Blind; but doesn’t lose sight on the importance of education

Blind; but doesn’t lose sight on the importance of education

M'sia's first blind lawyer not losing sight of importance of education

Alyaa Alhadjri, 11 April 2017
He lost his vision at the age of four, but his father’s foresight on the importance of education eventually saw Mah Hassan Omar graduating and practising as Malaysia’s first visually impaired lawyer.

Born in Besut, Terengganu in 1961, at the age of seven, Mah Hassan was sent to pursue his primary education at Johor Bahru’s Princess Elizabeth special school for the blind – a train journey which even today would take up to 17 hours from Wakaf Baru in Kelantan, the nearest station to his hometown.

By the time he entered secondary school, Mah Hassan has integrated into the mainstream system where one or two visually impaired pupils will be placed in an ordinary classroom with other sighted students.

During an interview held at his law firm in Sentul, which is also the office for KL Braille Resources, Mah revealed how his father had fought societal norms and approached the Welfare Department for assistance to provide him with an education that would help him to lead an independent life.

The law graduate from Universiti Malaya went on to earn his master’s degree at Southampton University, United Kingdom, before returning home for a 13-year stint with the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. In 2005, he left to set up his own law firm.

The early realisation that education is the key to assisting people with disabilities has shaped Mah Hassan to be an advocate for their rights to equal access to information – including pioneering a project to produce a braille version of the Quran.

At the age of 56, Mah Hassan is a father of six – three girls and three boys – the eldest three of whom are pursuing their higher education.

He has set many personal records and aims to inspire others like him.

Here is Mah Hassan’s story in his own words:

AS A YOUNG BOY, I WAS SO ENTHUSIASTIC TO GO TO SCHOOL. But for my parents, as I understood it, it was very challenging.

They had to face the reality of how to part with their blind boy. Also, the people and neighbours accused them of them being irresponsible.

My father told me every time I leave the house to go to school, he could not follow me. He always thought about what the people were saying.

My mother will send me because my mother is stronger in that sense.

FOR ALL PARENTS OUT THERE, I wish to urge all of you who have children with disabilities, give your children an education.

With education, you are giving him or her the important equipment to live independently.

You can give them as much money as you can afford but the money will go. If you give them education, it will stay with them forever.

IN ADDITION TO ACADEMIC SKILLS, I always see that primary education provided me with an important background, basic skills that prepared me to lead an independent life. In other words, being a blind person, we were taught how to groom and take care of ourselves. How to live independently.

For every blind child, I see survival skills as a very important factor. Because even with academic success, without the necessary guidance, from my observations it would be very difficult to survive in life.

COMPETITION WAS STIFFER DURING SECONDARY SCHOOL. I managed to continue until Form 6, before pursuing my degree in law at Universiti Malaya. As a matter of fact, I was the first blind person in the country to take up law.

When I was called to the bar in January 1989, again I created a Malaysian record as the first blind person in the country to get legal certification as an advocate and solicitor.

Why do I stress on the records? Because the greatest challenge for blind students is a lack of books.

I PRACTICALLY DID NOT HAVE ANY BOOKS AVAILABLE IN BRAILLE. So I had to double my efforts.

I spent the greatest part of my time in university to transcribe books into braille. During my school time, the blind at the time did not even have any copy of the Quran in braille.

The Quran is the basis for Islamic books so I think it is a denial of our right to have equal access to the Quran.

BESIDES STUDIES AND PROMOTING MY LEGAL PRACTICE, I was also active in NGOs that provide services for the blind.

I was president of the Society of the Blind in Malaysia from 2000 to 2010. I am also co-founder of the Malaysian Blind Muslims Association and served as president from 1989 to 2002, before I resigned for the benefit of younger leaders.

Now I am still active in the associations but perhaps to a lesser degree.

IN 2002 WE COMPLETED THE DRAFT FOR THE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT. I headed the technical working committee and the Act came into force in 2008.

It was a five-year process. It took quite a while because in 2006 the UN came out with the first international convention on rights of people with disabilities, so we have to fine-tune our proposed bill.

I was given the privilege to represent the country at the UN in 2006 when we negotiated for the convention.

