June 16th, 2013

The importance of early education

Good childhood care and development is vital to the implementation of inclusive education as it addresses the needs and strengths of a child’s learning curve.

FROM the time a child is conceived till he or she is eight years of age, development and learning occur at a rapid rate as these are the years when a child should be most engaged in learning.

Counting beads: Tangible objects like beads are used to teach children abstract ideas such as Mathematics.

However, this is not the case in many education systems worldwide.

It is infants and children up to this age category who need attention and require the best teacher-nurturers.

They clearly observe and absorb information, and with more time spent with their teachers and caregivers, they will presumably be on the right track.

Broader definiti on: Dr Shaeffer says that inclusive education covers all barriers to education.Broader definiti on: Dr Shaeffer says that inclusive education covers all barriers to education.

During his keynote address at the International Montessori Forum Malaysia 2013, Dr Sheldon Shaeffer posed the question “Why do Year One classes usually have the least experienced and trained teachers, the highest pupil-teacher ratios, and the fewest contact hours? And why is it that Year Six is just the opposite?”

It was one of many “provocations” or issues that Dr Shaeffer brought up during his speech on inclusive education and early childhood care and development (ECCD).

Dr Shaeffer, formerly the director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok, said that greater access to good quality ECCD programmes lead to more equal outcomes for children.

He added that these programmes are also “essential in achieving education which is truly inclusive”.

“So why do so many governments ignore this fact and pay little attention to early childhood?” he said in his speech.

“Based on evidence from neuroscience, genetics, and population studies, early childhood is the most important developmental phase in the human lifespan.

“Preventive early interventions yield higher returns compared to later remedial services,” he said.

Before providing suggestions for methods to implement inclusive education, Dr Shaeffer asked the audience why they thought students dropped out of school. Many cited issues such as the school being “too far” or that the students were “not interested”.

“Why is blame for school failure placed more often on children and their families rather than on the education system and school?” he asked.

No simple task: Transferring the peas from one bowl to another helps a young child develop motor skills and encourages development of traits like patience and concentration.No simple task: Transferring the peas from one bowl to another helps a young child develop motor skills and encourages development of traits like patience and concentration.

“Why do education authorities often push out ‘bad’ students but rarely push out bad teachers?

“Why do individual children usually need to adapt to the needs of the school rather than the school adapting to the individual needs of each child?”

There was silence as the audience paused to think about these provocations.

What is inclusive education?

UNESCO’S 48th International Conference on Education, which was held in Geneva in 2008, focused on inclusive education and defined it as “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners”.

The conference recognised the need for change and modification in content, approaches, structures and strategies within education systems.

According to Dr Sheldon Shaeffer, formerly the director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok, children with disabilities or special needs were initially placed in “special schools”.

Later, due to cost and their “right to education”, many were integrated into mainstream classrooms.However, schools did not change to help them learn. These students had to adapt to the needs of the school.

He said currently, there are even more “special needs” seen as obstacles to development and learning, including gender, health status, language, remoteness and poverty.

He added that the definition for inclusive education stressed on the need for equity in the provision of care and education systems, services and environments, while at the same time gets systems to respond to and even welcome difference and diversity.

“It focuses on all children normally excluded from early childhood care and development programmes,” he said.

The Montessori method

MARIA Montessori’s early research was conducted with children who would be considered “special needs” students and after using her methods on them, some later went on to pass the mainstream public school examinations.

According to Montessori Association of Malaysia president Aisha Z. Abdullah, due to its emphasis on “respecting the child”, the Montessori method allows each child to learn at his or her own pace.

“Children are brought into a very chaotic world and need to find order,” she said. Under the Montessori method, children are allowed to choose, state opinions and make decisions, as well as interact with the world around them.

Aisha said that the materials provided — blocks, textures, beads — are all tangible items that would enable the children to deduce the environment around them.

The children are also able to learn abstract topics like decimals using beads. “They’re introduced to the decimal system from as young as five years old,” said Aisha.

“They understand what the numerals mean. It’s not just an abstract idea. Sometimes the six-year-olds say that they don’t need the materials anymore when they’re solving the Math problems.”

However, she emphasised that within the Montessori method, what’s most important is “the process”. Results are not the most important thing, she said.

She explained that many of the skills learnt from Montessori activities could be translated into daily practical life.

There are even simple activities where children are allowed to transfer green beans from one bowl to another using a Chinese soup spoon.

Besides learning fine motor skills, it also allows the child to learn concentration, coordination and order, said Aisha.

“It encourages the child to be independent. If she spills anything, we teach the child to reverse the mistake,” she said, explaining that this “control of error” allows the child to figure out what is right and what is wrong.

She stressed that while Montessori is a very “down to earth” method, parents must play a role in it. However, she added that the “adult is just there to guide” and that the child has to be acknowledged.

“It allows the child to find their strengths. We give them freedom but apply limits. It’s not about doing what they like but liking what they do,” she said.

Creating good systems

ACCORDING to Dr Shaeffer, there are four cornerstones of programming for good early childhood care and development. They are listed below:

1. Start at the beginning

● Integrate, coordinate and improve services that are responsive to the needs and desires of — and accessible to — all young children and their families.

● Promote more positive caregiver-child interaction, stimulating environments, good health and nutrition, and better child care.

● Provide universal access to family support programmes that address holistic child development, with special attention to the most vulnerable.

2. Provide new opportunities for discovery and learning

● Ensure access to at least two years of quality early childhood services.

