Sunday October 28, 2012
By JEANNETTE GOON
A GRIPPING tale that tells the story of a boy’s struggle to learn the English language, is what was featured in a winning short film.
The five-minute film named Paper Chase earned the team from SMK Seksyen 9 Shah Alam, Selangor, the Grand Prix (grand prize) award at the Kid Witness News (KWN) National Contest 2012 Awards Ceremony.
The team members were ecstatic. The film was based on their teacher Syed Ahmad Thani Tuan Hadi who had to go through great lengths to learn English on his own.
The winning film was among the many that was submitted as part of the video education programme supported by Panasonic Malaysia. It required students aged between 10 and 15 to produce a short film on environment and communication-related issues.
From documentaries on the Temuan aborigines and turtles to silent films, the participants hailed from different parts of Malaysia. They proved that they had a fresh view to provide.
With a total of 280 entries (including teachers) from 56 schools, it was an achievement in itself to make it into the finals, more so, to win an award.
Student Muhammad Ezzad Emmir Hariss said it was during one of the team’s discussions that they recalled one of the stories their teacher (Syed Ahmad Thani) had told them about his younger days. “It suddenly dawned on us that it would be a great idea to make a film based on our teacher’s experiences.”
Syed Ahmad Thani, who comes from a village near Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, had related to his students his love for the English language and the difficulties he faced in getting reading materials in the language, which he said were scarce. There was also no one whom he could converse with in English as all his family and friends did not speak the language either.
“My family was a traditional Malay family. My father was a carpenter and my mother was a housewife. English was very foreign,” said Syed Ahmad Thani, who was also present at the ceremony.
However, he was eager to improve his language skills and knew that reading was one of the best ways to learn. Unable to find suitable reading materials in English, he began looking for discarded publications including old newspapers which he collected and read. That was how he learnt English.
“I also used bilingual pamphlets to teach myself English,” he said, referring to those that advertised products and services and provided information in both Malay and English.
Occasionally, he would travel to Kuala Terengganu to buy a copy of the English newspapers. “I would read every article, page by page for weeks before getting another new copy,” he said.
“When I was younger, I would usually buy a nasi lemak bungkus (packet) that was wrapped with a page of an English newspaper so that I could keep the wrapper and read it later,” he quipped.
“I kept all these reading materials in a file. Sometimes my English teacher would borrow the file.”
He explained that when he was younger, he could not afford to buy extra reading materials besides textbooks.
So great was his love for the English language that his ambition of becoming an English teacher was eventually achieved.
The opening scene of the video shows a young boy rummaging through a garbage bin at a nasi lemak stall. According to Syed Ahmad, the scene depicted an incident that happened years ago.
“It was during my secondary school years when I was studying in Dungun. I had a habit of going on my rounds to collect the day’s newspapers to read.
“There was one day when I was late in collecting the newspapers. They had already been thrown into a garbage bin … I was upset with myself, yet determined to get my daily dose of the news, and other events, so I actually had to go ‘digging’ in the dustbin for them,” said Syed Ahmad Thani.
The SMK Seksyen 9 Shah Alam team will represent Malaysia in the KWN Regional Contest and their winning video will vie for a spot at the KWN Global Contest.
The videos will not only help students develop skills in speaking, writing and to communicate effectively but also to develop creativity and their views on a variety of issues, said Panasonic Malaysia corporate communications and branding general manager Azizah Wahid.
The theme of this year’s videos is in line with Panasonic’s new direction on eco and energy for sustainable lifestyles, which is further promoted through their Econation campaign.
“Econation is all about building a nation that is environment-friendly with green-minded citizens,” said Panasonic Malaysia managing director Jeff Lee.
“We hope to educate and drive everyone including the younger generation to be our partners in Econation as one day they will be the driving force in continuing our efforts today.”
He added that the contest provided an opportunity for children to “be more critical in addressing an issue through research”.
“This is a new way of learning outside the classroom that can propagate good learning habits, team work, tolerance, quest for knowledge and self-confidence,” he said.
English is more than just the universal language of diplomacy, business, science and technology. It opens the door to more job opportunities, good universities, career advancements and increased earning power. English for More Opportunities is part of The Star’s on-going efforts to highlight the importance of the language in helping people get ahead in life. To share your views and inspiring stories or give us feedback, please email