MY EMPHASIS IS MORE TO PROMOTE THE RIGHT TO LITERACY AMONG THE BLIND. The rights for blind people to have equal access to reading materials in braille.

Be it for education or any other pursuit. Our focus is mainly on transcribing Islamic religious books as well as academic books.

We believe these two genres have been sidelined.

WITHIN ONE WEEK OF MY ARRIVAL IN THE UK IN 1991, I WAS GIVEN A COPY OF THE BIBLE IN BRAILLE FOR FREE. It gave me a challenge.

If Christian voluntary groups can work to give free Bibles, why can’t we Muslims provide free Quran? So that’s what I tried to do.

When I came back to Malaysia, we worked on a research project to produce the Quran in braille and now we have the capacity here at KL Braille Resources.

In order to finance the project, I launched what we called the Wakaf Al-Quran. We invite the public to sponsor any number of Quran as they wish and each set is priced at RM250.

With this sum, we finance the production of the Quran and distribute them to the needy.

I HAVE LOVED CHESS FROM A YOUNG AGE. I see chess not only as a competitive activity but for any disabled or blind person, it can also provide you with an opportunity to integrate with normal people.

EVEN THOUGH I AM BLIND, MY UNIVERSITY’S TEAM ACCEPTED ME JUST LIKE ANYBODY ELSE. I had taken part in an open tournament for selection for the university’s team.

I was the only blind person there. But I competed against sighted people and got third place.

They needed four people to fill the team. I also played in the UK’s chess league.

FOR THE 2009 AND 2010 PARALYMPICS, I WON GOLD FOR CHESS. Another achievement was in 2003 when I took part in the ASEAN Chess Championship for the Blind in Mumbai, India, and won second place.

Now I am still president of the National Chess Association for the Disabled and our members are busy preparing for the forthcoming paralympic games in Kuala Lumpur in September.

The current chess set produced by KL Braille is also being used exclusively for the paralympic games.

WHEN BLIND PEOPLE PLAY WITH SIGHTED PEOPLE, both players have to announce their move. The board is modified to allow for usage by blind people.

But we don’t compromise on the rules. There is no difference to the rules.

The black and white pieces, how a blind player can tell is based on touch.

BE IT VISION 2020 OR TN50, I wish to see that disability issues are not sidelined. The way I see it, disabled people should be given equal rights with other citizens.

They are not to be discriminated against or left out. They should be given all opportunities.

The movement to promote equal rights has been talked about since 1981.

IN THAT SENSE WE HAVE SEEN MUCH PROGRESS, but in some other areas, the progress is too slow. For example, we have difficulties with financial institutions.

Just to open bank accounts, have I always received grievances from my blind counterparts. They wanted to open bank accounts but are not allowed to by certain banks.

DISABILITY ISSUES ARE OFTEN NOT GIVEN ENOUGH COVERAGE. The media are prone to focus on issues that can trigger sympathy.

When you talk about disabled people, I think it is more worthwhile to talk about rights rather than individual challenges.

When doing a story, just ask yourself, who will benefit?

If it is just one or two people, how many stories do you want to do?

THE MEDIA RARELY HIGHLIGHT STORIES FROM THE OKU’S PERSPECTIVE. They will take a third person’s view.

If you want to talk about the problem of beggars, those selling tissues on the streets, just go and talk to them.

If authorities want to catch them for selling tissues, the first thing we must ask is, have we given them opportunities to make a living?

OPERATIONS TEND TO INCREASE WHEN THERE ARE BIG PROGRAMMES PLANNED. For example, if the prime minister is coming, they will be detained and put into trucks, sent off somewhere and asked to find their own way home.

If the breadwinner is arrested, how will those left at home survive?

Maybe the spouse will take the children to go out and beg.

WHEN THERE ARE NO JOB OPPORTUNITIES, what other choice do they have, at a time when even healthy able-bodied people are finding it difficult to find jobs?

What do you expect?

MALAYSIANS ARE VERY CARING. I don’t dispute that. But when it comes to giving disabled people their rights to lead independent lives, that’s when the problem starts.

For example, when you want to ride the LRT, the public is very caring. I don’t think we have any big problem anymore. The awareness is there.