● Focus on developing a child’s sense of self, interactions with peers and adults, confidence, language competence, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

● Provide information and support to parents and caregivers, including fathers, through wide-ranging family support activities.

● Prioritise the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

3. Make schools ready for children

● Ensure a welcoming, appreciative and inclusive school environment which facilitates the transition from family or pre-school environment.

● Train and appoint capable teachers who understand the development needs and learning styles of young children to lower primary grades.

● Ensure smaller class sizes and a manageable teacher-child ratio in the early years of primary school.

4. Address the development of policies on early childhood

● Develop, implement and evaluate policies based on a national vision and strategies for young children, expanded investment in their development and stronger intersectoral coordination.

● Guarantee adequate resources by ensuring that early childhood is integral to national development policies and macroeconomic planning and budgeting.

● Address early childhood, across sectors, in all national and sub-national policies and plans.

● Invest in ECCD policies and programmes which will bring large immediate and future returns to individuals, families, communities and nations.

JEANNETTE GOON educate@thestar.com.my The STAR Online Home Education Sunday June 13. 2013

Inspiring father

This local ‘hero’ who gave Malaysia its only casino was a family man who loved his children and was considerate of others.

A TEACHER or a writer for that matter, has the power to influence and be influenced.

A case in point is what happened to me a couple of years ago.

For the life of me, I cannot remember this student’s name but he left a mark on me.

Barely 13, he was a bundle of ebullience. His father spoke good English and therefore, so did the boy.

As for his mother, he communicated with her in Hokkien and with his sisters, all of whom attended a vernacular school, Mandarin.

Allow me to call him Xie so that I can continue with the story. I do think this beautiful syllable was part of his name but I am not sure.

Anyway, I taught him Civics. As all teachers know, this subject is not tested in any major public examination.

I liked teaching it as it presented me with an opportunity to leave a positive impact on my young charges and enlighten them about the true meaning of civic consciousness.

One of the assignments I set my students was this: Which local famous hero would you like to emulate and why?

I knew it sounded like a “Miss Universe” contest question but I warned my students that I wasn’t interested in them regaling the string of awards their role model had won.

Instead, in an oral presentation session, I wanted them to tell me in a conversational tone, the most interesting thing they had learned from the local exemplar.

In my classes, the code-word is “acceptance”. Children, I believe, develop best when their mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process and their honest endeavour appreciated.

We ended up having a good session, with them taking turns to speak engagingly about the achievements of Datuk Nicol David, the squash champion; Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the badminton ace; Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the astronaut; Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin, the singer; Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, the actress and Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the entrepreneur.

Honestly, they did a commendable job. For instance, one student told me that she admired Nicol’s mental strength.

I commended her for this observation because if there is one quality I associate with Nicol, it is her ability to use mind over matter to stay focused on her game.

Another shared that Dr Sheik Muszaphar’s book Journey to Space: A Memoir of Malaysia’s First Angkasawan had been an eye-opening read because he learnt how much grit, determination, intelligence, maturity and resilience are needed to make it to outer space.

It was Xie, however, who stood out. This was because he chose to talk about the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, the far-sighted businessman who gave this country its Genting Highlands.

Speaking in simple English, there were four things Xie told us he had learnt from Tan Sri Lim: to cherish and respect one’s mother; to be unafraid to talk to people; to believe in oneself and work hard; and to forge true alliances.

I was intrigued. It was an unusual choice and a departure from the obvious.

I asked Xie later: “What made you choose Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong as a man to talk about?”

Xie’s answer was equally frank. “I owe it to my father,” he said.

According to Xie, when he had told his parents about the assignment, his father had taken him to the community library and said: “Let’s look for someone very few people know about but who has contributed a lot to this country.”

I never met Xie’s father but he left this impression on me. A man who goes to so much trouble to educate his son is a father after my own heart.

He could have treated the assignment cursorily as many do when a non-examination subject is involved.

But this father saw the opportunity it offered to give his son some valuable insights into the importance of principles and virtues.

Staying true to his culture, he also chose a successful man of his own race whom the son could identify with and possibly, emulate.

In case you are wondering how Xie affected me, it’s this; after I heard Xie’s explanation, I was curious enough to go to the library and borrow Lim’s 2004 memoir.

Simply entitled My Story, it describes his journey through life.

From being a bashful migrant from Anxi, China to being the affable man who not only built Genting Highlands but also the Kemubu Irrigation Scheme in Kelantan, the Ayer Itam Dam in Penang, the Sanyen Paper and Power Plants in Selangor, Asiatic Plantations, Star Cruises, the Chin Swee temple and of course, the town of Gohtong Jaya.

Written as it was in a succinct manner, I finished reading it within two hours!

The story is of a visionary man who worked really hard, was astute, seized opportunities whenever they arose yet stayed down-to-earth and considerate of the needs of others.

Based on the notes I made at the time, here’s something I’d like to share with you from the book.

The late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong had six children with his wife, Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua.

She focused on bringing up the children and Lim would often take the whole family out on many wonderful outings.

Years later, when Genting Highlands became a reality, and it was decided that an appropriate Chinese name be given for it, the first name suggested was Yin Ding (Silver Top).

Some detractors, however, thought it “vulgar and not reflective of a mountain top”. It was Kim Hua who quietly suggested the name of Yun Ding which means “Cloud Top”.

Thinking of him as a father, I believe Lim will always stay on top of the clouds in the eyes of his children because he provided them two of the greatest gifts a father can ever give his child: love and education.

