colour Sensations”. Projection mapping was also used during the 2015 Opening Ceremony of the 28th SEA Games, National Day Celebration Series and the Sentosa Merlion Light Display Projection Mapping. Q: What are the skills or qualifications required in this industry and is there a demand for these skills or career in Singapore? Shaiful: You will need technical skills in Computer and Video technology and also a Production and Content design qualification. And yes, there is a demand for these skills. Nowadays, I see a lot of youth engaging in such media content and showing off their works in art exhibitions as well as youth festivals. Q: What motivated you to join this industry? Shaiful: It all started back when I was 14 years old, a young kid saving up for enough pocket money to buy limited edition trading cards. I worked as a part-time AV technician doing set-up with my uncle during the weekend and school holidays. It was tiring yet fun working with him on all those projects.

JULY 2018




My interest continued to grow and I would ask for advice and tips from my uncle and the veterans who had done big shows and concerts previously. In 2010, I joined a small company and did a 3D mapping project on a luxury car. It was intense and tough as technology wasn’t as advanced then. Q: What were some of the projects that you were involved in, here in Singapore? Can you walk us through your creative process, from the moment a client contacts you, to the actual show? Shaiful: I have done mostly indoor projects. One was for a private Indonesian wedding held at Clifford Pier. I have also worked on the ‘X-Men: Days Of Future Past’ Singapore premiere, several big corporate events and Garena Karnival 2015 (an online gaming tournament). Usually the client will brief me on the project, and their expectations and goals. We will then discuss on a suitable venue for the project. Once we have agreed on this, we will then head out for a site inspection. From there, we will gather all the blueprints, measurements and pictures of the venue. We will brainstorm and create a concept/theme for our clients. Once finalised, it all comes down to the production, technical, content development and scheduled meetings as the dates come nearer, to update on the workflow. A few days before the event day, we will have a final meeting to ensure everything is in place. I often need to plan ahead and it is necessary that we always have a backup plan for unforeseen circumstances. Q: What are some of the challenges of being in this industry? Shaiful: Challenges often come in the form of miscommunication, time zone differences and a developed sleep disorder.



Technology also changes quickly over the years. Hence, I have to always keep up with these changes so that I can remain relevant and don’t get left behind in the industry. One also needs to be physically and mentally fit as the job entails working long hours as well as dealing with the pressure of technical problems on site. Lastly, updating your skills set can be tough as it is expensive. Q: What has been the most satisfying moment of your career in this industry? Shaiful: When I see the works on the big screen, when the audience are amazed by the works and I see the appreciation in their eyes. Also, when the client conveys his or her gratitude for all the hard planning and work. Q: Do you think the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore are well exposed to this technology and industry? Are there many Malay/ Muslims who are in this field and with these skills? Shaiful: Based on my observation, there are currently a few Malay/Muslim individuals in the industry. Having more Malay/Muslims thriving in this industry may bring about better competition and greater exposure to the Malay/Muslim community.

Q: What is your advice for the younger generation in our community who may want to pursue this career? Shaiful: The journey will be tough, so they will need to be prepared to expect the unexpected. Learn as much as you can, while seeking a place in the industry, and persevere. Most importantly, I live by these words: Be passionate, be determined, stay focused and always be humble.

Analyst ad is a Research Nabilah Mohamm ic and am Isl on h Researc at the Centre for holds a Bachelor e Sh ). MA (RI s Malay Affair ialist ology and a Spec of Science in Psych ning. Mi ta Da d an s tic Diploma in Statis

Syed Gulab Shah – A Forgotten Luminary of Singapore BY ABBAS KHAN

In 2006, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) published Risalah, a document that discusses ten desired attributes of a “Singaporean Muslim Community of Excellence”. These attributes act as guidelines in building a community that can be religiously profound while simultaneously being socially progressive. They include holding strongly to Islamic principles while adapting to a changing social context, having good understanding of contemporary issues, being progressive and modern as well as being contributing members of a multireligious society and secular state. As Muslims in Singapore, we look to the future in continuously building this desired society. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to look back into our communal past for inspiring role models who projected these attributes. In researching the early migrant Muslim communities from the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of British India for my Masters thesis, I uncovered a number of such noteworthy individuals. The names of H. Saadullah Khan (the editor of Utusan Melayu) and