But do you know that for people using wheelchairs, to have access, is it still very difficult? That is their right.

BEING BLIND IS NOTHING TO BE SHY ABOUT. As a matter of fact, we want to be treated just like any other ordinary people.

People often call us “golongan istimewa” or “kelainan upaya” (differently abled).

The term “orang kurang upaya” (disabled) shows that we have a disability but we are not pampered.

TREAT ME JUST LIKE ANY OTHER OF YOUR FRIENDS. If you can joke with and tease them, do the same to us.

What is the difference? We are the same. Just that it has been fated that we lost one of our senses.

VOX People

Study ACCA Part-time in MCKL with Top Lecturers

Study ACCA Part-time in MCKL with Top Lecturers

Study ACCA Part-time in MCKL with Top Lecturers

In January 2017 Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) officially opens its doors to students enrolling for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) part-time evening classes. Students can now study part-time and prepare for the ACCA examinations with a team of world-class lecturers, who conduct evening classes on weekdays and on Saturdays at MCKL.

Students will be taught by some of the best lecturers and leaders in their respective fields of specialisation. The ACCA Programme at MCKL is headed by Ms Christina Chong, Fellow of the ACCA, UK since 2000. With over 18 years of experience in accounting, audit and corporate finance, including leadership positions in multinational companies, Christina leads a team of highly qualified and experienced lecturers.

Outstanding Lecturers

Mr Low Chin Ann, Course Advisor and lecturer, is a Fellow of ACCA, UK and has produced several top prize winners over the course of 15 years teaching in professional accountancy courses and various degree programmes. He has lectured widely, both in Malaysia and internationally – in Singapore, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. He also conducts corporate training programmes in corporate governance, taxation and auditing related topics for multinational companies.

Another experienced lecturer is Mr Ian Lim, a Fellow member of the ACCA (UK), Chartered Accountant of Malaysia and Certified Financial Planner. His interest in teaching began in 1999 when he taught accounting, financial management and management accounting subjects. Ian specialises in financial reporting, financial management and performance management courses in the ACCA programme. He understands students’ needs well and he has embarked on international teaching and training assignments – in countries like Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Brunei and Africa.

Ian is also a mentor for ACCA students who opt for the B.Sc. in Applied Accounting degree from Oxford Brookes University, UK. His commitment and dedication, his simple yet effective teaching techniques are evident in the students’ results; earning him awards by SAA Global Education Singapore (education arm of Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants) for producing the most number of prize winners for ACCA Fundamental Level in 2013 and 2014.

Mr. Daniel Ho is another well known lecturer who has been teaching various finance modules, such as Securities Analysis, Portfolio Management, Derivatives and Fixed Income Investment. He is known for simplicity and clarity in his teaching. Due to his wealth of knowledge and experience, Daniel has been invited to conduct lectures in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and even in Mongolia.

MCKL: ACCA Approved Learning Partner

At MCKL students will be provided with a conducive teaching and learning environment at affordable fees, leading to a professional accounting qualification which is recognised globally and is well accepted by international accounting firms and corporations. Full-time students will have the added benefit of enjoying the all the facilities and services of a centrally located urban campus near KL Sentral and being eligible to apply for scholarships and financial awards.

MCKL is a Gold Approved Learning Partner of ACCA,UK and the programme is fully accredited by Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). MCKL aims to educate and train qualified accountants of integrity, imbued with high ethical standards and values and who will become outstanding nation-builders; in line with its vision to be The College of Excellence for Life.

As Yang Berhormat Datuk Johari Bin Abdul Ghani, the Hon. Minister of Finance II puts it,

“….. Accountants play key roles in the development of an economy; not just as the financial backbone of organizations but also as advisors, strategists and administrators. Our journey towards becoming a high income nation by 2020 envisages strong demand for professional accountants.”

Entry Requirements

Applications are accepted from school leavers with STPM/A Level/UEC certificates. Graduates can be accepted with advanced standing in the ACCA programme. School leavers with SPM/O level certificates can enrol in the Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) programme and proceed on to the ACCA programme.

Scholarships and rebates are available to students who qualify*.