A friend of mine joked: his properties and wealth too! Here’s to fathers who provide and inspire — Happy Father’s Day

Note: Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong passed away on Oct 23, 2007 and was buried at Gohtong Memorial Park. The Black Eyed Peas were performing in Genting on Oct 26, 2007 and rapper Will.i.am paid Lim a tribute by saying: “A man died recently who was responsible for the place where we are today. I’d like to ask for a moment of silence to honour his life and legacy.” NITHYA SIDHHU The STAR Online Teacher Talk Sunday June 16, 2013

Time to change our mindset

The culture of one-dimensionality does not stop at our schools but carries on as we grow older; to the extent that people judge others based on superficial and narrow measures of success.

WHAT can we say about our education system? Good, bad, or something in between?

To be fair, changes are now being made to improve our schools although the outcomes remain to be seen.

Some strategies are in place but their proper implementations are always the tricky part. What we’re seeing now are patches of changes here and there, not yet fully comprehensive, holistic or far-reaching.

It’s unclear yet how the products of our new education system are going to turn out.

But we know too well what the old system was about, and how badly it has unconsciously seeped into our collective mindset long after we left schools. The same mistakes shouldn’t be repeated for our new generation.


Let’s reminisce on what it meant for us to be “educated”. If there’s nothing else that we can agree on our school days, there was definitely one thing we can’t forget – class ranking!

From the first day we set foot into Year One, the only game in town was to get the Number One ranking in class.

What mattered should have been the learning, the critical thinking skills, the personal development, the social interaction, the capacity for creativity.

What mattered should have been the growth of emotional strengths and virtues: curiosity, confidence, courage, diligence, kindness, honesty, empathy, compassion, tolerance, ethics, etc.

Instead, the one thing that everybody — our parents, teachers, friends, uncles and aunties — really cared about was that coveted Number One seat.

Number One got you this toy and that prize, Number Two got you some too but a bit less. But sorry-lah if you were Number Four. Three was the limit, somehow, an unwritten rule shared by everybody.

How much narrower could we be to define success? Indeed, we had been groomed to be one-dimensional since early on.

How it was

We went on our entire primary and secondary education, routinely memorising this and that without the true meaning of learning, for that precious seat of “success”.

The path of education was too crystal clear and indisputable, albeit narrow. Everything had been instructed from the top.

It was an indoctrination into a culture of spoon-feeding and total dependency.

Nobody asked anything that really mattered about school except that one question: “So, how many ‘As did you get?”

We never got a chance to stop, sit and ponder big questions because we were too busy memorising things to score in exams, things that we would surely forget once we get out of school.

Einstein said “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Yet we at schools continued to focus on what would be forgotten, not on what would remain.

No wonder our kids on average came out of school not having enough confidence to critically formulate, articulate and communicate their thoughts on things that matter.

No wonder their intelligence on average was just slightly better than those educated in Botswana, slightly lesser than those from Mauritius and far below the intelligence of Singaporean kids.

As recently as 2012, the quality of our education was rated as “poor” whilst that of our southern neighbour was “great” as measured by international standards. That is where we should be to achieve Vision 2020.

Truly, we were never given a chance to realise our true purpose of learning and our true potential. It was all about that blind pursuit of success from a narrow perspective.

Those in the top few percent had clear prospects for further studies and a brighter future.

The rest could immediately sense the cut off from the much coveted professions that parents dreamt for their kids. The bleakness of their entire future was served cold by the scroll of their results.

Chasing success

Oh yes, we forgot: success could actually be foretold quite early during childhood, judging from the numbers you got in class.

So there was only one way out of that bleakness: to just chase success for the sake of success, without a noble and pure rationale behind it.

Families bore the intense pressure of competition too, and chose to send their kids from a young age through intense private tuition costing hundreds of ringgit.

This whole game didn’t seem fair especially to those without the means to compete on the same ground.

Sadly, the culture of one-dimensionality did not stop at our schools. We carry the same mindset as we grow older.

People judge others based on superficial and narrow measures of success: what cars they drive, how their homes look like, where they go for holidays, even to minor details as what fine dining sets they have. Can we be any shallower?

The strong minded ones toughen themselves to disregard these shameless inquisitions and sick social mores, but we pity those that go all out to define their lives to impress others: a hypocritical state of existence.

We realise this insensibility. But it has gained momentum for too long and our culture is not yet critical enough to put a stand against this mindset.

Worse, we allow our society to be unnecessarily stratified. Social hierarchy is devised to separate the “successful” ones from the laymen and the privileged from the commoners.

Such practice does recognise those with value, honour and sincerity. However, it signals that self worth depends on ranking in the social strata, it devalues the social functions and contributions of ordinary citizens, and it breeds unhealthy obsession towards material gain and higher social status.

When great countries were founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” (Thomas Jefferson), we are still trailing decades behind if we value a person based on how long the title preceding his or her name is.

To be progressive as a culture, we definitely must consider a rethinking of our mindset.

To do this, we must start with a rethinking of our education.

ZULFAA MOHAMED KASSIM , who hails from Sarawak, teaches aerospace engineering at USM and embraces the approach of questioning everything to understand what life is and is not. He believes that overcoming challenges is a necessity for self-growth in life as a preparation for the hereafter. The STAR Online Opinion Sunday June 16, 2013

Management Skills: Good bosses show the way

I AGREE with the points expressed in the letter "Sound leadership skills the criteria" by R. Murali Rajaratenam last Sunday, except for the last two.

There is never a situation where a group of employees knows what to do. Employees need to be told and explained what to do, and that is why they are called employees.

They are the executors of the task.

The bosses, on the other hand, knows what needs to be done and their ability lies in transferring the ideas and goals to the employees.