Dato’ Ghulam Kadir (Justice of Peace and royal tailor to the Sultan of Johor) may have been prominent during the British colonial era of our country’s history, but today they have largely been forgotten. I once asked Nana Aman, an 85-year-old first-generation migrant to Singapore if there was any migrant from the Punjab or NWFP that future generations should know about. He replied: There is one person, and I’ve met him before. He was an old-timer. His name was Syed Gulab Shah… He was a person of very high standing during the British era… He was a good person, a very good person… That conversation prompted me to find out as much as I could about Syed Gulab Shah, a migrant from the Hazara District of the NWFP of British India (which today is part of Pakistan). In his lifetime, Syed Gulab Shah was appointed a member of the Mohammedan Advisory Board, sat in the committees of various prestigious clubs and societies, received multiple commendations from the British Government and even founded a successful football club. JULY 2018




A FULL LIFE Syed Gulab Shah was born near the town of Haripur into a sayyid family – descendants of Prophet Muhammad pbuh and highly respected members of society. His ancestors were Pirs – Sufi scholars and saints – who had settled in the region from Bukhara for more than two centuries. At the age of 18, he came to Malaya to join the Johor Military Force. When Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor founded the Johor Military Force in 1886, he employed the British policy of recruiting individuals from the Punjab and NWFP for military and security positions. Syed Gulab Shah served Sultan Abu Bakar as his bodyguard for ten years until his death in 1896. During his years of service in the state of Johor, Syed Gulab Shah left a lasting impression on the royal family. He married Sharifah Zainah, the granddaughter of Syed Salim Al-Attas, the first Mufti of Johor who himself had considerable influence and standing among the state’s royalty.

Considered by the British to be ‘martial races’, these individuals were often recruited into the military and sent overseas to police other British territories which included Malaya and Singapore. As British Subjects, these migrants travelled to Singapore in search of employment and often found jobs as watchmen, drivers and contracted tailors. Those who had been in Singapore long enough were able to secure contracts with the British in providing goods and services to military camps and bases while others operated as independent merchants or peddlers.

money for the ‘Our Day’ fund, he received letters of commendation and praise from Major-General Sir Dudley Ridout, General Officer Commanding the Troops in the Straits Settlements. Syed Gulab Shah’s charitable disposition was frequently recognised by the British. In 1918, he was commended by Captain A. R. Chancellor, Inspector-General of Police for his role in providing relief to Arab stokers when the French mail steamship they worked on were stranded in nearby waters. These contributions of his and a close relationship with the British Government gave Syed Gulab Shah a great sense of fulfilment – even in old age. Nana Aman recounts visiting the elderly sayyid for the first time:

BLESSING TO ALL COMMUNITIES During the First World War, the British Government encouraged various ethnic communities in Malaya to get together and When I came to Singapore [in 1953], my pledge monetary support for the British brother (who had been in Singapore for and their allies through a campaign known more than a decade) told me to pay a visit as ‘Our Day’. Muslims from the Punjab and to Syed Gulab Shah. So I did, I visited him NWFP were among those who actively at his residence in Saint Michael’s Estate. raised funds for the campaign. In September It was a big house – a mansion – built in 1917 for example, they met at the residence the old Malay style… On the walls of his house were framed pictures with the With his wife, Syed Gulab Shah moved to of one of their members and pledged Governor and other British officials... He Singapore and started his own businesses – various amounts for the ‘Our Day’ fund. Syed Gulab Shah received special mention showed them to me and shared stories of the Colonial Printing Press and Sunshine old days – of what he did, his contributions… Dairy Farm. The names of his two ventures for his generous contributions during the meeting and throughout the duration of What did I understand? I was a young suggest that he had embraced a kind of the War. For his zeal and efforts in raising man then, I just nodded my head… modernity that was British. The latter was approved by the Municipal Health Officials and lauded as a “model dairy farm” for its modern appliances and sanitary conditions, with its bottles imported from the renowned Dairy Supply Company in London. It is likely that Sultan Abu Bakar’s modernist attitude and well-documented proclivities as an Anglophile had left a lasting influence on the sayyid’s young self. Syed Gulab Shah was known to dress impeccably in a suit and tie but with a Malay songkok. This representation of a cosmopolitan Malay-Muslim identity – popular with sections of the MalayMuslim elites during the colonial era – can be regarded as a creolisation of colonial SYED GULAB SHAH (STANDING, THIRD FROM LEFT) IN A PHOTOGRAPH WITH MAJOR-GENERAL SIR DUDLEY RIDOUT British and local Malay identities. By the First World War, migrants from the Punjab and the NWFP already had a significant presence in Singapore. 40 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.