For further information on MCKL and
the ACCA, CAT programmes:

03-2274 6711 (Marketing) / 03-2274 1851 (General)

Or visit our website

Visit MCKL Website   and   Visit ACCA2U Website

It’s a Clean Sweep for APU!

It’s a Clean Sweep for APU!

It’s Clean Sweep for APU!

APU bags all three academic awards at National Big Data Challenge

Kuala Lumpur,
21 December 2016

3 student teams from Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) attained all of the top 3 awards, as they emerged as the Champion, 1st Runner-Up and 2nd Runner Up award winners of the Academic Track of Big App Challenge 3.0. The results were announced at the awards ceremony, which was held at Hilton KL Sentral on the 9th of December 2016.

The competition was organized by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), in line with its efforts to encourage and increase the adoption of Big Data Analytics across all sectors in the country. Through the challenge, MDEC provided a platform for the nation’s brightest application developers to tap into the power of Big Data to solve socio-economic problems.

Participants in the semi-finals of the challenge came from various hackathons nationwide, which were organized by educational institutions and members of the industry. In August, the Asia Pacific Center for Analytics (APCA) organized the APU Data Science Week & the APU Big Data Week Hackathon at its campus in Technology Park Malaysia, Bukit Jalil.

The multi-level challenge took place over several months, in which participants gained advancement into the Semi Finals and Grand Finals after several rounds of ideas and prototype presentations, workshops and debate sessions from the panel of judges, who were appointed by MDEC.

The winning team from APU stood out among all participants with the project, Affinity Analysis and Prediction (AAP), which aims to reduce university drop-out rates by identifying students’ strengths and interests through data analytics.

1st runner-up for academia track

2nd runner-up for academia track

The team comprises Chin Koh Shian, Dickson Pang Yee Sheng, Hiew Ming An and Manigandran Raamanathan; they walked away with a cash prize of RM10,000.00.

In addition, two more projects from APU teams, WG – Movie Theatre Advertising System using Analytics, and Superlon – Analytics System that reduces the risk of underweight babies bagged the 1st Runner Up and 2nd Runner Up awards of the Academic Track at the Big App Challenge 3.0 respectively.

“We are delighted to know about our victory; but what overwhelmed us the most was the moment when we knew that our friends from other teams also won the two other awards! It’s all three awards for us – it’s amazing!”

said the winning team, as they received the award from Dr. Karl Ng Kah Hou, MDEC Innovation Capital Director.

The winning team from APU developed the Affinity Analysis and Prediction (AAP) project to reduce universities’ drop-out rate. From left: Hiew Ming An, Chin Koh Shian, Dr. Karl Ng Kah Hou, MDEC Innovation Capital Director, Manigandan Raamanathan and Dickson Pang Yee Sheng

The Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) is amongst Malaysia’s Premier Private Universities. APU offers a wide range of degree programs in collaboration with Staffordshire University, UK with Technology as a common core. These programs nurture students into professionals and prepare them for challenging careers and roles in business and society globally. Professionalism, problem-solving skills, and creativity & innovation are some of the key attributes of APU graduates. The multi-cultural student community comprises both Malaysian students as well as International students from over 110 countries. APU was also Rated No.1 in Asia and Malaysia for Multicultural Learning Experience by the Student Barometer Wave 2015, ‘Studying with people from other cultures’.

APU has earned an enviable reputation as an award-winning University through its achievements in winning a host of prestigious awards at national and international levels. It was announced as among the Highest Rated Universities in Malaysia, being rated at TIER 5 (EXCELLENT) under the SETARA 2013 Ratings by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) on 1st November 2012 and has maintained this Excellent rating in the latest SETARA 2013 Ratings announced on 17th November 2014.

By enrolling at APU you will gain invaluable insight into the world of opportunities and to be better equipped towards positioning yourself for the lucrative career you seek.

For more information and full course listings

Please call

03-8996 1000

or visit APU website

Visit Now

Career paths opted by Malaysian parents

Career paths opted by Malaysian parents

Top 10 Career Paths of 2016

Malaysian parents picked out for their kid

Afterschool.my website has published their top 10 list of courses most viewed by families in Malaysia. (Source: Afterschool.my)

#10. Aviation

Despite recent plane crashes, the urge for human to travel or fly remains strong.