When a company gets into trouble or fails, it is always the fault of the boss, because he has failed to communicate with the employees.

Secondly, the saying that "people don't leave companies; they leave managers" is just that -- a saying.

The truth is that managers nearly always, and bosses quite often, are usually employees themselves, and so, they have the same needs and feel the same pressure as employees do.

The real power lies with the owner of the company.

If the owner is a poor boss and a poor manager who does not know the language and mathematics, then he will not be able to show employees what to do and the direction the company must take.

All statistics will prove that most employees leave a company for the same reason a marriage breaks down: financial instability.

Poorly paid employees will look for greener pastures at the earliest opportunity.

Thus, the best boss is the one who pays the best salary and the best employee is one who can manage his salary well.

Companies cannot go on raising the salary of their employees, forever, no matter how good they are.

And, so, employees must cooperate to ensure that their pay is administered according to a list of priorities.

Wayward employees who spend their entire salary in the first week of the month are a bane to themselves and to their company.

We assume that all managers and bosses know the basics of management, since it is unlikely that companies will hire executives without academic qualifications.

Having said that, the principal duty of managers is to ensure that their employees or workers have enough work to do at all times during working hours.

Idle employees are unhappy, and eventually, they become dangerous.

I recently serviced my car in a workshop where only one of the five employees was busy, while the other four were chatting and playing games or messaging on their cellular phones.

The waiting area at this service centre was filled with the smell of an unwashed toilet while the receptionist entertained herself with playing pranks on other employees, such as turning off the light in the toilet when one of her colleagues was using it.

And where was the manager?

He had to go somewhere for the day.

And not that it made any difference if he had been present because his leadership method is to join in the playful attitude of the employees.

I believe I got the best mechanic on hand and the job done on my car was proper.

Nonetheless, I felt cheated, and will probably never go there again.

Managers and bosses must ensure that their employees have sufficient amount of the work that they have been hired to do.

Bosses and managers who do not assign work for their employees destroy the company and, worse, they destroy the love of the job the employees had in when they started working.

Marisa Demori, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times  Letters to the Editor June 16, 2013

Latifah Omar, the true 'bintang filem'

BITTER SWEET: Her life story as a woman, wife and film star is as dramatic as her movies

THE lift was devoid of an electric bulb. We depended on camera lights to get to the 17th floor of a PPRT flat for the hardcore poor where veteran actress Latifah Omar lived.

I joined the TV3 crew on the morning of July 20 last year for a special Singgah Sahur programme. She was friendly and exuberant, and even sang some of the signature songs in many of her better-known movies to the largely young production team.

Broader definiti on: Dr Shaeffer says that inclusive education covers all barriers to education.Veteran actress Latifah Omar went through hardship just like some of the characters she played

The stuffy three-room flat was home to one of the most glamorous, beautiful and talented seniwati (starlets) in the history of Malay cinema.

She was, in fact, once the face of a famous soap brand, the first local artiste to be given the honour.

Residents in the area knew of her presence there but they seldom saw her. She was a proud lady, fully aware of her fame and kept her contact with the residents to the bare minimum.

I met her with researcher Zahari Affendi many times after that, listening to her incredible stories as a woman, wife and film star.

Although not in the best of health, she was always accommodating. We were mesmerised by her demure and calm composure.

Her life stories were as dramatic as her movies, in fact, even more so. She was always playing a good woman who was victimised in movies. In reality, life was never perfect for her.

She endured hardships in marriages, went through tough times financially and emotionally just like some of the characters she played.

I grew up adoring Latifah. I watched all her movies. She was the embodiment of grace, true beauty and great acting.

I was contemplating to write a book about her. She was forthright and named names -- the good, the bad and the ugly in entertainment business.

When I couldn't make it, Zahari was there to record those stories. The process was laboriously slow for she tired easily and there were times when she cancelled the meetings.

Back then, she was loved by royalty and prominent individuals, yet she married a musician, a gambler and a failed businessman.

Her first husband survived on her income as jobs were hard to come by.

Her second husband, a compulsive gambler, stalked her for years even after their divorce, adding to her miseries.

Her third husband was a good man but when his business faltered, she suffered more than just losing a good life and she got a divorce.

Even when help came in the form of getting a piece of land in Cameron Highlands, bureaucratic hurdles and low prices of crops propelled her to abandon farming and sell what was left of the property. She never recovered from that.

Latifah was born on March 26, 1939 in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur. When her grandmother, who brought her up, died, she was sent to live with her father in Singapore, whom she had never met before.

It was a feature in one of the magazines published by the Utusan Melayu group in Singapore that brought her to the attention of film directors.

Director S. Ramanathan auditioned her for a role in Panggilan Pulau alongside budding star P. Ramlee. The year was 1954. Normadiah, another legendary actress, was the female lead. Ramlee was nice to Latifah, supporting her in more ways than one. She was forever indebted to him. She was hardly 16 at the time.

B.N. Rao directed her second movie, Merana.This time, she played the lead actress, again with Ramlee.

According to Latifah, the heartthrob of Malay movies had offered her to be his wife. Ramlee had just divorced his first wife, Junaidah.

But fate intervened. Noorizan Mohd Noor came into the picture, she left the palace and married Ramlee. They respected each other, though.

When Ramlee directed Putus Sudah Kasih Sayang at the Merdeka Studio in 1971, he offered a role to Latifah.

Latifah acted in four more films under the Malay Film Production (MFP) banner before she joined Cathay-Keris Films.