For more than half a century in Singapore, Syed Gulab Shah was at the forefront of the Muslim community. His familiarity with Malay society and his vision in looking past ethnic boundaries greatly facilitated his prolific contributions. As early as 1898, slightly more than a decade after his arrival in Malaya, Syed Gulab Shah founded Fathul Karib football club with two of his contemporaries. Through his advice, guidance and sheer hard work in training the football team, Fathul Karib won the Tramway Cup in 1909. The Tramway Cup was one of the earliest football tournaments in Singapore. It was organised by the Darul Adab Club – one of the oldest and most popular Malay clubs in Singapore – on behalf of the Singapore Tramway Company. Syed Gulab Shah himself served as honorary secretary of the Darul Adab Club later in the 1930s. Fathul Karib continued their dominance in Singapore football through the 1940s and 1950s before eventually being renamed Balestier United in the 1970s.

Yet, Syed Gulab Shah’s active involvement in the Malay and larger Muslim community did not preclude him from actively identifying with his brethren from the Indian subcontinent, irrespective of their religious beliefs. He was known to contribute to various non-Muslim Indian communities who held him in equally high regard as Muslims in Singapore did. In August 1931, he was honoured by the North Indian Hindu community for his contributions and services rendered to them. Syed Gulab Shah was on the committee of the India-Ceylon Club in the early 1930s, and the Malaya Patriotic Fund (Indian Section) in 1940. He was also appointed to a committee to manage the building and funds of a Musafirkhana (rest house) for Indian Muslim migrants in 1939.

relatives. His remains, together with that of his wife, have since been re-interred from the Bidadari Muslim Cemetery to the Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery.

EXCELLENT ROLE MODEL FOR MODERN MUSLIMS In a time where we seek to build a dynamic Muslim community in Singapore, it is important that we remember and celebrate personalities from our communal past. Individuals like Syed Gulab Shah act as role models and inspiration for present and future generations. In his lifetime, he was a blessing; a committed and passionate member of our society – not just to Malays, Muslims or his fellow migrants from the Hazara region of the North-West Frontier Province of British India. He interacted and assisted various communities across Singapore. Most It is not an overstatement to claim that importantly, Syed Gulab Shah showed Syed Gulab Shah contributed immensely to Singapore society and was well-loved by the exciting possibility of maintaining all sections of society. Nana Aman recounts: our identity as Muslims while embracing the challenges of modernisation. There He frequently visited the Kampong Glam may not be roads named after him or monuments built in his honour, but his Syed Gulab Shah was a tireless social area. Sometimes he would go to the passion and spirit of activism have the activist who worked actively for the Koh-I-Noor Restaurant – a Pakistani potential to serve as an inspiration to us as advancement of the Muslim community in restaurant along North Bridge Road. we look to the future. Singapore. He was a highly respected leader (I was staying there, at the shophouse on of the community, displaying a committhe second floor.) Everybody knew him. This article was written based on the writer’s ment to serve the host society which he had They would greet him excitedly, salaam interview with Syed Aman Shah, an 85-year old * become part of. He was appointed a member him. ‘Baaji , sit down and have tea. migrant from the Hazara District of Pakistan, and a recorded interview with Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, Eat something,’ they would say… of the Mohammedan Advisory Board from as part of the National Archives’ Oral History 1919 to represent the Muslim community A TERM OF RESPECT USED BY MIGRANTS FROM THE PUNJAB AND Collection, and various newspaper articles NWFP WHEN ADDRESSING AN ELDERLY SAYYID. on matters related to Islam, as well as the published in Singapore over a period of six decades. customs and welfare of the community. Additionally, he sat on various committees Syed Gulab Shah had a daughter with his such as the Committee of the Child Welfare wife Sharifah Zainah. She was married to Society Fund in 1927. In November 1920, he Syed Mohamed bin Omar Alsagoff (Justice Abbas Khan recently completed his Master’s of Peace and Municipal Commissioner for was specially appointed to preside over a degree with the Department of Malay Studies Singapore). Syed Mohamed Alsagoff historic meeting to discuss the question of at the National University of Singapore (NUS). himself was a prominent member of the Muslim representation on the Legislative His thesis is titled, Being Singaporean Pakistan – History, Ethnicity and Identity. His research Hadrami Arab and Muslim communities Council. The meeting was attended by interests include the early Muslim communities in Singapore. Syed Gulab Shah passed Muslim luminaries across Singapore, during the colonial era. away on 12 September 1956, at the age of representatives of various Muslim associations and even representatives from Penang. 90. He left behind his estate and businesses in Singapore to his maternal grandson, Such was the measure of importance and Syed Mohsen bin Mohamed Alsagoff the weight of anticipation carried by this who he was particularly fond of. He also meeting that it was reported that the bequeathed a big estate of about 800 acres meeting hall was packed to the extent that of farmland in Pakistan to his family and many in attendance were forced to stand. JULY 2018