Didn’t make the chart in 2014 (because you know why). But quickly making a comeback in 2015 and 2016.

#9. Pharmacy

Job mobility, stability, flexibility. Need I say more?

Pharmacy has always been close to the top 10 chart in recent years. But this year, students interest in the field had improved.

#8. Computer Science

The dream to insanely make a lot of money online lives on.

In 2014, the field wasn’t as popular on Aftrerschool.my. However, in 2015 it picked up significant steam; and in 2016 it is in the top 10 list.

#7. Actuarial Science

Top paid jobs with high demand in the marketplace.

Actuarial science was one of the most researched courses on Afterschool.my in 2014. But this course didn’t make it to the top 10 last year. This year, actuarial science picked up steam because prospects are looking better again.

#6. Business & Marketing

Who wouldn't want to see their son all grown up in a suit?

Not even in the top 10 in 2014, this course has suddenly jumped to #5 last year. This year, you guys – our cool students – have shown slightly less interests.

#5. Biomedical Sciences

Give back to the people. Give back to the environment.

Students are opened to the opportunities in various fields like medicine, pharmacology, lab technologies, information technology in healthcare, communicating and educating the public, law, and environmental impacts. Therefore, the interest is understandably higher than before.

#4. Psychology

No monkey business. New jobs are created for workplace psychology everyday.

Students are smarter and capable of understanding the importance of psychology in the marketplace. Institutions that provide studies in this field are helping parents and students understand even better.

#3. Medicine

What parents wouldn't want their child to be a doctor, right?

Health is one of the most important aspects that contributes to the longevity of human and directly impacts productivity. Traditional and Veterinary Medicine are also on the rise.

#2. Accounting & Finance

There are worse job than counting money.

Tons of scholarships dedicated to increase the talent pool in this field. Competition also gets greater every year.

Top 1

#1. Chemical Engineering

Does your eyes sparkle when someone tells you he works in the Oil and Gas industry?

Oil and Gas industry isn’t the only field closely related to Chemical Engineering. But the riches in this industry (in dollar signs) is certainly a compelling reason for many.

Do you agree with the choices your parents made for you? Or did you make your own choices? Tell us your story.

MCKL Alumnus amongst Most Innovative Engineers in Australia

MCKL Alumnus amongst Most Innovative Engineers in Australia

For many young Malaysians, simply gaining entry into a university overseas is enough of an ambition. For the hardworking few, receiving awards in prestigious universities overseas may be more of a reality than most dare to dream.

Damien Balachandran completed his A Level studies in Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) in 2008, and proceeded with a Bachelor of Engineering at Australian National University (ANU) with the International Undergraduate Scholarship Award. Upon graduating from there, Damien began working as a Hardware Engineer at Seeing Machines and was recently named one of Australia’s most innovative engineers for his role in developing ‘Guardian’, a product that can manage driver fatigue through computer vision.

In recognition of MCKL’s contribution to Damien’s personal and academic growth, his father wrote to MCKL to express his endorsement and gratitude:

“…This was his stepping stone which took him to complete his Hons in Engineering at Australian National University in Canberra. He graduated in 2012 and was chosen as the graduated speaker. From here he was offered employment as an undergraduate in Seeing Machines based in Canberra.

“We as parents of Damien made the right choice in choosing MCKL for his foundation studies. Thanks to all lecturers in nurturing him for achievements.”

Students who have similar aspirations may consider enrolling for MCKL’s courses such as the Cambridge A Level, Western Australian Matriculation, American Degree Transfer Programme, Diploma in Early Childhood Education, Diploma in Social Work or Accounting Studies (ACCA). Scholarships are available for deserving students. For further information on MCKL and its programmes: call 03-22746711 (Marketing) or 03-22741851 (General), email ask@mckl.edu.my or visit our website www.mckl.edu.my.

Increase the starting salary for graduates ASAP!

Increase the starting salary for graduates ASAP!

EDUCATION

Increase the starting salary for graduates ASAP!