It was Nordin Ahmad, another screen legend, who redefined her movie career. She acted with Nordin for the first time in Hussein Hanif's Hang Jebat. The chemistry between them was legendary. In films like Lanchang Kuning, Laila Majnun, Cucu Datuk Merah, Patung Cendana and Gurindam Jiwa, they were seen as a perfect screen couple. The truth was, there were times when they were not on speaking terms.

Latifah's last film with Cathay-Keris was Naga Tasik Cini in 1966, ironically Nordin's directorial debut. In her acting career that spanned 13 years, Latifah had acted in 29 films -- 22 for Cathay-Keris, six for MFP and one for Merdeka Studio in Klang.

Last Sunday she died, a big loss to the Malay cinema. There will never be another Latifah. She was a true bintang filem (film star) who graced the local film world.

Johan Jaaffar | Twitter: @Johan_Jaaffar |zulu.jj@hotmail.com New Straits Times Columnist June 15, 2013

Nobel prize money as divorce settlement

CLIQUES: Human beings are gregarious by nature. They socialise largely with their own kind, bonded by some notion of a club.

If they have the same social status and standing, they tend to have similar likes and dislikes. Buying their clothes from the same boutique may be one example. This can have uncalled for consequences.

One day at a university function, two academics discovered to their embarrassment that they were wearing the same designer clothes in the same colour.

They did not sportingly say "Bingo" to each other. Instead, they rushed home to change.

They did not want to be the centre of attention for the wrong reason.

Walter Gratzer related a similar story of a Cambridge professor in his book Eurekas And Euphorias -- The Oxford Book Of Scientific Anecdotes.

The academic was invited to a party to celebrate Alexander Todd's Nobel Prize.

Suddenly it dawned on him that everyone else in the room was a Nobel laureate except him; self-conscious and chagrined, he reached for his hat and left hastily.

Even a Cambridge professor could not feel at home in the company of Nobel laureates.

According to Gratzer, he made good the mortifying deficiency by winning a Nobel Prize later.

His Nobel-winning work was done after his retirement. Winning  such a prize does not automatically elevate one to be a professor at Cambridge.

Albert Einstein (right) was sure of winning a Nobel Prize that he factored the impending prize money
into his alimony to his first wife Mileva Maric . — Picture courtesy of www.maureenlang.com

This was exactly what had happened to a research fellow. So in top  tertiary institutions such as Cambridge, a Nobel laureate may not necessarily be a professor and a professor is not necessarily a Nobel laureate.

Brian Pippard, a renowned Cavendish professor, was reported to have thought aloud that he might be the first Cavendish professor who did not  win a Nobel Prize.

He died several years ago without winning it. Self-prophesising can be self-fulfilling.

The only scientist  who was  sure of  winning a Nobel prize was Albert Einstein.

He even factored the impending prize money into his alimony to his first wife Mileva Maric. In his book Einstein: The Life And Times, Ronald W. Clark has this to say about their divorce settlement: "When the prize came, the cash was passed on from Sweden, via Berlin, to Zurich.

"Some was lost in movement through the foreign exchange and more by bad management.

"With what was left Mileva bought a pleasant house on the Zurichberg.

"The following year she formally obtained permission to retain the name Einstein and as Mileva Einstein she lived another quarter of century, overshadowed by illness and the worry of a schizophrenic younger son."

Einstein later married his first cousin Elsa. He outlived them all.

KOH AIK KHOON New Straits Times Learning Curve June 16, 2013

Pengaruh Latifah Omar kepada masyarakat dahulu

Saya masih ingat 54 tahun (1959) dahulu, ibu dan bapa saya yang berusia 35 tahun memuji betapa sukanya mereka menonton filem Bawang Putih Bawang Merah yang dibintangi oleh Latifah Omar, sebagai pelakon utama. Pada waktu itu saya baru sahaja berusia 10 tahun. Ibu menceritakan perihal kecantikan Latifah yang tiada tolok bandingnya pada waktu itu, dan memujanya sebagai seorang bintang filem yang sangat diminatinya. Ibu sangat terkesan dan menangis menyaksikan adegan sedih yang dilakonkan oleh Latifah. Bapa saya hanya diam sahaja kerana takut dicemburui oleh ibu, walaupun saya tahu bapa juga memuja Latifah. Saya juga turut menonton filem itu, tetapi tidaklah dapat memahami kesemua jalan ceritanya, atau menghargai kekuatan filem itu kerana usia saya yang muda. Berbulan -bulan selepas menonton filem itu, ibu dan rakan-rakannya sekampung tak putus-putus berbual mengenai Latifah Omar dan filem itu, sambil menunggu tayangan filem Latifah seterusnya.

Pada tahun yang sama, filem Latifah bertajuk Raden Mas ditayangkan di panggung wayang gambar di Tanah Merah, Kelantan. Ibu dan bapa saya serta orang-orang kampung tidak melepaskan peluang untuk menyaksikan filem klasik itu yang dibintangi oleh seniwati pujaan mereka Latifah Omar. Ada yang berjalan kaki, ada pula yang mengayuh basikal untuk ke panggung sambil membawa anak-anak kecil bersama mereka untuk menonton selepas sembahyang Maghrib. Itulah dilakukan oleh orang kampung saya apabila ingin menonton wayang gambar, yang pada waktu itu merupakan salah satu daripada segelintir persembahan hiburan yang ada, selain daripada persembahan wayang kulit, makyung, menora dan pencak silat.