Community’s Diagnoses: Review of

Souvenir Dari Angkasa Lepas by

Hassan Hasaa’ree Ali


Souvenir Dari Angkasa Lepas, (or A Souvenir From Outer Space) is a collection of short stories, also known as cerpen in Malay, written by local Singaporean author, Hassan Hasaa’ree Ali. The collection features new stories alongside those which have been published in the Berita Harian and Berita Minggu newspapers. The stories are arranged into three distinct sections titled, “Cetera”, “Pathologi”, and “Alternatif”. It is interesting to note that ‘cetera’ can either suggest stories of origin or original stories – a milestone indicative of beginnings or the author’s early works – and ‘pathologi’, or pathology, is a field in medical diagnosis and research that is mainly concerned with the causal study of disease, i.e. whether the disease is caused by pathogens or a non-infectious physiological disorder. The section titled ‘alternatif’, or alternative, features stories written in the speculative fiction genre, ruminating on post-human futures and the impacts that artificial intelligence and dependence on digital technology may have on the human condition.

into understanding that for all of its advancements and achievements, science and medicine cannot restore or nourish the human spirit, which is needed to see a person through difficult times. Stories such as “Autonomi” and “Bubur dan Bohong Sunat” (“Porridge and White Lies”) contend with the moral debate of blatant truth when it comes to a person’s psychological well-being. The answer, it seems, is never meant to be a clear one.

Souvenir also touches upon and effectively warns against the dangers of materialism as it manifests within the community. For example, “Raja Sehari”, (or “King for a Day”), illuminates on the shortfalls of the common phrase that governs much of marriage preparations and ceremonies today: to be king for a day, basking in the glories of admiration and material wealth through opulent, extravagant – and expensive – wedding receptions, may lead to a life saddled in debt, which is something known to many a family in the community. In “Cuti-Cuti Hospital” (“Hospital Holidays”), an elderly man tries to find some measure of comfort in being Through the medium of narrative, left behind at a hospital while his family Hassan’s brave and unique – sui generis – collection takes on the issues, realities and enjoys a carefree vacation overseas, and in beliefs that exist within the Malay/Muslim “Miskin” (“Poor”), a young boy learns that community, both in the present time and destitution is not so much being deprived of the latest gadgets. Rather, it is to be so the projected future, holding them up to stark juxtaposition and for soul-searching enthralled by the spell of the screen so as to lose one’s sense of self and even scrutiny by the reader. simple morality. COMMUNITY CARE FUTURE DIAGNOSIS Hassan’s observations (perhaps even Apart from providing a reading of the daily experiences) in his occupation as a nurse conditions of everyday life, Souvenir also comes through in a number of stories within Souvenir. They often feature elderly proffers a glimpse into the community’s future given its current directions and patients struggling with the realities of ageing within a rapidly progressing society, developments. There exists a longstanding where old values are being discarded, even desire to see more Malay/Muslim frowned upon, in favour of scientific logic, representation within the STEM fields and industries – the question of how the rationalism and economic gain. community can achieve such a goal being at the forefront of its leadership’s many In “Air Jampi”, (or “Spellcast Water”), concerns, right alongside the prevailing a doctor finds himself at once frustrated worry of its underperformance in and beguiled by his patients’ persistent preference for a man’s air jampi rather than Mathematics. The topic is often raised, consciously or unconsciously, in tandem medical rationalism, only to be humbled