Zan Azlee, Writer, Malaysia

20 December 2016

I started working as a journalist 16 years ago. It was my first ever job and it was at The Sun newspaper. I remember my starting salary. It was RM2,100 per month and naturally, it wasn’t enough. It never is enough, right? But it was okay for me as a fresh graduate.

I was able to pay my bills. Of course, there weren’t many since I was only 22 years old and I was still single and living with my parents. I could even save up to buy a car and also a medium-cost apartment slightly outside of the city.

During those days, the issue of low starting salaries for fresh graduates entering the workforce wasn’t something that was a problem. 16 years later today, it is a problem. Fresh graduates now are complaining that their starting salaries are not enough.

Today, the starting salary for most jobs in Malaysia is approximately around RM2,000, depending on the industry.

This means that after 16 years since I started working, the starting salary has not increased. In fact, in some industries, it seems to have even decreased.

So many people I talk to have said that the expectations by graduates these days are unrealistic and that all they want is a high salary to feed their spoilt lifestyle. Some of them even say that if they could survive on their starting salary, then these new graduates should, too.

But I have to disagree. I would not expect a graduate starting to work today to survive on the starting salary that I received almost two decades ago. Economically speaking, wouldn’t it be natural for us to actually equate inflation into it?

My parents, who are both university graduates, used to tell me that their starting salary when they first started working in a bank in the 1970s was around RM800 per month. This was more than 40 years ago.

If according to the logic of these people who say that the graduates are being unreasonable, then everyone today should be able to survive on a starting salary that my parents received more than four decades ago.

When I started working, an affordable car (in my case, it was a Proton Satria) cost me roughly RM40,000. I needed to save up 10 percent of that (RM4,000) for a downpayment and the monthly installment was about RM200.

A medium-cost apartment (I found an affordable one in Sunway) cost RM90,000. Again, I just needed to save up 10 percent for the down payment and legal fees, which came up to about RM12,000. The monthly installment worked out to around RM450.

On a starting salary of RM2,100, these two initial but essential commitments were affordable. I managed to save up and also pay off the installments (which didn’t come to more than 30 percent of my monthly income).

Making a comparison

Now, let’s take a look at the cost of living today. To keep things simple, let’s just take the two costs that I have mentioned, a vehicle and residential property, to make a comparison with what I had to go through years ago.

What is a cheap car these days? A Perodua Axia would be one of the cheapest and currently, it is running at an on-the-road price of roughly RM40,000. It is almost the same price as my Proton Satria way back then.

But an Axia is not equivalent to a Proton Satria. A current equivalent to a Satria would probably be a Proton Persona and that is currently selling for close to RM50,000. So clearly, there has been an increase in cost, if not slightly.

Now we take a look at residential property. Now here is where the significant increase in cost can clearly be seen. A medium-cost apartment like mine (which cost me RM90,000) would now cost about RM400,000 to purchase.

Saving up for the downpayment would take forever for someone who has just started working.

And then there are the monthly installments to worry about. A 90 percent loan over a 30-year tenure would roughly be RM1,300. A little too high for a monthly salary of RM2,100.

Realistically, there are so much more increases in costs in our lives these days than just property and vehicles. How many of us have mentioned to others or ourselves that a packet of nasi lemak used to cost only RM0.50 whereas it now costs RM2?

It is impacting everyone and I think to improve this situation, employers need to think really hard to provide proper wages for their employees. Of course, the authorities also play a very key role because they have the responsibility of forming policies.

If cost is really the problem, then employers probably need to make sure that their revenue stream is stronger. And if the economy is the problem, then those in the government need to ensure that is stronger. Those are their responsibilities.

And those who are already in the workforce should stop sabotaging the younger generation by saying that they are spoilt and have delusional expectations.

We need to make sure that our society develops and progresses into a high-income nation.

When my parents entered the workforce in the 1970s, they could buy a terrace house for RM30,000 and the loan tenure in those days were rarely even over 10 years. A decent car cost RM10,000. So their starting salary of RM800 to RM1,000 was adequate.

It’s simple logic, really.

ZAN AZLEE is a writer, documentary filmmaker, journalist and academic. He continues to work hard to provide for his family and realises that nothing comes easy in life. Luckily, he really enjoys his job. Visit FATBIDIN.COM to view his work.

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