Pada tahun 1962, datang pula filem Lancang Kuning. Saya pada waktu itu sudah berusia 13 tahun dan Latifah Omar sudah 23 tahun. Dia telah menjadi seorang wanita yang sangat rupawan dan menjadi pujaan ramai orang. Ibu saya tak habis-habis ceritakan kepada saya bertapa sedihnya beliau menonton filem itu kerana Latifah dibunuh dengan kejam kerana fitnah. Kata ibu, filem-filem yang ditontonnya selama ini telah mempamerkan lakonan Latifah sebagai seorang gadis dan kemudiannya wanita yang sentiasa dizalimi dan menjadi mangsa kekejaman manusia. Menonton filem-filem Latifah Omar membuatnya bersedih dan menangis. Tetapi di dalam kesedihan dan tangisannya itu, ibu terhibur disamping mendapat pengajaran.

Setahun kemudian, filem Cucu Dato Merah (1963) muncul. Sekali lagi Latifah Omar dirundung malang dan akhirnya mati lemas di dalam tasik. Ibu selalu bertanya kenapa peranan yang diberikan kepada Latifah Omar sering berakhir dengan kesedihan. Dia berharap sungguh-sungguh bahawa lakonan Latifah itu hanyalah lakonan semata-mata, dan bukannya mencerminkan kehidupan yang sebenar beliau. Walaupun Latifah Omar telah berlakon dalam banyak buah filem yang kesemuanya menempah kejayaan besar dalam dunia perfileman, saya hanya terpanggil untuk menulis mengenai cerita-cerita ini sahaja kerana filem-filem inilah yang paling meninggalkan kesan sepanjang zaman dalam ingatan ibu bapa saya dan rakan-rakannya di kampung. Begitu juga saya.


Pada tahun 1966, ibu bapa saya sudah pun berusia 42 tahun dan saya sudah berada di tingkatan empat di sekolah Menengah Petra Kuala Krai, Kelantan. Latifah sudah menjangkau usia 27 tahun. Bersama, kami menyaksikan filem Gurindam Jiwa. Filem ini sangat baik dari segi bahasa dan sastera, dan banyak mengajar saya untuk mencintai bidang ini. Boleh dikatakan bahawa filem inilah yang telah mendorong saya untuk menulis pantun dan puisi. Latifah seperti dalam kebanyakan filem-filemnya sebelum ini, beraksi dengan berkesan sekali, bersama heronya Allahyarham Nordin Ahmad.

Dalam diam saya mengagumi dan menghormati Latifah Omar. Saya berasakan bahawa dialah wanita yang tercantik pada rupa paras dan tersopan dari segi tingkah laku. Alangkah bertuahnya kalau saya dapat bertemu dengannya, kerana pada waktu itu saya telah mula memujanya.

Pada awal tahun ini, iaitu pada bulan Mac, dengan tidak semena-mena cita-cita saya dulu untuk bertemu Latifah terkabul. Saya bertemu Latifah Omar di rumahnya di Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. Pada waktu itu saya sudah berusia 64 tahun dan Latifah 74 tahun. Saya berasa cukup bahagia bertemu dengannya. Kebahagiaan seperti ini jarang dilalui, kerana ia tidak mengharapkan apa-apa selain daripada hajat murni dari hati yang tulus ikhlas. Latifah memberitahu saya bahawa filem-filem yang sangat digemarinya ialah Bawang Putih Bawang Merah, Raden Mas, Lancang Kuning, Gurindam Jiwa dan Cucu Dato Merah. Rupa-rupanya Latifah dan keluarga saya mempunyai citarasa yang sama. Beberapa kali sejak bulan Mac itu, saya bertemu dengannya. Pertemuan-pertemuan itu telah membawa kebahagiaan kepada kita bersama. Saya menganggap beliau sebagai kakak saya.

Tetapi pertemuan saya dengan bintang pujaan dan orang yang saya anggap sebagai kakak ini ditakdirkan tidak berpanjangan. Tanggal 9 Jun lalu pukul 6.19 petang beliau pulang ke rahmatullah di Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM). Sewaktu beliau di hospital saya sempat bertemu dengannya untuk beberapa kali. Kali akhir saya bertemu beliau ialah kira-kira tiga jam sebelum beliau pulang. Di dalam keadaannya yang tidak sedarkan diri saya membaca ke telinganya beberapa potong ayat-ayat al-quran, dan berdoa untuk kesejahteraannya di dunia dan akhirat. Beliau menunjukkan reaksi melalui pernafasan dan pergerakan dadanya yang lebih daripada biasa sewaktu saya berbisik ke telinganya. Pada keesokan harinya, saya mengambil cuti untuk mengiringi Latifah Omar, kakak saya itu untuk disemadikan di tanah kekal abadi di kawasan AU4, Keramat. Selamat bersemadi kakak Latifah, semoga kakak damai di alam barzakh dengan segala rahmat anugerah daripada Allah SWT. Keluargaku,jutaan peminat dan negara kehilanganmu dan akan merinduimu. Kami mendoakan kesejahteraan ke atas rohmu.

Dr. Hashim Yaacob Utusan Malaysia Online Rencana 16/06/2013

Berlakon pada usia 13 tahun

DUNIA perfileman Melayu semalam kehilangan seorang lagi bintang, Allahyarham Latifah Omar yang pernah mewarnai bidang lakonan tanah air di layar perak yang memulai kerjayanya di Singapura pada awal tahun 1950-an.

Allahyarham menghembuskan nafas terakhirnya di Wad ICU, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia kira-kira pukul 6 petang semalam kerana menghidap penyakit ulser dan pernah menjalani pembedahan di bahagian perut sebelum ini.

