28 February 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday February 28, 2007

A need to rebrand our graduates


A FRIEND of mine told me an alarming statistic the other day. According to the 9th Malaysia Plan, about two-thirds of Malaysian graduates would not be able to find graduate-level employment.

That means that of the more than 60,000 graduates at all levels each year, about 40,000 will not be able to get a job commensurating with their qualifications.

It’s not that we haven’t been educating people. According to the Ministry of Higher Education website, the numbers of young people going into public institutions of higher learning between 2000 and 2005 have been steadily increasing, from 54,495 to 80,885.

Funnily enough, in private institutions of higher learning, which generally take in more students than the public institutions, the numbers have been decreasing, from 178,899 to 113,105, over the same period of time.

My guess is that many have not been able to afford the private universities and had to go to the public ones.

But maybe what’s more revealing is the number of people who actually graduate from university.

Most public university students do graduate. In 2005, there were 79,934 graduates, or 98% of the intake. On the other hand, far fewer students graduate from the private universities, only 57,953 or 51% of the intake. Which may say something about the varying standards in the public and private universities.

Even more interesting for me is the level that students graduate from. Most university graduates are content with getting a first degree, with very few going on to further degrees. Which might be an indication of the need to find a job quickly. But then, that first degree itself has not made them employable.

There have been several thorough analyses why our graduates cannot find jobs. Most do not have the skills for the workplace, including communication skills. I have never had to interview many people for jobs but those who do all attest to this inability of candidates to express themselves.

I do meet many young people studying in local universities who are bright, fluent in English and happy to express their views. But what is obvious is that they are brought up in urban areas and have access to resources that help their confidence.

Yet as a government survey two years ago stated, most of the unemployed are Malays from lower-income families who lack command of the English language. Undoubtedly they also come from rural areas.

In many countries around our region, graduates who cannot find employment at home are able to go abroad to seek their fortunes. Not all will be employed to their level of learning, such as Filipina graduates who work as domestic help overseas, but the reason that they can go abroad at all is because they speak English.

Our graduates will not have that option because of poor language skills. I also doubt if ours would be willing to work as domestic help overseas just to earn money.

So much of exportable skills these days require language fluency. India has managed to tap into the call-centre business because of the availability of English speakers. So well-trained are they that in the US you can speak to someone and not realise that that person is actually in Bangalore.

Here I get calls from telemarketing people who are not only unable to speak English, but also cannot even speak beyond a script once you ask difficult questions.

We need to worry about these unemployable graduates because we cannot have bored and frustrated people milling about, because many social problems stem from unemployment.

Some might think that because most of our graduates are women, this is not a big problem because eventually they will get married. But we don’t build our universities just to have lots of housewives, nor, for that matter, fast food order-takers. We educate people to help develop the country, so they need to be put to good use.

There are many suggestions as to how to redress the situation, including retraining. But perhaps we need to also rethink employment itself.

There are many NGOs and social organisations that find it hard to get good people because people assume that either they don't pay well or they are disliked by the Government. Yet NGO work provides individuals with unique personal development experiences, different from other jobs.

We should also encourage social entrepreneurship, where people use business skills to do society some good, rather than just make profit. It’s a different way of thinking, but different is exactly what we need these days.

Besides, it earned Prof Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, a Nobel Prize. If Bangladesh can have a Nobel laureate through social entrepreneurship, we might as well try it.

21 February 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday February 14, 2007

Lesson for humankind

Musing: By Marina Mahathir

DO we sometimes wonder why the world is larger than the little space that we call our home and our country? Surely it is because we are meant to explore it, to see if it is the same as our space or not. And why is it there are different people in the world; people who look, dress, eat and think differently? Surely we are meant to take note of that, and not ignore it.

I am wondering this because there is a reason for that saying, “katak di bawah tempurung”, the frog who thinks the world is only as large as the coconut above his head. I have been fortunate that I have been able to travel to many places around the globe and meet so many different people. The human race is truly a wondrous one, with so many shades and features. And yet sometimes you meet someone on the other side of the world and they remind you of someone at home.

Even when we think we have things in common, we realise that sometimes we don’t. Muslims in Malaysia, for instance, feel an immediate kinship with every other Muslim they meet elsewhere in the world.

Which is nice of course, and indeed good reason to feel a bond. But when you really talk to one another, then we start to realise differences. (I have to add that if there is one more good reason to learn to speak English, it is that otherwise you cannot speak to Muslims from other countries!).

The differences are not necessarily bad. In fact, they make you think. Last November I went to a meeting of Muslim women in New York. The participants came from the entire spectrum of Islamic interpretation.

But what they had in common were simply that they all felt that women should not be excluded from participating in all aspects of life, that women’s voices were important. Another thing that they had in common also, even from the most conservative sectors, was that our religion did not allow discrimination of any kind, whether based on sex, race or religion.

How different is this from some people at home! Are they right? Or is the way we think at home correct? If that meeting was an aberration, I just had confirmation this last week that it wasn’t. At the Perdana Global Peace Forum last week, Muslim speaker after Muslim speaker spoke of the need for the unity of humankind against oppression.

They refused to see the many conflicts and injustices around the world as between people of one religion against another, specifically against Muslims and Islam. They would keep saying that God honours all the sons of Adam, not any specific community.