with the community’s overrepresentation in the arts and humanities, creating – again, consciously or unconsciously – a stark hierarchical divide between the disciplines. However, it can be argued that such a divide may actually work against the abovementioned goals rather than towards it. Science fiction, a genre under the umbrella of speculative narratives, has served as inspiration for real-life scientific and technological development. Space flight, underwater exploration, robotics and artificial intelligence, just to name a few, have had its precursory developments within the works of early science fiction writers such as H. G. Wells and Isaac Asimov. Science fiction narratives are spaces in which authors can perform thought experiments, test out new and emerging theories, and assimilate scientific language, thus normalising what would otherwise continue to be alien, western constructs with naught a place in the community’s collective consciousness. Souvenir manages to achieve this through the stories featured in “Alternatif”, going further as to explore the quandaries that the current pace of scientific and technological advancement pose to the community’s long-cherished moral and religious values. The results, as these stories suggest, would often be one of cultural loss, disconnection, displacement, and widespread dehumanisation, even as progress is achieved. Such a critique can be seen in “”, where the deceased are interred in underground cubes and tombstones come equipped with slots into which those who wish to pay their respects can insert smart cards and have prayers played over the stereo. The smart cards are purchased from self-service machines at desired values, very much like one would top-up an EZ-Link card today. This mechanised commodifying of religion is reminiscent of the Soul Scrolls in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, where prayers are being churned out on slot-machines in the bid to indicate divine presence in a setting JULY 2018




Apart from providing a reading of the daily conditions of everyday life, Souvenir also proffers a glimpse into the community’s future given its current directions and developments. There exists a longstanding desire to see more Malay/Muslim representation within the STEM fields and industries – the question of how the community can achieve such a goal being at the forefront of its leadership’s many concerns, right alongside the prevailing worry of its underperformance in Mathematics. 44 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.

where it seems like God is all but dead. On a similar note, “Mimpinya Seorang Sasterawan”, (translation: “A Writer’s Dream”), a writer travels forward in time to 2155 A.D. and finds that no one speaks the Malay language anymore, the community’s cultural centre is in disrepair, and that robots are performing the ronggeng instead of people – such a degree of Malay language and cultural loss caused by centuries of government and public funding being channelled into more profitable projects and developments. THOUGHTS At the first reading, the stories within Souvenir may come across as moralistic and didactic. However, it will require one to take a step back in one’s reading of the stories to remember that they carry on a traditional style of storytelling dating back centuries. The role of the story, it seems, have not changed: tales are meant to educate, directly or indirectly; they are a means of recording, and perpetuating, a people’s histories and values. They are also vessels of greater imagination and ways of exploring new possibilities, to which end, the stories written under the speculative fiction banner are the strongest in this collection. Souvenir demonstrates that scientific and technological developments can, and in fact, do have a place in the Malay lexicon, however, these developments are also a double-edged sword as they can be the very instrument of moral and cultural degeneration. There cannot be enough emphasis on the need for such a literacy if the Malay/Muslim community is looking to progress and come into itself. One also cannot shout loud enough to drive in the fact that this literacy and its Malay language writers need far more organisational support than they are currently receiving in order to flourish and be a source of pride for the community. The alternative may, as Souvenir has shown so well, be far from cheery; the death of a language have been shown in anthropological and linguistic studies to

also be the death of a people and if robots can replace dancers, they can replace leaders too. No? Now, that is a freeze-dried astronaut food for thought.

Associate id is a Research Dr Nuraliah Noras ic and am Isl in Research with the Centre for lds a Doctor of ho e Sh ). MA (RI Malay Affairs Creative a specialisation in Philosophy, with esis from po tho My ry ora mp Writing and Conte e is the Sh ty. rsi ive Un l logica Nanyang Techno er oth r he d eeper an author of The Gatek puan: published in Perem writings have been the Quarterly d an t Ou k ea Sp Muslim Women gapore. Literary Review Sin asa Lepas can be Souvenir Dari Angk ggun Creative Un m fro d purchase ). com ve. (ungguncreati

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