Pemergian Allahyarham yang meninggal dunia pada usia 74 tahun amat dirasai kerana beliau merupakan salah seorang primadona filem Melayu yang telah berlakon sejak berusia 13 tahun sewaktu berhijrah ke Singapura pada 1949.

Primadona yang dilahirkan di Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur pada 26 Mac 1939 itu antara generasi pelakon awal yang diambil bekerja di Malay Films Studio Production, Jalan Ampas, Singapura pada awal tahun 1950-an.

Sewaktu penulis bertemu pelakon ini di Kelab Tasik Perdana, Kuala Lumpur pada awal April lalu, beliau telah menceritakan tidak menduga akan menceburi dunia lakonan pada usia yang muda dan bekerja di dua studio perfileman itu.

Ketika itu Allahyarham cuma sekadar mahu melihat bagaimana penggambaran sesebuah filem dijalankan tetapi tidak menyangka pula apabila beliau berjaya menarik perhatian seorang pengarah filem di situ.

Beliau yang sengaja datang ke studio itu untuk melihat bagaimana pelakon menjalani penggambaran dan cara-cara berlakon secara kebetulan telah terjumpa dengan seorang pengarah bernama S. Ramanathan.

Allahyarham kemudiannya telah ditawarkan berlakon sebagai pelakon tambahan bersama P. Ramlee (Allahyarham Tan Sri) yang ketika itu sedang menjalani penggambaran filem bertajuk Panggilan Pulau pada tahun 1952.

Sejak itu, Allahyarham mula serius sebagai pelakon dan telah bekerja di Jalan Ampas selama beberapa tahun sebelum bekerja di studio-studio perfileman lain seperti Shaw Brothers dan Cathay Keris selepas itu.

Biarpun memulakan kerjaya sebagai pelakon pada usia yang masih hijau tetapi Allahyarham tidak lama dalam bidang lakonan yang mana filem terakhir lakonannya berjudul Putus Sudah Kasih Sayang bersama P. Ramlee pada 1972.

Pelakon jelita pada era kegemilangannya ini cuma sempat berlakon selama 19 tahun sahaja kerana selepas berlakon filem Putus Sudah Kasih Sayang Allahyarham tidak lagi berlakon sehinggalah ke penghujung hayatnya.

Selama hampir 41 tahun tidak berlakon filem Allahyarham pernah menyatakan bahawa beliau tidak berasa terkilan atau rindu kerana telah puas menjadi anak seni dengan membintangi lebih 20 buah filem sewaktu di Singapura.

Sewaktu zaman kegemilangannya, Allahyarham yang mempunyai empat orang anak serta sembilan cucu ini sering diberi watak yang memerlukannya menitiskan air mata dan mampu melakonkan watak seperti itu dengan berkesan.

Beliau cukup dikenali sebagai seorang yang sederhana termasuklah semasa berlakon dan tidak mahu kelihatan melampau-lampau dalam menghayati sesuatu watak yang diberikan kepadanya sepanjang menjadi pelakon.

Kebanyakan watak lakonan Allahyarham sama ada menggambarkan adegan suka atau duka, beliau melakonkannya secara sederhana bersesuaian dengan karakternya yang serba sederhana dalam semua segi.

Meskipun lebih empat dekad meninggalkan dunia lakonan tetapi Allahyarham masih berhubung dengan pelakon-pelakon seangkatan dengannya seperti Datuk Maria Menado, Mariani dan Datin Umi Kalthum sehinggalah ke hari ini.

Bukan setakat berhubung melalui telefon, mereka juga ada kalanya bertemu di luar rumah bagi bertanyakan khabar tentang diri masing-masing yang secara tidak langsung ia akan mengubat rasa rindu Allahyarham terhadap kawan-kawannya itu.

Selain ulser, semasa hayatnya Allahyarham turut menghidap pelbagai jenis penyakit antaranya sakit tulang, kencing manis dan ulser yang menyebabkan lebih banyak berehat di rumahnya sejak kebelakangan ini.

Namun, itu bukan menjadi penghalang buat Allahyarham untuk mengambil tahu perkembangan kawan-kawannya seperti Mariani dan Datuk Aziz Sattar yang masih sihat dan terus berlakon sehingga ke hari ini.

Sepanjang menjadi pelakon filem, Allahyarham telah membintangi tidak kurang 20 buah filem yang mana kebanyakan watak yang ditawarkan kepadanya adalah watak utama atau heroin bersama ramai pelakon hebat yang lain.

Antara filem lakonan Allahyarham berjudul Dahlia pada 1952, Panggilan Pulau (1952), Serangan Orang Minyak (1958), Jalak Lenteng (1961), Patong Chendana (1965), Naga Tasek Chini (1966) dan Putus Sudah Kaseh Sayang (1971).

ABD. AZIZ ITAR aziz.itar@utusan.com.my Utusan Malaysia Online Rencana 10/06/2013

Sudin terus abadi

SUDIN merupakan antara watak paling popular Allahyarham S. Shamsudin dalam siri filem Bujang Lapok, arahan P. Ramlee. Antara yang tidak mungkin dilupai tentu sahaja dialog spontannya dalam Seniman Bujang Lapok:

“Panjangnya tu tujuh kaki kau tahu, lebarnya membawa ke tiga kaki, dalamnya tu sama dengan panjangnya tujuh kaki daa..."

Itu antara patah katanya yang akan terus bersemadi dalam ingatan para pencinta filem-filem Melayu khususnya era Studio Jalan Ampas.