Yet these were often people who had suffered terribly in the hands of oppressors who were, though not always, of different faiths from them. They had been tortured and humiliated but they refused to bow to their oppressors, nor be bitter and angry. They said, “The more your (oppressors) chains rust, the more our will renews” and “Your chains will not break the will of victory.”

They quoted the Quran and the hadith asserting that God is not merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind.

They kept insisting that to frame the current conflicts in the world as a religious one was to play into the hands of the oppressors. This is a conflict of all humankind against the inhumane, the people who would march into a country not their own in order to kill and maim and yet pretend that this is all for the benefit of their victims and the good of the world.

How little we know about the true sufferings of the world, us in our comfortable country! We complain about power breakdowns and water shortages, yet other people have had to live with not only no water and electricity but homes that had been brutally razed to the ground.

We whine about petty things, yet others have had fathers and sons disappear for months, only to return barely alive and maimed, if they return at all. We take for granted our ability to walk around undisturbed, and not realise that for people in Iraq, that is now an unimaginable luxury. We don’t know the true meaning of freedom because we have never been deprived of it.

Still these people insist on not blaming The Other, but instead power-mad people, including some of their own countrymen, who have lost their human compassion, who deprive others of their rights so brutally.

To maintain one’s humanity in such circumstances becomes to them a duty to God. That includes never oppressing others on any basis. We have so much to learn from them.

14 February 2007

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com Please.
Wednesday January 31, 2007

Take a leaf from Katrina


The floods in Johor are nowhere near as devastating as Hurricane Katrina, which stormed along the Gulf Coast of the United States. But many of the same issues crop up.

IN 2005, Hurricane Katrina stormed along the Gulf Coast of the United States devastating many cities in Mississippi and Louisiana, most notably New Orleans. It was the costliest hurricane in US history with damage estimated at US$81.2bil; and also one of the deadliest, leaving about 1,836 people dead.

Nothing to salvage: This family in Kota Tinggi lost everything to the floods. Some flood victims, already poor before, are suffering from depression and despair, unable to fathom how to recover from this crushing misfortune.
More than a year afterwards, New Orleans is still trying to recover from Katrina’s physical, social and economic impact.

What is amazing about Katrina is that it is possible to read so much information on what happened during those terrible days of the hurricane, and the reasons; the response of the authorities both at the local and Federal government; and the impact of Katrina in economic and environmental terms and, also, on its people.

For example, New Orleans’ population was re-distributed across several cities across the Gulf Coast and even as far as Chicago, which means that, as with migrant populations anywhere, new social issues including crime cropped up in those cities.

By January 2006, about 200,000 people had returned to living in New Orleans, less than half its pre-storm population. This again changed the social fabric and dynamics of the city, as most of them were unemployed and therefore unable to pay local taxes.

The floods in Johor are nowhere near as devastating as Hurricane Katrina. But many of the same issues crop up.

In New Orleans, the preparedness of both the local and Federal governments in times of emergency were criticised, leading up to an investigation by Congress.

In Johor, some of the same questions could be asked. Like New Orleans, there were people stranded with no food or water, and some with no means to seek help. Unsurprisingly, these tended to be the poorest and most marginalised.

We have already read about stranded orang asli and other remote communities, but the difficulties in access left, for instance, the case of a policeman and some children stranded on the roof of a house for three days in the driving rain.

I am so amazed at the level of investigation that was done on why Katrina was so devastating. It is well-known that much of the damage and fatalities were attributed not so much to the hurricane itself but to the breaking of the levees holding back flood waters due to “system design flaws, combined with the lack of adequate maintenance,” as well as the delayed response by government authorities which led to New Orleans citizens dying from thirst, exhaustion and violence.

Much of the criticism focused on “mismanagement and lack of leadership” before, during and after the hurricane, and some officials were forced to resign, even those praised by the President himself.

Johor has been through two floods in the past month, an unusual event that apparently occurs “once in a hundred years.” As comforting as it is to know that it is a rare occurrence, it is still irrelevant when people are still unable to return to a normal life, or even, as in places like Batu Pahat, to their own, still submerged, homes.

The clouds are grey over Johor and more rain is expected, a fact that makes even non-Johoreans feel depressed, what more those who call the state home.

I visited one village near Johor Baru recently and just to look at the watermarks left by the flood, way above the average height of the residents there, was shocking. The homes had been cleaned up, although “clean” is a relative term there, but getting your shoes covered in mud has become a fact of life that one has to accept.

Interestingly enough, the kampung – Kampung Kangkar Tebrau – is a microcosm of Malaysia, home to Malay, Chinese and Indian families, united by poverty, exacerbated even more by the flood. Mother Nature does not discriminate according to race, unlike human beings.

There are many stories emerging from the floods of the far-reaching effects of this disaster. Students are unable to return to university because, even if they could leave home, they have lost books, computers and assignments they had done over the holidays.

Some people, already poor before, are suffering from depression and despair, unable to fathom how to recover from this crushing misfortune. Seeing other people come and help has made some of them feel they are remembered and cared about, but the help must be sustainable and long term. It will likely take more than a year for everyone to recover what they have lost.

I hope that once this is over, we will be able to read honest and truthful reports about what happened in Johor, and what its likely impact, in all spheres, will be. We should not be made complacent by the theory that it won’t happen again for another century.