PERLIS seems to thrive on the tagline “small is beautiful” popularised by a book with the same title. The state has implemented a number of outreach programmes and policies in favour of its rakyat.
I was fortunate last weekend to take part in a five-kilometre bicycle ride, Kayuhan Jalinan Muhabbah Jamalulail, which was organised to reach out to the needy and destitute in a rural area.
Heading the group was the regent of Perlis, who was accompanied by an entourage of some 25 riders from different agencies, non-governmental organisations and various institutions partnering International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).
Similar outreach programmes have been organised in other states, where fancy cars and other modes of transport were deployed. Some of these took days or even weeks to complete with hundreds of participants lending a hand.
The Perlis programme took half a day and was direct to the point. It identified those deserving aid and provided essential support away from the prying media. It also took care of other issues like school absenteeism, lack of public utilities, and issues arising from socio-economic uncertainties. All these were dealt with to ensure no one was left behind.
The Kayuhan programme has been carried out at regular intervals throughout the year. I took part in the 70th series for this year. With little hype, it effectively delivered services and not just in terms of statistics. It was also exceptional in that it is apolitical and gives clarity to the real intention without any hidden agenda.
Perlis has also been successful with its “food for education” programme. This is not a million-ringgit food handout that could be milked for publicity, rather it is a low-key, down-to-earth effort, with enough for deserving families to keep them going.
In return, the children from these families must attend school and follow the lessons to qualify to stay in the programme.
This programme was initiated by Mercy Mission Malaysia (not to be confused with the disaster relief entity). It is now supported by IIUM, LeapEd Services – Malaysia’s only homegrown social entrepreneur on school transformation – and the appropriate ministerial partnership.
The programme is expanding into many other schools in the state in tandem with the Kayuhan experience of “no one is left behind”.
While the programmes in Perlis have focused on children and youth, a programme in Dungun, Terengganu was organised to help the elderly, especially, those categorised as “pesakit melarat” (very sickly patients) based on the notice at the entrance of the premises, Rumah Ehsan, in the Felda Ketengah area.
This is where the patients with chronic ailments, ranging from stroke to other debilitating conditions for the aged were accommodated. Most have “lost” their family support with no one to provide for, making life near impossible without the likes of Rumah Ehsan stepping in.
IIUM in this sense is humbled to be working closely with the dedicated personnel of Rumah Ehsan to supplement the range of much needed services.
This includes medical, dental, nursing, pharmaceutical and allied services from the university’s Kuantan campus. This is apart from the relevant counselling services to help the patients cope. Some of them have been there for more than a decade.
In all, Rumah Ehsan is a great gift, as the nation prepares to be an ageing society.
Put together with the Perlis Kayuhan programme, it makes a perfect combination for the academe like IIUM to distinguish itself in humanising education beyond standardised ways of learning. But to embrace more naturally the many ways to unlearn, relearn and equally co-learn from the community in shaping the new future.
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org