Gaya lakonan sebagai Sudin benar-benar menghidupkan watak tersebut. Trio filem itu - Sudin yang dilakonkan oleh S. Shamsudin, Aziz ( Aziz Sattar) dan Ramlee (P. Ramlee) merupakan antara trio yang terhebat yang pernah dihasilkan oleh industri perfileman Melayu.

Malah filem-filem Bujang Lapok - Seniman Bujang Lapok, Pendekar Bujang Lapok dan Ali Baba Bujang Lapok merupakan siri yang cukup hebat dari segi pengisian serta pembawakan watak-wataknya.

Filem-filem tersebut mempunyai perlambangan tersendiri khususnya mengenai watak orang Melayu ketika era tersebut kerana merupakan zaman perubahan yang dialami oleh rakyat Malaya selepas penjajahan.

Perlambangan tersebut diwakili oleh watak Sudin sebagai seorang Melayu yang sangat naif yang baru sahaja terlepas daripada belenggu penjajahan.

TRIO Bujang Lapok (Aziz, Sudin dan Ramlee) merupakan trio terhebat pernah terhasil dalam sejarah filem negara.

Pemilihan watak Sudin oleh P. Ramlee ketika itu cukup bertepatan kerana perwatakannya di luar juga cukup lurus, jujur dan naif.

Watak Sudin dilambangkan sebagai orang Melayu yang sedang mencari identiti baru dan tersendiri. Sudin merupakan watak pemuda kampung yang cuba mencari kehidupan baru di bandar.

Watak tersebut juga melambangkan kemiskinan serta kesusahan orang Melayu yang mencari pekerjaan bagi menikmati kehidupan selepas negara merdeka.

Melalui Seniman Bujang Lapok misalnya, mereka bertiga cukup sukar mencari pekerjaan seperti yang berlaku terhadap golongan Melayu pada ketika itu. Kehidupan di bilik sewa yang ditonjolkan dalam filem tersebut juga merupakan realiti pada era peralihan itu.

Kritikan sosial

Siri-siri Bujang Lapok merupakan filem yang kuat dan mirip filem-filem aliran Italian neo-realism di Itali yang sarat dengan kritikan sosial.

Bujang Lapok di tangan P. Ramlee dan didokong oleh watak-watak Sudin, Aziz dan Ramlee mengkritik sosio budaya Melayu ketika itu. Sudin cukup bertepatan apabila perlambangan itu diolah dengan jayanya oleh S. Shamsudin.

Sikap komedi semulajadi sudah cukup membuat watak tersebut diingati dan meninggalkan kesan sehingga hari ini. Gerak-geri, mimik muka dan dialog yang diucapkan oleh Sudin bukan sahaja menjadi malah melengkapi trio tersebut.

Filem Pendekar Bujang Lapok turut berjaya meletakkan watak Sudin sebagai perlambangan terhadap watak serta sikap orang Melayu ketika itu dengan sistem pendidikan merupakan aspek utama yang menjadi kritikan dalam filem ini.

Selepas merdeka kerajaan menekankan pendidikan terhadap rakyatnya maka berlaku satu situasi baru di Malaya yang memperlihatkan orang Melayu sedikit terbelakang dalam aspek ini.

Watak Sudin berjaya menunjukkan bangsa Melayu ketika itu cukup ‘buta’ dalam pendidikan. Sudin dalam siri ini juga menunjukkan tentang peralihan orang Melayu dari desa ke desa yang lain demi menimba ilmu sebanyak mungkin.

Menurut pengkritik filem, A. Wahab Hamzah, sekiranya watak Sudin itu dilakonkan oleh pelakon lain, mungkin tidak hidup dan tentu sekali dianggap tidak berjaya.

“Sekiranya digantikan dengan pelakon lain, saya pasti watak itu dilindungi dan ditutup oleh kekuatan watak Aziz dan Ramlee. Jadi pemilihan Sudin untuk memegang watak tersebut cukup kuat kerana Sudin sendiri sudah mempunyai elemen yang dikehendaki oleh P. Ramlee.

“Kekuatan watak tiga serangkai tersebut tidak pernah dimiliki oleh pelakon-pelakon lain ketika itu. Mereka bertiga mampu untuk menutup segala kebocoran yang ada dalam siri filem Bujang Lapok.

“Ketiga-tiga pelakon terutamanya Sudin merupakan pelakon yang cukup cepat menangkap situasi yang diingini oleh P. Ramlee dan setiap ucapan dialognya spontan ketika itu," jelas A. Wahab.

Hilangnya sebutir bintang

Kehebatan watak Sudin ditangan S. Shamsudin cukup untuk membayangkan tentang kekuatan aliran seni yang terdapat dalam dirinya.

Jika dia berjaya sebagai Sudin dalam siri Bujang Lapok, watak Pak Aji dalam Tiga Abdul juga meninggalkan kesan tersendiri.

Biar hanya bertindak sebagai pencerita dalam filem itu, wataknya tetap hidup dan mengundang tawa penonton.

Kini dialog dan watak-watak Sudin dan Pak Aji hanya tinggal kenangan abadi buat khalayak filem Melayu apabila pelakon legenda berusia 84 tahun itu menghembuskan nafas terakhir pada pagi 4 Jun lalu di kediamannya di Jurong, Singapura.

Biar peminat amat terasa kehilangannya, yang pasti industri perfileman negara kehilangan sebutir lagi bintang yang pernah menyinari dunia perfileman Melayu.

RASDAN AHMAD rasdan_utusan@yahoo.comUtusan Malaysia Online Rencana 09/06/2013